[RD] The Everest Basecamp Trek

Discussion in 'Off-Topic' started by warpus, May 18, 2020.

Tags:
  1. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

    Joined:
    Aug 28, 2005
    Messages:
    52,895
    Location:
    Stamford Bridge
    Yeah, Lukla has the airport so it is common to see helicopters around. That one could be flying up the trail to pick up a struggling hiker.. or ferrying someone somewhere.. You see less helicopters on the trail, but they do fly overhead every once in a while.. up until a point. There is a height after which it is not safe for helicopters to fly.

    If you zoom out a bit after clicking that link, you'll be able to look around and see the surrounding terrain..
     
  2. Birdjaguar

    Birdjaguar Hanafubuki Super Moderator Supporter

    Joined:
    Dec 24, 2001
    Messages:
    47,756
    Location:
    Albuquerque, NM
    I did!
     
  3. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

    Joined:
    Aug 28, 2005
    Messages:
    52,895
    Location:
    Stamford Bridge
    Walking through Lukla



    On the right you can see bags and backpacks that have been secured together. Each porter usually carries several bags at once, so they've gotten quite good at tying things together such that it's possible to carry the load without it falling all over the place. Somehow it doesn't take them long at all and they're always off well before the hikers.

    An interesting point to make here is that almost everything you see in this photo had to be at one point flown in. All construction materials and everything else make their way via the same airport we used. Everything is loaded on yaks and transported to whichever village. The further out the yaks go, the more expensive the cargo becomes. This applies to everything from toilet paper to fanta.

    I will also draw your attention to the backpacks my friends are carrying. Note that the orange one seems substantially larger than the blue one. That's because the friend with the blue backpack split on a porter with me, and the friend with the orange backpack decided to carry everything himself. He also brought some interesting items we didn't know about at the time.
     
    Last edited: May 31, 2020
    Cutlass and Birdjaguar like this.
  4. Birdjaguar

    Birdjaguar Hanafubuki Super Moderator Supporter

    Joined:
    Dec 24, 2001
    Messages:
    47,756
    Location:
    Albuquerque, NM
    Without a doubt. I'd hire a porter.
     
  5. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

    Joined:
    Aug 28, 2005
    Messages:
    52,895
    Location:
    Stamford Bridge
    My friend paid the price for his mistake later, as you'll see. Nothing too serious, but for a while we were a bit concerned.

    A porter will significantly improve your experience on the trail here, unless you grew up at high altitudes like the Sherpa did. For $18 a day, which can be split with other people, it's a really good investment! You want to enjoy your walk to some degree and not suffer through it. Personally I don't think I would have been able to complete this hike with all that weight on my back.

    The porters are also usually younger Sherpa who aspire to be guides one day, so by hiring them you are helping support the local community. There aren't that many jobs for young people up here. I got the sense that being a porter is almost like a rite of passage on your way to that guide job all of them want, which pays a lot more.. and of course you don't have to carry almost any weight as you lead hikers.
     
    Cutlass and Birdjaguar like this.
  6. Samson

    Samson Deity

    Joined:
    Oct 24, 2003
    Messages:
    13,274
    Location:
    Cambridge
    Do the guides have porters to carry their stuff? Or do they just travel light?
     
  7. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

    Joined:
    Aug 28, 2005
    Messages:
    52,895
    Location:
    Stamford Bridge
    The guides travel very light. They eat and sleep for free at the teahouses along the way and usually have friends and family members living or staying at some of the villages on the trail. Our guide always phoned ahead to teahouses at our destination each day, hours in advance, to ensure that we had a (good) place to stay that night. From what I saw they all help each other, as the tourism helps all of them and their communities. The teahouses also benefit from this arrangement, as any hikers staying there will spend money on food and lodging, and possibly more (snacks, beer, etc.). So each porter sort of has preferred teahouses which is where they will try to take their hikers first. The people running that teahouse will be familiar with the guide and might even be related. So I suspect any sort of extra clothing or gear that the guide might need for that day's hike would be taken care of by the teahouse.. or some relative living in that village.. or some friend.. The guides walk these routes multiple times in the season, so the the teahouse owners will know that the guide will be back with more customers.

