Welshman Walking Blog: Returns Part 6
Welshman Walking Blog : Returns
My Own Bucket List
When Bucket List was in its infancy, Co Founder Andy, created a blog called Welshman Walking. This was about his first journey to Nepal where he was heading to Mt Everest for the first time. The writing took him from the busy Airport at London Heathrow, all the way to the foot of the tallest mountain on earth, Mt Everest, and back to Kathmandu.
As with any journey his was so much more than just reaching the destination. The realisation of a lifetime ambition, the friends he made on the trails, the hospitality he enjoyed from the Nepalese people and the life experiences he went through all added to the story. I hope you enjoy reading about this journey as much as Andy enjoyed living it. We will be posting each blog throughout the next few weeks, in the build up to some of our planned expeditions in spring & Autumn 2017! Keep a sharp eye on the horizon for more news.
Up and Up!
I’ve always wondered what the mountains looked like on a crisp clear sky in the Himalayas at sunrise. I awoke to silence at around 7am and opened the curtains to the most amazing sight. The mountains around Phakding were covered in a beautiful layer of snow.
Fortunately the weather had cleared overnight and the visuals were out of this world. I felt like an excited schoolboy, got out my camera and went snapping away until i felt that i had an entire photo album of this one mountain. I needed a shower but no hot water was available and it was so chilly that a cold shower was a no go at this point. I had heard what a friend would call a Glasgow shower, I’m sure you can work out what that means but the long and short of it is use wet wipes!
I headed down for some breakfast and loaded up for what i was told would be a bit of a toughie today on the trek. My guide told me about the places we would be visiting and that there would be an elevation change from 2600 to 3400 meters and to reach Namche Bazaar the focal point for any trek in the Sagarmatha region of Nepal. Sagarmatha being the national park where Mt Everest lies.
I had finished packing the night before and was eager to get started and we began at a steady place. However before long the photographer inside of me once again made itself known and shot everything from a local farmers spinach patch near the Dudh Kosi or ‘Milky’ river in English to the high peak of Kongde Ri reaching so high into the sky my neck was beginning to creak.
I couldn’t help but take photo after photo of the mountains. It was unbelievably clear and we felt lucky to have such amazing views. The sun was now shining on the western slopes which lit up up those mountains enough to see the summits of Kongde Ri and Karyolung both reaching heights of over 6000 meters. It was mad at this point to think that anything could be any higher that the mountains i could see but Mt Everest was almost 3000m more than the mountains i that i could see and that thought stayed with me for most of the morning as i contemplated what was lying in wait for me.
Along the trail i caught up with one of the dutch guys from the flight. We both encouraged each other on and to get to Namche as we knew it was a tough day and one of the toughest days of the trek and used the Irish bar in Namche as a motivation.
The paths once again went winding along the river with ups and downs and also as we did the first day, we came across another suspension bridge. I began to walk across without thinking of the drop to the torrent of water below until i was about half way across. I looked ahead and another donkey train was making its way across the bridge. Usually this would be a piece of cake but the suspension bridge was barely a meter wide.
My guide had warned me at the beginning of the trek to watch out for these donkeys as they can give a brutal kick and had occurred many a time. I was thinking, absolutely brilliant.
Me and the donkey were pretty much playing chicken on a suspension bridge and if they decided that they didn’t like the look of me, i would have to do something. Bail into the river or risk getting crushed. I tried to be as calm as possible and was thinking, these were only donkeys, chill out. It was difficult when some of them were obviously not too happy and i pushed myself as far to the left as possible leaning over into the river 20 or 30 feet below. I did this for about 10-15 more donkeys and was glad to make it across.
Another funny moment at that time was where another donkey train was lying in wait and i climbed on top of a boulder as the donkeys went slowly but surely and passed. One of the donkeys at the front end however was not liking this at all and decided to do a U turn and hit the rest of the donkey train head on. I couldn’t help but laugh as the Nepalese dude trying to organise this donkey train was shouting some random Nepalese and you could hear in his voice that he was growing impatient.
