I have been out of internet service for some time. Just got back to Namche Bazaar this afternoon after a long hike through sleet, rain, snow and finally some welcome sunshine. I came down from Gokyo (16,600 ft. approx.) since my cold wasn’t improving in altitude – nor was I getting much sleep. That’s one of the most common problems in staying in high places. I’m including a couple of photos from the top of Gokyo Ri (17, 684ft) showing the glacier flow and the small village of Gokyo from part of the way up Gokyo Ri as well as the four of us on top. That’s Lonnie, me, Pascale and her Sherpa guide named Dendi. In the next few days I hope to catch up with my posts. One very big bummer is that the sensor on my Canon G11 went out leaving me with just my iPhone to try to capture this beautiful countryside. I didn’t notice it until I looked at them in the computer and saw all the distorted pixels in some really precious photos I had taken. Again, a real bummer for me.
Today I’ll try to catch up a little with events.
On October 7th we got a ride with Kelsang to Miss Elizabeth Hawley’s place. She is the Wikipedia of climbing in Nepal. Anyone climbing a peak higher than trekkers peaks (I believe 6000m and above) stops to register with her before they leave Kathmandu. They must also keep her informed of their results. There is nothing official or required governmentally – though all climbers do this to keep records complete. We were ushered in to meet this lady of somewhere between 80 and 90 years of age complete with a lovely British accent. Her home and office were comfortable in ways only time can create. She has a pleasant yet somehow brusque manner – to the point without being pushy. I’ve read about her and this climbing custom in books of famous climbs yet never imagine I would be here shaking her hand. We completed our business with her and said our goodbyes. A great experience for me.
This is our last day in Kathmandu. Tomorrow we leave at 6am on a flight to Lukla. The smog is atrocious and the nights are noisy. A dinner out with our host Suku and we were all off to bed. Still no info about return tickets and the wi-fi is not working.
On October 8th we boarded a 12 passenger twin engine plane for our ride to Lukla. It was truly an amazing trip. The mountains and mountain ridges were tightly packed, leaving steep short valleys. Impossible terrain for road building. Large mountains were on every side and small villages were spread sparsely on heavily wooded mountainsides. Everything travels to and from villages from here on by either the crossbreed yak/cow or human porters. They use these cross-breed animals because it is too warm for yaks. Further up in the mountains we will see only yaks. The landing was on an uphill slope with a very short runway. Quite an experience heading for a runway that looks more like a wall.
After sorting out our gear and finding our porters in Lukla we headed out on the trekking trail. We were all carrying 46 liter packs with everything we might need for the day plus articles we were not sure we wanted to trust to the rougher hands of our porters (computers, etc.) It was a pleasant warm day for the type of hike we could not find anywhere else. This part of the world is like no where else on earth. Scenery is unparallelled. The trail itself is mainly rocky and steep. The right of way on the trail is yaks first, then porters and finally trekkers. We traveled through small villages greeted by stupas, prayer flags and prayer wheels, and buildings fashioned by rock. Mostly metal roofs. People carried amazingly heavy loads, even the women. The owners of the Mountain Resort where we were spending the night, were relatives of Nima Sherpa, our host in Kathmandu.
The trek to Namche Bazaar started out much like the previous days but then became very steep during our second half. I was quite sick and struggled with the effects of altitude since I had such a compromised system. I was only able to manage three hours of sleep the night before. We went through three checkpoints along the way, they looked at our TIMS cards that allowed us to trek and later our permits to enter the National Park. I was relieved to finally reach Namche Bazaar after 6 hours of difficult trekking. We settled into the Thawa Inn which again had connections to Nima. Breakfasts and dinners are served at these “tea houses” for a fee of course but they are quite comfortable. This one has wi-fi and can recharge our batteries. Thus I am able to write this entry to catch up on days it wasn’t possible.
Today Lonnie, Pascale and I went to the Sherpa Museum, originally created by Edmund Hilary as a climbing museum. Pascale had joined us at Kathmandu – Lonnie had met her on a ferry near Haines Alaska last spring. She is a chemical engineer who spent the last ten years working for a firm devising and building systems that can burn garbage and create electricity. Despite building two successful large systems this firm had gone bankrupt. Pascale is taking some time off to travel. This museum also has many artifacts of Sherpa culture. We also had lunch at a charming little Sherpa teahouse where the proprietor cooked our mo-mos right in front of us. No bigger than my kitchen at home, this little space was filled with unforgettable aromas within minutes. It was a very pleasant way to spend a part of our day.