    The guides also get a decent amount of cash for their troubles, relatively speaking.. Consider that a decent mid-range salary in the country will amount to about $100 USD a month. A starting bank staff member earns about $80 a month. A restaurant waiter will on average make less than $1 a day. A housekeeper makes about $25-$30 a month. A primary school teacher pulls in $40 a month but that can go up to $80, depending on area. Higher profile jobs like bank manager or senior telecommunications engineer pull in about $800+ a month. Just some random salaries to give you some context. The higher paying jobs would likely all be in Kathmandu, the capital, or possibly some of the other larger cities in the country. There really aren't that many. Rural jobs pull in a lot less than these high profile jobs in the capital - and all Sherpa guides usually come from a remote village and not a busy urban centre

    We paid $30*15=$450 for our guide. From what we were told (by the guide and other people), the guide keeps about half of that. Since lodging and food are all free for the guides, this means that all this money is take home profit, minus any luxuries purchased along the way.

    Then there's also the tip. We tipped our guide $50 each or $150 total. We had such an amazing experience and really wanted to show him our appreciation. I have no idea what the average tip might be, but imagine getting a tip that's higher than a month's worth of a decent mid-range salary in your country.. And don't forget that locals eat and sleep a lot cheaper than tourists. This sort of money goes a long way for a Sherpa or other local Nepali

    Also consider that our guide was in his early 20s and still in college. $200+$150 for 2 weeks of work is really really good money for somebody like that. What I'm getting at is that this probably helps the guides not worry about bringing a lot of gear on the hike. Anything they'll need along the way they can probably borrow or buy. They probably have agreements in place with various businesses along the way that help them accomplish this. If a guide needs a new pair of boots, I bet they pay a lot less than what a tourist would have to pay in the same situation.

    So I don't think that the guides really have to bring much. They have a vast support network along the way that they can rely on - and plenty of spending money. From what I saw no guides had their own porters, but it is possible that in larger groups organized by companies that charge more this might happen.

    The porter also always departs at least an hour before we did every morning, so we never got to see them packing their bags. They also always arrived well before us, so by the time we arrived our bags were already in our rooms and the porters were sitting around relaxing or socializing, or weren't even at the teahouse anymore (and at a pool hall or what have you). I wouldn't be surprised if our porter helped carry some minor things that the guide needed carried, but that's a guess.
     
    Last edited: May 27, 2020
    Samson, Birdjaguar and Cutlass like this.
  8. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

    Joined:
    Aug 28, 2005
    Messages:
    52,895
    Location:
    Stamford Bridge
    The First Stupa



    About a half an hour outside of Lukla we came across the first Stupa on the trail. A stupa is a mound-like and/or pointy structure containing Buddhist relics. It is a place of meditation and in Buddhism is associated with the practice of circumambulation, which is the act of walking around a sacred object.

    In Nepal the practice is to walk around stupas in a clockwise fashion. It is seen as impolite to walk around these structures in the other direction, even if you are just passing by. On the trail there is leeway for foreigners since it is understood by locals that many people find the hike challenging and are focused on their stride, meaning no disrespect. I also found the Nepali people to be very welcoming and accommodating. So this was a sort of soft rule.. It was common to see people not follow it, even guides leading groups. We usually tried to, as our guide would usually lead us that way anyway, and we wanted to show him the same respect and courtesy he was showing us.

    The exception was in situations where we were clearly exhausted and just wanted to get to that day's destination, and walking clockwise would have added a couple steps in the wrong direction. It doesn't seem like much, but most of the time when that happened the guide was leading us and would take us the shortest way, even if it went against this rule. He was always keeping a close eye on our physical and mental condition, so that was definitely one of the factors, but it's tough to say how he decided when to follow this rule and when not to.

    Each time we walked around a stupa counter-clockwise he would also say a short prayer under his breath. It was interesting to me that this situation also occurred with large rocks on the trail. Locals would almost always walk around them on the left hand side, walking around the rock clockwise, unless they were carrying a heavy load. Our guide usually lead us around such rocks on the left-hand side as well.

    In this shot it looks like we cheated and walked on the right-hand side, but I bet we did it properly. It was still early and our spirits were high, our energy tanks full.
     
    Last edited: May 31, 2020
    Quintillus, Cutlass and Birdjaguar like this.
  9. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

    Joined:
    Aug 28, 2005
    Messages:
    52,895
    Location:
    Stamford Bridge
    A Donkey Caravan



    During the first two days on the trail you come across many Yak and occasionally donkey caravans. These caravans ferry supplies from Lukla airport to all the villages in the area. Many of them are headed to Namche Bazaar, the largest town in the region and the most important trading centre by far. After that the trails diverge as well, but you do still occasionally come across a Yak caravan heading in either direction. I believe the majority of the supplies carried are things that will be eventually sold to tourists, such as coca-cola products, chips, cooking supplies, and other supplies for the various shops along the way. Some caravans only carried propane tanks, we would see those every once in a while.

