I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I signed up for the Everest Base Camp trek. But I embraced it, and started out the second day with a 6km hike, which sounds fine, but we were gaining 800m altitude. For someone that grew up at sea level, all this talk of altitude sickness was pretty daunting. Add to that that we had two and a half hours of ‘Nepali up’, which translates roughly to more stairs than you ever want to see in your life, and I knew it would be a day to test me!
We got a bit of a history and culture lesson from our wonderful guide, Dawa, who fixed up the Sherpa misconception. Sherpa are the tribe of people that belong to the Himalaya region, and porters are what you would call anyone madly carrying things up the mountain. They came from Tibet in the 1600s.
The Sherpa are Buddhist, and are some of the most peaceful people in the world. Their prayer mantras are written everywhere, on rocks, buildings, spinning prayer wheels, and on the prayer flags. They repeatedly show six characters that are used for meditation.
We entered the national park, where we needed to collect our trekking permits. The hike just kept getting more amazing, with a few gigantic suspension bridges to cross. We passed a collapsed bridge that had fallen down in a small earthquake a few years before, and was grateful for their updated engineering advances.
The vertical climb was tough, but we were rewarded with our first views of Everest, which more than made it all worthwhile.
We stayed a night in Namche Bazaar, which is an incredible hub of activity in the mountains. There are so many guesthouses here, and shops and a pharmacy and a bar or two! Somehow they all had pool tables. I don’t even want to think about how on earth that got up there. As we entered the village, I sat on a wall and waited for the group to catch up, and watched a few kids playing. They were busy filling up bottles and squirting each other with freezing cold water from the river. Their squeals of delight were heartwarming, and was so incredible watching them so amused over something so simple.
It was definitely feeling a lot colder, puffer jacket once we stopped moving was essential. It was amazing to see how hardworking the Nepalese are, slowly chipping away at what they are doing. There was a constant tinking noise as they were busy building new guesthouses.
We set off for a ‘rest day’, which is anything but! The idea behind a rest day is you head up higher, to get used to the altitude, but then sleep lower than where you went to. So we would be spending another night in Namche.
We headed for Namche airport – yes, you heard that right. We were at about 3500m, and they used to fly 7 seater planes in here, mostly for tourists. They shut the airport down when they made the connection between the number of deaths and the fact that you’re flying into serious altitude without adjusting ?
We had a tea break at a tea house, where, on a clear day, we would have had perfect views of Everest. It was amazing to see how fast the weather changes in the mountains, you could see the clouds rolling off the peaks, and got a feel for just how windy it must be.
We stopped and waited for the group to catch up as we were almost back at Namche. There was a group of kids playing, and were grabbing clumps of weeds and trying to stuff them in each other’s mouths. They slowly wandered off, and one curious girl was left. I mimed to ask if I could take her photo, and we got one together.
Next thing I knew, she had my camera and was busy taking selfies, up her nose, up everyone else’s nose, and the other kids came back to join in too. They were having so much fun. It must be strange all these strangers constantly wandering through your village, but they were very happy and carefree. It was amazing to meet so many local people on the way.