844 days, 20,256 hours, 1,215,360 minutes, or 72,921,600 seconds. That is the approximate duration of my world tour. I never wanted it to end and now, in a manner of speaking, I suppose it never has to. If you wish to go by country do so by clicking on one above. They are numbered in the order I visited them, more or less. If you enjoy reading about it even a tenth as much as I enjoyed living it then you will not have wasted your time. Grab a refreshing beverage, settle in a comfortable chair, and make a journey across the world, experiencing it as I did. Then get off your ass and check it out for yourself. You're not getting any younger.

Lukla to Tengboche (Three Passes Trek , Nepal) Part I

March 22nd, 2010 - The Kongma Pass. Should I or shouldn't I? This is the Himalayas and trudging through a snowy pass sans companion is not the best of ideas. As I stood in the village of Chhukung looking up at the trail leading over the ridge and into the unknown I was feeling a bit uneasy. I'd come this far so F it. If things became complicated I'd just turn back. I'd met two groups of two that had just come over the Kongma La the past two consecutive days. Sure they had trouble identifying the trail but they assured me that even if you deviate from the path eventually you will find your way. The fact that one find's oneself surrounded by nearly impenetrable faces of menacing rock tend to steer one in a certain direction. In essence you can't get lost. Ummm…clearly these folks were not familiar with my uncanny ability to become disoriented. I could just go back the way I'd come and circle around the pass. I could also wear a wig, throw a little rouge on my cheeks, put on a pair of granny panties, and curl up in the fetal position like a whiny little scaredy cat.......

Himalayan Trajectory

Day 1 – Lukla (2,800 m – 9,240 ft) to Namche Bazaar (3,420 m – 11,286 ft)

Day 2 – Namche Bazaar to Khunde (3,840 m – 12,672 ft) to Khumjung (3,780 m – 12,474 ft) back to Namche Bazaar

Day 3 – Namche Bazaar to Tengboche (3,870 m – 12,771 ft)

Day 4 – Tengboche to Dingboche (4,360 m – 14,388 ft)

Day 5 – Climb Nangkartsang (5,090 m – 16,797 ft) then onto Chhukung (4, 730 m – 15, 609 ft)

Day 6 – Climb Chhukung Ri (5,546 m – 18,301 ft) 

Day 7 – Traverse Kongma La (5,535 m – 18,265 ft) from Chhukung to Lobuche (4,930 m – 16,269 ft)

Day 8 – Lobuche to Gorak Shep (5,160m – 17,028 ft) to Everest Base Camp (5,340 m – 17,622 ft) back to Gorak Shep

Day 9 – Gorak Shep to Kala Patar (5,545 m – 18,298 ft) back to Gorak Shep to Dzongla (4,830 m – 15,939 ft)

Day 10 – Traverse the Cho La (5,420 m – 17886 ft) from Dzongla to Gokyo (4,750 m – 15,675 ft)

Day 11 – Climb Gokyo Ri (5,360 m – 17,688 ft)

Day 12 – Traverse Renjo La (5,345 m – 17,638 ft) from Gokyo to Thame (3,750m – 12,375 ft)

Day 13 – Thame to Lukla

I arose at 4:30 am, packed my junk, and headed to the Kathmandu airport at 6 am with my grumpy hat on. Before 8 am I found myself in Lukla, the gateway to the Khumbu Region of Nepal, home to the most famous mountain on the planet: Mt. Everest. After a bit of breakfast I headed off to my first stop: Namche Bazaar. Most folks go only so far as Phakding  on the first day but I reached that village by 10 am and had no desire to call it a day. Altitude is nothing to trifle with but I was feeling pretty good so I decided to push on. I had recently been at altitude (a couple of months previously) and figured I would be alright. It took me a good six hours to reach Namche from Lukla. Admittedly, I was a bit pooped. Why was I so tired? Well, getting a mere four hours of sleep before starting a long trek is probably not conducive to high energy levels. Before finding a suitable lodge I sat at a local restaurant and ate half my body weight in food. This was to be an ongoing theme.

Namche Bazaar

Although I knew costs would be elevated on Nepal's most popular tourist track I was not quite prepared for the inflated food and drink prices. Compared to Kathmandu prices are as much as ten times higher. What, what, whaaaaaat???!!!!!

I understand the concept of natural inflation. I realize it is a tourist destination. I realize that almost everything is carried in by humans (some bearing up to 100 kg) or beasts of burden (yaks, horses, yetis, etc.) but all of this is not quite enough to explain the existence of shiny new menus at every guesthouse and lodge I parked myself at (shiny new menu denotes recent price hikes). It is a simple matter of supply and demand. The closer you get to the busy season (Nov – Oct & Mar – Apr) the less space there is available for the hoards. Lucky for me I beat the masses of Gortex laden yaks (i.e. tourists) and left the region just as the cattle started to make their way towards Everest en masse.

As the season closes in it is not uncommon to find folks sleeping on the floor in the dining area of tea houses (as guesthouses are refered to on the trails). Due to the dearth of lodging in some areas these places can pretty much charge whatever the hell they want…and often do (At least for food. Room rates are surprisingly low). And by the 'they' I am not referring to individual establishments. Prices are fixed by agreement or some sort of Tea House Cabal. The idea is to prevent a vicious price war. This is great for the well established but not so ideal for recent entrants to the biz.

In all honesty it would not have bothered me half as much if I'd been expecting it. I did not and was therefore concerned that my money supply would disappear prematurely. As it turned out my accelerated pace cut my journey from an anticipated three weeks to thirteen days making my fiduciary concerns of little consequence. Considering the amount of calories I was putting away on a daily basis my hiking exuberance came as a great relief to my wallet.