    The donkeys were harmless, but you still had to get out of the way.. The Yaks were definitely not harmless, they moved forward whether you were in the way or not.. so you had to watch out and stand off to the side as best as you could, watching out for the giant horns..

    As you can see there are still occasionally buildings on the trail here, even though we were well out of Lukla and still many hours away from our destination on day one. I don't think this is any particular village you are looking at, just a couple families who at some point decided to make a fresh start here. With the amount of foot traffic in each direction (500 new hikers flying in every day during high season) there is a lot of opportunity for those inclined to set up shops or restaurants. It's also on the main route where the caravans pass, so I assume that has benefits as well.
     
    Last edited: May 31, 2020
    Quintillus, Cutlass and Birdjaguar like this.
  10. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

    Joined:
    Aug 28, 2005
    Messages:
    52,895
    Location:
    Stamford Bridge
    The Dudh Koshi Valley and River

    The Dudh Koshi is one of the highest elevated rivers in the world. It drains the Mount Everest massif and begins just east of the Gokyo lakes, which is where our eventual detour would take us in about 10 days.

    The trailhead in Lukla is not quite by the river, but you meet up with it soon enough.



    The trail follows the river all the way to Namche Bazaar, where it splits into several tributaries. For now we would be only hiking to PhakDing, not visible yet in this picture.

    This shot also highlights the elevation changes on day one, so I will post them again:

    Ascent: 139 m
    Descent: -358 m
    High: 2,840 m
    Low: 2,555 m

    Compared to the rest of the hike this was not an especially difficult day.. But I was already feeling the altitude.. I was running out of energy a lot faster than usual and any time we had to walk uphill it was a bit of a struggle.

    I forget at which point of the hike I started taking Diamox high altitude pills, but that quickly became a part of the daily medical regimen. Every morning I took half a diamox pill, a high blood pressure pill, an aspirin, and a multivitamin. Also every morning I mixed an isotonic/vitamin C mix with water in one of my two water bottles, so I could drink it on the trail.. For the trail I always prepared energy gummy bear chewables and a sort of natural boost designed for the trail that I can't really remember. It was a capsule with a blended powdery mixture inside.. I saved those for especially challenging parts of the trail, such as long uphill sections and acclimatization days. The effect felt from these was minimal, but the science seemed to imply that it was helping. Perhaps it was also a bit of a psychological boost.

    All the things I just mentioned were researched to help me hike in high altitudes. I went to a travel clinic and actually ended up at the hospital about 2 days before the flight to Nepal as well.. I have high blood pressure problems and at the time it was especially high. The doctor at the hospital somehow had high altitude hiking experience in Peru and even know the villages we would be hiking through in Nepal. He looked at my high blood pressure medication, said that on the trail I should be taking something else, and wrote me a new prescription.. It would be better for high altitudes, since it did not have some acid in it (from what I remember). I was really happy that this doctor showed up. I had to wait 4 and a half hours overall I think, and this was during my last day at work before the trip.. I did not mind at all, but the added hassle and stress were getting to me.. I was really fortunate to get somebody like that giving me expert medical advice for the exact conditions I was going to be experiencing on my hike

    My first aid kit, always in my day pack, also included cold medication (day and night), stoppers & goers (diarrhea meds), zantac (acid indigestion med), bandaids, blister kits, neosporin, and a set of antibiotic and stereoid cremes in case a rash problem I once had resurfaced on the trail.. On top of all that my first aid kit also had things like athletic tape, gauze pads, throat lozenges, lip balm, and a safety pin. I also always had sunscreen on me and a large number of water purification tablets that I used on every single sip of water taken on the trail. The water was always filled up every morning by being boiled first, after which I would throw in the purification tablets and let them do their thing.

    You really had to come prepared on this hike, since any medical facilities you come across on the trail will be incredibly bare, and in many villages they won't even exist. You're on the trail for 2 weeks, so you have to look after yourself and have medication on hand in case you develop a cold or your stomach disagrees with something, or who knows what could happen..
     
    Last edited: May 30, 2020
    Cutlass, Samson and Birdjaguar like this.
  11. Birdjaguar

    Birdjaguar Hanafubuki Super Moderator Supporter

    Joined:
    Dec 24, 2001
    Messages:
    47,756
    Location:
    Albuquerque, NM
    I'm sorry warpus, but that just looks like Colorado. Are you sure you were in Nepal?
     