Tomorrow we continue our journey – i hurried through this post but hope to be more regular with my writing from now on. Hoping the local meds will restore my energy as well.
We flew into Kathmandu yesterday from Kunming, China. It was a trip of a little over three hours and uneventful to me. I had an aisle seat and only later heard about the views of Everest and Lhotse I missed from Lonnie who had nabbed an open window seat further back in the plane. Overall, it was cloudy and the descent into Kat hazy. I’m old enough to remember when smog was a new addition to our vocabulary but it could have well have been invented here. The city is located deep into a valley thus trapping all the sins of the city in its bowels. As Lonnie and I were working our way through immigration and security at the airport, purchasing our visas and picking up our bags, we both remarked on the startling differences between Kunming and our new environs. Though the processes to complete were essentially the same, we now had friendly faces and obliging officials to guide us along the way. We had gone through full checkpoint security three times in Kunming airport just trying to leave China – you’d think they would be happy to get rid of us. Entering Nepal was an inviting breeze compared to that chill.
Elias met us outside of the airport. He is a tall, remarkably fit man in his mid-thirties. Originally from Spain, Elias is a well-known professional mountain guide. He met his Minnesota born wife Bridget in Colorado. Near Elias’ age, she is also a climber and extremely well conditioned. Bridget spends her summers climbing with him and winters in an office in Ashford, Washington. They live in the Cascades.
We loaded our gear into a van and hopped in with Elias for a culturally enlightening 20 minute ride to our new quarters at Nima’s place. The traffic was chaotic and mind-boggling. Although there was a line in the middle of the street; cars, buses, trucks, motorcycles and pedestrians darted freely across it with horns announcing all turns. Crazy motorcyclists somehow weaved between the mess without incident during my short view. Anyone trying to navigate through this maze had better have good peripheral vision. Great reactions are also a must. To our surprise, Elias informed us that the traffic today was light. The sides of the road were lined with busses and trucks since there is now a fuel shortage in Kat. Nepal is in the midst of an argument with India apparently over Nepal’s new constitution. All of Kathmandu’s gas and diesel comes through India’s borders and these tankers are being held up in India. A ration of 5 liters a day has been instituted within the city.
We turned down a narrow alleyway and parked outside an attractive four story mortar building. Nima and his wife Sue-coo live here along with their eldest son, Kason. I’m sure my spelling of their names will improve with experience. Nima moved to the city after establishing a successful business in the mountains as a go-to guy for climbers and guiding companies. Very well connected, Nima can supply anything needed including rides, porters, guides and all supplies. He just makes a few phone calls and things happen. Sue-coo keeps all guests well-fed and happy. Nima is having some health issues right now and Kason has stepped into his shoes for our stay here.
Tomorrow we will fly into Lukla and begin our trek. Today we will be busy with last minute preparations assisted by our hosts.
I writing this at 1:30 am. Both Lonnie and I are awake and up since we can’t sleep due to our jet lag.
We flew into Kathmandu yesterday from Kunming, China. It was trip of over 3 hours and uneventful to me. I had an aisle seat and only later heard about the views of Everest and Lhotse from Lonnie who had nabbed a window further back in the plane. It was cloudy and the descent into Kathmandu very hazy. I’m old enough to remember when the term smog was a new addition to our vocabulary but it could well have been invented here. The city is located deep in a valley thus trapping all of the sins of the city in its bowels. As Lonnie and I were working our way through immigration and security in the airport, purchasing our visas and picking up our bags, we remarked on the startling differences between Kunming and our new environs. Though the processes to complete were essentially the same, we now were greeted with friendly faces and obliging officials to guide us along. We had gone through three full security checkpoints just trying to get to the to our gate in Kunming. We were just trying to leave China, not get in. Entering Nepal was an inviting breeze compared to that chill.
Elias met us outside of the airport. He is a tall, remarkably fit man in his mid- thirties. Originally from Spain, he is a well-known guide and supervisor for Ranier Mountain Inc. He met his Minnesota born wife, Bridget, in Spain while she was vacationing there. Near Elias’ age, she climbs with him in summers and has a office job in Ashford, Washington in the winter. They live nearby in the Cascades.