Once we watched this little event occur and entertain us we headed on as the path began to climb.
We made it to the Hilary suspension bridge, named after of course, the legendary Sir Edmund Hilary, the joint first person to the reach the summit of Everest with Tenzing Norgay a local of the Sagarmartha region.
It was actually a double bridge separated by 30 feet in elevation as the old bridge was severely damaged and we decided the best option would be to go higher and walk across the relatively new bridge. Now this was a suspension bridge alright!
It towered over the river around maybe 150 foot high and shook from side to side. The wire cable that was supporting it looked pretty good to me and i started to walk out into the middle of the bridge. Looking down was definitely unnerving but i was across in no time at all. I waited for 5 minutes to catch by breath as a really steep section of the trail lay just ahead.
It was now 2 hours of uphill trekking with a significant incline. I set off whilst keeping my mind positive even my lungs were soon into overdrive and i could feel the lactic acid having a party in my legs. I kept looking at targets like a tree stump or a large boulder and soon looked at my altimeter as i was gaining altitude. I was soon at 3100 and almost halfway up this steep section.
Taking the advice i soon took my time taking more pictures of the passes and frozen waterfalls that were on the other side of the river and these towered above me. I was soon chatting to my guide about climbing the waterfalls with an ice axe and crampons and he mentioned that there was alot of ice climbing in that area at this time of year. Its something i’ll definitely take a look at someday for sure.
After 30 minutes of long deep breathing and pushing myself harder and harder we reached the checkpoint of Namche Bazaar. It had taken over 6 hours of hiking with a large portion uphill to reach this point and it was a killer. I felt pretty good about things though knowing that even on only the second day of the trek i had completed one of the most difficult parts and i was chuffed to beans about that.
After the guy at the checkpoint let me in, somewhat surprisingly so, we arrived in Namche and headed for the Lodge for the night called the Nest. It was literally one of the first lodges that we came upon too and it overlooked the entire valley 800 meters below and definitely living up to its name as the Nest.
After a warm cup of ginger tea and some food, I made my way out into Namche purchasing another key tool for the trek, Toilet Paper.
I bumped into a couple of other trekkers including a German trio who had just come down from the high passes and had a story to tell as the German woman had an interesting time at Everest Base camp suffering from Altitude sickness. It sounded to me like Cerebral Edema which was a swelling of the brain as her partner mentioned that she was in a drunk state and couldn’t remember even her family or where she was.
It made me think about the journey ahead and to take it slow to avoid these types of altitude problems. There was also a Lithuanian guy who had been travelling for 18 months already and he was a funny character and was also heading up to Everest.
After some time we did make it to a bar albeit not the Irish bar as unbelievably it was closed. We soon put the world to rights discussing philosophy and religion and chatted away into the night having a few Tuborg beers to chill with. After a fine night of merriment we all said our farewells and headed for bed and I made my way to my warm and cosy lodge.
As i approached the lodge it was super chilly probably into the region of -10 or maybe even less. I tried to open the entrance to my lodge, however to my cold mind, it was padlocked. Bugger i thought, it was only 10:15pm!! I made a little noise to try and get someone to let me in but had no response for 20 minutes or so. I decided to try and find an alternative entrance but no doors or windows were open at the back and I was thinking ohh dear its going to be a long night.
I decided to see if i could break in via a window and went around the entire Lodge to see if any were open. One side was all closed, so was the back of the lodge. Luckily i came across a window which was not locked so i pulled it aside and jumped through landing with a huge smile on my face into the warm.
I made it to my room and got thinking about the day. One thing that really stuck with me before i went off to sleep was something Steven, one of the German group i met had said to me. A lovely metaphor, i thought, about the journey of life.
‘A trek is like life. First, imagine your life as a rucksack with all of your possessions. After some time you learn that you don’t need everything in that rucksack and you only keep the things you really need. On the trek you go up and you go down along the entire route. You know you will have pain at some point but you deal with it and learn. You resolve the problems you have when you come across them, move on and finally, every journey has its end’.
My journey however was only just getting started.