    Last edited: May 30, 2020
    warpus likes this.
  12. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

    Joined:
    Aug 28, 2005
    Messages:
    52,895
    Location:
    Stamford Bridge
    The Power of the Sherpa

    It wasn't uncommon to see locals carrying unreasonable amounts.. It was cheaper to carry your supplies yourself rather than paying for space on a Yak caravan, so some people did it this way

     
    Cutlass, Samson and Birdjaguar like this.
  13. Cutlass

    Cutlass The Man Who Wasn't There.

    Joined:
    Jan 13, 2008
    Messages:
    47,268
    Location:
    US of A
    Do you carry medical tape in your first aid kit? That athletic tape would do for some bigger jobs. But the medical tape is good because when you are active bandaids and small bandages tend to not stay in place well.
     
  14. Birdjaguar

    Birdjaguar Hanafubuki Super Moderator Supporter

    Joined:
    Dec 24, 2001
    Messages:
    47,756
    Location:
    Albuquerque, NM
    That little "Welcome" sign is friendly.
     
  15. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

    Joined:
    Aug 28, 2005
    Messages:
    52,895
    Location:
    Stamford Bridge
    Yeah, the first aid kit I have came with 2 or 3 types of tape that I never used, so they're always in there. These items are not listed on my master packing list though, which I was referencing when writing that post (so I forgot about them). From what I remember there's a small bit of sort of waterproof duct tape that's more for fixing gear, and 1 or 2 types of medical tape. The athletic tape was something that was added to the list as something most people seemed to be recommending for this trail.

    If I could pick only one word to say about the Nepali and Sherpa people I'd have to go with friendly. They were very hospitable, welcoming, and accommodating wherever we went. On the trail they were also often operating as businesses, which lead to an even higher standard of friendliness
     
    Birdjaguar likes this.
  16. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

    Joined:
    Aug 28, 2005
    Messages:
    52,895
    Location:
    Stamford Bridge
    The Sacred Mani Stones



    These stones are carved and/or painted with a sacred Buddhist Sanskrit mantra. As you can see there is a trail on both sides, so that those wishing to do so can walk around the stone clockwise as they pass.
     
    Samson, Birdjaguar and Cutlass like this.
  17. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

    Joined:
    Aug 28, 2005
    Messages:
    52,895
    Location:
    Stamford Bridge
    Those who carved these stones are said to have been in a meditative state when they did so.



    In this particular case my camera did a much better job processing the .RAW file than I could (right now). So it's easy for me to post this so soon, as the file already exists (and I just noticed)
     
  18. Birdjaguar

    Birdjaguar Hanafubuki Super Moderator Supporter

    Joined:
    Dec 24, 2001
    Messages:
    47,756
    Location:
    Albuquerque, NM
    Are the carvings symbols, pictures or language?
     
  19. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

    Joined:
    Aug 28, 2005
    Messages:
    52,895
    Location:
    Stamford Bridge
    It's a repeating Buddhist mantra written in Sanskrit.

    When voiced it sounds like "om mani padme hum", which loosely translates to "Behold! The jewel in the lotus". However, on the site where I found the translation it also says that "The mantra cannot be translated into a simple phrase or even a few sentences because it contains the essence of the entire teaching of Buddha". Recitation of this mantra is the most popular religious practice in Tibetan Buddhism.

    A mantra is a short repeating melodic phrase used during meditation, for those not familiar. It is repeated to help you get in a deeper meditative state. You can imagine the person carving one of these repeating that mantra, a sort of religious ceremony in itself.
     
    Last edited: Jun 1, 2020
    Birdjaguar likes this.
  20. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

    Joined:
    Aug 28, 2005
    Messages:
    52,895
    Location:
    Stamford Bridge
    Scenes from the Trail



    This was taken about 15 minutes before we arrived at our final destination on the very first day of hiking. At this point of the trek it was still very common to see assorted structures and farm fields just off the trail.

    A lot of the food that the locals eat is grown in the area as opposed to being flown in. Most of the stuff flown in is a luxury sold to the tourists hiking through the villages and staying in the teahouses.. The further the yaks have to carry it, the more you will pay for it. It just wouldn't be economical for the local population to rely on such an expensive food source, so most families who live here will grow their own staple foods and indulge in some occasional flown in snacks on the side.

    I asked what was being grown in the fields a couple times, and the answer was always "cabbage", although I couldn't confirm if that is the case here or not
     
    Last edited: Jun 13, 2020

Share This Page