We loaded our gear into the back of a van and hopped in front with Elias for a culturally enlightening 20 minute ride to Nima Sherpa’s place in the Boudha section of town. While more Hindus reside in the city, we were amoung Buddhists here. The traffic was chaotic and mind-boggling. Although there was at times a center line, it was mostly ignored. Cars, taxis, trucks. motorcycles, bikes and pedestrians all darted freely back and forth with horns announcing every move. Anyone traveling through that maze had better have extremely good peripheral vision. Better reaction time than mine is a must. Elias informed us that traffic was light today. The sides of the roads were lined with trucks, buses and taxis all their small daily quota of fuel. Nepal is in the midst of a political argument with India, apparently over Nepal’s new constitution. All of Kathmandu’s fuel comes by truck across India’s border and are being held up on India. This ration was said to be 5 liters per day.
We turned down a narrow alleyway and parked next to an attractive four story mortared building. Nima and his wife Suku live here along with their eldest son, Kelsang. Nima moved to the city after establishing s very successful business in the mountains as a go-to guy for climbers and guiding services. Very well connected. He just makes a few phone calls and things happen. Suku keeps all guests well-fed and happy.
Tomorrow we will fly into Lukla to began our trek and climbing effort.
I’m writing this at 1:30 am as both Lonnie and I have serious jet lag.
It’s now the 9th October and my computer was jammed while on China, Internet has been very difficult and I have a bad cold. We are in Phakding and headed for Namche Bazaar today. Incredible scenery. Sent from my iP
It’s like traveling in bright fluorescent hallways that have no ends. Whites and grays. Surrounded by voices that you are never asked to answer. They echo and disappear. People constantly shuffling about. Airports somehow suck all the energy from me. Lonnie and I are in Toronto for eight hours. We’ll be seeing a lot more of these sterile, foreign environs. My itinerary says that we will be traveling for 20 hours 36 minutes and sitting in airports for 22 hours
8 minutes before we disembark in Kathmandu. Next time I think I’ll book the Kon-Tiki.
Here we are with computers plugged in – Lonnie doing updates and re-charging his battery. Me done with people watching and now just vegging. In about an hour the Chinese Eastern check-in will open and we can get ticketed for this flight and hopefully solve our ticket problems for our return flights.
I’m hoping we can get this done here in Toronto with fewer language difficulties than in Shanghai or Kathmandu.
Much has changed in the culture of air travel in the years that I’ve been traveling. It has become much more affordable. In 1970 i simply would not have been able to fly to Nepal without a very major dent being formed in my yearly income. It would have been huge for me. While the total adventure
still is in many ways, the flight is now $1200 round trip. I can do that. Much in the way that you can now find $39 tickets to Las Vegas or $99 flights to Orlando, the cost of our everyday air travel has become much lower, We now expect it and scan the web from the comforts of our home for the cheapest tickets out there. Companies like Expedia and Travelocity have sprung up by doing just that for us. We no longer are suspicious about traveling with these second party tickets. It is the way of our times and the convenience of the power of technology.
However, these changes have not come without trade-offs. The numbers of flights have shrunk just as the space we have to sit on has followed suit. Flights are generally always full and in fact usually oversold. You have to pay for putting a bag on the plane and more for the second bag if it is even allowed. Overhead bags have now become a target of airlines as well. Choices of seat location can command more than a few dollars without even being in first class. There are many more places we can go with this.
Most of all I think it is the relationship between the customer and the airline that has changed. We as passengers no longer have the respect of the airlines and that is reflected in the total lack of customer service that is offered. Yes, flying has become more of a buyer’s beware culture. All of the things that once would have been totally not acceptable have now become commonplace. Flight cancellations, last minute time and gate changes, unadvertised baggage restrictions, and much more are now just simply part of flying. Almost makes you want to just stay home.
Tomorrow morning I am leaving for Nepal from Thunder Bay with my good friend, Lonnie Dupre. World renowned Arctic explorer and now also conqueror of Denali in the heart of the winter, Lonnie has invited me to join him and two fellow mountaineers, Elias and Bridget from Colorado, for an expedition to check out an unclimbed peak in the Khumbu region of Nepal. Named in 2013 in honor of the famed Nepalese climber, Tenzing Norgay, this peak is located near Cho Oyu, an 8000 meter mountain which is about 20 kilometers from Everest, the mother of all mountains in this world.
Yesterday we found out that our return flights have been cancelled. That’s it. Just cancelled. No “here is your new itinerary” but just gone with no alternative offered. This is the way of modern travel.
We are going anyway. Have to figure it out as we move along.
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