Asha is a second year English and Cultural Studies and Media and Communications Major. Earlier in the year she hiked to Everest Base Camp and kept a journal along the way.
EBC Trek – Day One
I romanticise the cold, but it is in no way romantic. What is romantic is being warm and cozy, looking out of a window and observing the cold from a safe distance. Unfortunately, that’s not a luxury I have now or at any stage over the next two weeks.
At four o’clock this morning, I dragged my overtired, underprepared ass out of the bed in my luxuriously heated hotel room in Kathmandu, Nepal. I savoured every drop of my last shower for a fortnight, and then went downstairs with my travel companion extraordinaire, my dad. We jumped on a bus with the rest of our trekking group and sped through the pre-dawn streets of Kathmandu to the airport.
Skip forward an hour, and I’m witnessing something pretty spectacular; the sun rise over the Himalayan peaks. Valleys of clouds below me, snow capped peaks on my sides and one incredibly short runway that we are hurtling towards makes for an equally beautiful and terrifying picture.
Globally recognised as the world’s most dangerous airport, it’s far too easy to place little faith in a safe arrival to Lukla airport. Nevertheless, our perfectly precise pilots skimmed over the edge of the cliff and delivered us right into this fantastic little village at the heart of the Himalayas (with at least two metres of runway to spare)! From then on, it was a cruisy three-and-a-half hour hike past donkey convoys and blue-eyed puppies, all the way to the village of Phak Ding. A mug of ginger tea and a (very) generous helping of Dal Bhat later, and I’m snuggled up in about sixteen layers of thermals and a sleeping bag; and it’s only midday! The cold is only going to get colder, the hills steeper and the oxygen thinner, but my spirits are still as high as base camp… for now!
EBC Trek – Entry Two
Ah, the picturesque village of Namche, more like Nam-yay those four hours of stairs are over and I am still alive! This infamous section of the base camp trek is generally regarded as the most physically demanding stretch, its only redeeming feature is that the oxygen saturation is still quite high. Nevertheless, it’s easy to justify the debilitating leg cramps when you are suddenly bearing witness to the genuine article, the real deal, the Mighty Mt. Everest. So, like the common tourists that we are, we stopped, snapped our photos, complained about the cold and then continued along our merry way.
One hour and a whole lot more stairs later, I rounded the corner and found myself looking down onto the splendidly-coloured village of Namche Bazaar; the last settlement of decent size on the trail to Everest. Overcome with relief and the thought of a hot ginger tea, my group and I crawled up the last few flights of stairs and into our tea house. We stationed ourselves around the sub-par electric heater, zipped up in our sleeping bags and stayed there quite resolutely until the ripe old hour of 7:30pm, which has been designated our socially acceptable bedtime. I can tell you right now, there are many things that I do not love about climbing mountainous stairs non-stop for four hours, but that night, I slept like a damn baby.
EBC Trek – Entry Three
Today was our ‘rest day’ that was most certainly not a rest day. In order for our bodies to acclimatise to the ever-thinning oxygen in the atmosphere, it’s important that we take our time gaining altitude in the Himalayas. This means that we are blessed with a couple of days where we stay in the same village for two nights. Don’t mistake that for a relaxed day of lazing around and growing soft though! Our wonderful guide Bahrat took it upon himself to take us to the highest hotel in the world; Everest View Hotel. Aptly named, the balcony of the hotel boasts the most exquisite view of not just Everest, but the surrounding peaks as well. Well worth the two-and-a-half hours of uphill steps to get there, but definitely not the ‘rest day’ I was anticipating.
The afternoon was considerably more peaceful. We all rugged up in our multiple layers of thermals and puffer jackets and waddled through the streets, past the bustling yak traffic, and down a little back alley. Nestled there, in the tiny backstreets of this Himalayan village, was the grooviest movie theatre/bar that I have ever seen in my twenty long years. Bundled up with Irish coffees, we watched a film that followed the sherpa teams that make it possible for tourist mountaineers to summit peaks such as Everest. There’s no doubt that they truly are the unsung heroes of the mountains.
Later that evening, we met the rest of our group members who were booked to trek with us. One of them is already quite sick, a nasty reminder that these mountains are not a gentle place. Garlic, ginger and plenty of rest are the local remedies to stave off altitude sickness, so I’ve been sure to get my ten hours of sleep every night, after a hearty dinner of the strongest garlic soup known to man. I may not smell like a rose but if it gets me to base camp, I’m willing to try anything!
EBC Trek – Entry Four
When someone talks about trekking through the Himalayas in winter, what’s the first thing you’d think of? A month ago, I’d have said snow, but going on this last week, I’d have been so wrong. Instead, think dust, and a lot of it. Being the proud tail-end of our trekking group, I spent the whole six hour trek today breathing in everyone else’s dust. It’s not just me that has fallen victim to this dust though. As the region that we’re trekking through is called the Khumbu region, the subsequent cough picked up by almost all travellers is appropriately dubbed the “Khumbu Cough”.
After settling into our teahouse, I went upstairs to change into some fresh, less dusty clothes before going to visit the Tengboche monastery. Upon stripping down, I was shocked to see what an incredible, sun-kissed golden tan I had developed. My excitement was pretty short lived however, when a wet wipe cleaned away my bronzed complexion to reveal the same old pasty white that comes from wearing three layers of thermals around the clock. So, if you’re not about that patchy fake tan life but keen on bronzing up for the summer, I can recommend some really great ‘au naturel’ Himalayan dust, fresh from the mountains!
EBC Trek – Entry Five
There’s nothing quite like a good wifi detox to clear the mind and cleanse the soul! A day (or six) may have passed since my last entry, and there’s been enough spectacular moments to write a multi-volume saga on. The low oxygen at this altitude hasn’t done wonders for my recall (or IQ in general, for that matter), so I’ll just stick to the most memorable; Everest Base Camp Day! Up at the crack of dawn, a nutritiously disastrous breakfast of two boiled eggs and a hot chocolate and then off through the coldest morning yet, all the way up to base camp! I must admit, after so many days and so many steps, the anticipation for actually making it to base camp really ramps up the pressure. You’re expecting a triumphant summit, an awe-inspiring rush of being on top of the world, but it isn’t quite so. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a beautiful spot on the globe to exist for a moment, but it really made me realise that whilst base camp was the destination, it is by no means the point of the whole trip. It was the people that I trekked (and on some occasions, crawled) there with and the breathtaking (quite literally) environments that I immersed myself in that will stay with me long after I’ve left this marvellous corner of the world.
For now, I’m back in Lukla and getting ready to fly out to Kathmandu tomorrow morning. In the good ol’ Aussie spirit, we’re all celebrating our survival with a few rounds of Nepali beer. One of the brilliant people that I met along the way and subsequently ended up trekking with has finished his hike with a bang, in the most unfortunately literal sense. After wandering out the front of our teahouse for some post-beer fresh air, the poor guy walked straight off the edge of the stairs and down a two metre deep gutter. He hit the ground, his knee went out in every direction that it shouldn’t, and now he’ll be clambering onto the tiny, rickety plane tomorrow with one extremely non-functional leg. I guess at least he can thank the stars that it happened now, and not at base camp!
Apart from that slight casualty, we’re all in one piece and more than ready for a hot shower! Cheers, base camp, you’ve been great. I know I’ll be back for you again one day soon.
Asha Couch | @asha_couch
Asha is an ugly-jumper enthusiast who is reliably late to everything, and spends all her money on poorly-planned travel.