Although it was not easy to rein myself in I did manage to remain in the Namche Bazaar area for an additional day of acclimatization. I am glad I did because the area is rather beautiful, although this was to be only the tip of the iceberg (or glacier as it were).

Namche and the surrounding area have a backdrop which includes Mt. Kongde RiKhumbila, and Ama Dablam. I sauntered through the nearby hills passing through the picturesque villages of Khunde and Khumjung. I also made a stop at the Hotel Everest View (supposedly the world's highest) for the views and some fried noodles. There are worse ways to spend a day. It was back to Namche for some shut eye and preparations for the next day's sojourn to Tengboche (Tyangboche).

FYI: You cannot actually see Everest

Have I mentioned the porters? The list of things these folks don't carry is much shorter than the list of items they do. Local porters doing their Atlas impression is nothing new of course, but the situation takes on increased significance when you start tacking on thousands of feet of elevation. Some of the payloads blew my mind. I tried to find out how much they were carrying but every time I asked I was told, "100 kilos (220 lbs)". In some cases I do not doubt it but even if there is some degree of exaggeration I can assure you that most of the loads were certainly no less than 60 kilos (132 lbs). 60 kilos? That's for toddlers. You call yourself a Sherpa? Sissy.

The morning of my trek from Namche Bazaar to Tengboche something occurred, something difficult to describe in speech or words. It is the kind of thing that can only happen when you are alone and somewhat unguarded. It sneaks up on you like a ninja with a vendetta. As usual I took a less traveled route to Tengboche that led me back to the Hotel Everest View and then along a ridge that was more of a yak trail than a trekking path. On the way I was struck by an awareness, a presence of sorts that gripped hold of me and would not let go.

I firmly believe that there is an underlying energy or force that pervades the universe and everything in it. It is the source and the terminus of all things, the beginning and the end. It has many names: God, qi (chi), 'the force' (for you Star Wars fans), Allah, Yahweh, cosmic energy, so on and so forth. It pervades everything from timeless mountains to piles of yak shit. Sometimes you really need to concentrate to tune in. Other times the frequency is hauntingly clear and you are compelled to notice. I believe walking alone on a Himalayan path under a clear blue matutinal sky increases a person's conductive properties exponentially.

As I made my way along an empty path something overwhelmed me. I was no longer just walking through the Khumbu Region of Nepal. I began a journey through memories, emotions, and experiences from my past. It was beautiful. It was debilitating. It was…..overpowering. Sometimes a person is just not ready to be a cosmic tuning fork. I was not. The tears began to flow and once the flood gates were opened there was no stemming the tide. I suppose there is something ridiculous, farcical, and even melodramatic and histrionic about a man bent over his trekking poles on the path to Tengboche sobbing like a child.

Trite? Hackneyed? Corny? Jejune? All good adjectives. I can hardly expect someone to understand when I cannot grasp the significance myself. One thing is unmistakable: At moments like that you know you are alive. You are present. You are…..you. And nothing on this green Earth or in the heavens for that matter can change it. It is immutable and inescapably profound. There is not a drug out there that could possible measure up. Perhaps, such experiences are glimpses into the Buddhist state of enlightenment or nirvana. Then again, maybe I'm just full of existential poop.

As I made my way along I rejoined the traditional path and joined the rest of the herd. Admittedly, there was a bit of a bounce in my step, as if a burden had been lifted or the proverbial monkey from my back shed. I was free to move on.

I arrived in Tengboche just after noon. I am not one to call it a day so soon but Tengboche is a place worth loitering in. For one you have the beautiful monastery that serves as the focal point of the village set within a Himalayan backdrop. Not only that but nearby is a trail leading up a small 'hill' containing a stupa. It is all relative. The hill in question would probably be one of the highest points in the US.

Naturally, it was begging to be climbed so I threw on a wind jacket and went for a stroll. I was not disappointed. The steep gradient, along with some recent snowfall, almost made me turn back as trudging through snow and ice was a bit unsettling. However, I persevered and continued on. My reward? Well, this was to be my first view of Everest and it was something. Alone again…..surrounded by scenery that defies human comprehension. It was magnificent.

I was in such a stupendous mood that on the way down I began singing Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah out loud. It would have been much more gratifying if I could remember (if I ever knew in the first place) the f***ing lyrics. For those of you that might lose sleep otherwise here you go:

Zip-a-dee-doo-dah, zip-a-dee-ay
My, oh my, what a wonderful day
Plenty of sunshine headin' my way
Zip-a-dee-doo-dah, zip-a-dee-ay

Mister Bluebird's on my shoulder
It's the truth, it's actual
Ev'rything is satisfactual
Zip-a-dee-doo-dah, zip-a-dee-ay
Wonderful feeling, wonderful day, yes sir!

Zip-a-dee-doo-dah, zip-a-dee-ay
My, oh my, what a wonderful day
Plenty of sunshine headin' my way
Zip-a-dee-doo-dah, zip-a-dee-ay

Mister Bluebird's on my shoulder
It's the truth, it's actual
Ev'rything is satisfactual
Zip-a-dee-doo-dah, zip-a-dee-ay
Wonderful feeling, feeling this way

Mister Bluebird's on my shoulder
It is the truth, it's actual... huh?
Where is that bluebird? Mm-hm!
Ev'rything is satisfactual
Zip-a-dee-doo-dah, zip-a-dee-ay
Wonderful feeling, wonderful day!

"In the presence of eternity, the mountains are as transient as the clouds. "
-Robert Green Ingersoll, lawyer and orator (1833-1899) 

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for the excellent blog, I am doing this exact trek in 3 weeks and you've made even more excited. Cheers.


'Love me or hate me, but spare me your indifference.' -- Libbie Fudim