[RD] The Everest Basecamp Trek

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

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  1. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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    You get a better look at the farms further up the trail, closer to that restaurant.. but I didn't really get any great shots. This is the best one

     
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  2. Birdjaguar

    Birdjaguar Hanafubuki Super Moderator Supporter

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    OK, that looks much more like farmland. :)
     
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  3. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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  4. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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    Back on the Main Trail

    A couple hours after lunch we were back on the classic Everest Basecamp Trek trail. This is the exact spot where the trails merge:



     
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  5. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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    Back to Namche Bazaar

    Our return to Namche Bazaar felt like a return to human civilization. It almost felt like we were returning home.

    Ever since we had diverged from the classic Basecamp route back on day 9 we got used to seeing a lot less people on the trail. We got used to staying at very small villages with minimally built teahouses and had also been hiking above the treeline for about a week and had not seen any vegetation for a number of days either. That all changed today, as we first dipped below the treeline and then later rejoined the main trail just about an hour before arriving at Namche Bazaar. There weren't really that many people on the trail yet, so it didn't really hit us until we started walking through the narrow city streets. It does feel like a sort of proper small town, with many shops, merchants selling their wares, workers and schoolchildren walking through the streets, and just general activity.

    When we first arrived in Namche Bazaar back on day 2 it was an exactly opposite experience for me. We had just left civilization behind in Kathmandu and were now in some small town in the middle of the Himalayas, up high on the side of a hill. In contrast we now felt like we had returned to the familiar, although we still had a long hike back to the airport the next day.

    Unfortunately I don't have any great shots of our arrival back in Namche Bazaar. But I did get this shot of an ashtray right outside our teahouse:



    There was a much more chatty atmosphere at the teahouse we were staying at, at least compared to our experiences for the past week or so. Not only was a large group of Italian hikers staying at the same teahouse, and not only were they on their way up instead of down, but the very nature of Namche Bazaar itself just means more of a bustling atmosphere. Hikers arriving, departing, people moving bags, goods being carried in, it was all a big contrast to the low key life we got used to higher up on the trail.

    We were happy to be back here, it felt like we were basically finished our hike and were back in the safe and familiar, even though the airport at Lukla was still a decent hike away.
     
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  6. Samson

    Samson Deity

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    My thought when I look at this is "With that ratio of houses to fields, and with those fields not looking that fertile, they must get most of their calories from grazing animals". Do you know if there is any truth in that?
     
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  7. Birdjaguar

    Birdjaguar Hanafubuki Super Moderator Supporter

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    Yak milk!!??
     
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  8. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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    I believe the locals rely on a plant-based protein diet, although yak meat is eaten as well. Dal Bhat is the most popular dish that the locals eat, it's what the Sherpa guides eat every day. It's a fairly cheap but also good source of protein, from what I understand. Dal Bhat supposedly gives you "24 hour power". The local diet is also heavy in rice, potatoes, and local vegetables.

    Every teahouse we stayed at had a mix of local and western dishes on their menu. The local dishes were always vegetarian, since hikers are encouraged to not eat any meat on the trail.. I tried a number of them, and they were all very similar.. Usually a sort of curry with rice and local vegetables.

    Yak milk and cheese are a thing, and I might have had yak cheese for lunch up on the Cho La pass (but I can't remember).
     
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  9. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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    The Final Day
    Aka Day 14

    On this final day we would hike back to Lukla, where we would spend one last night in the mountains. On the way up this distance was split up between two days, but on the way down you are able to cover a lot more ground. (about 18km)

     
  10. Cutlass

    Cutlass The Man Who Wasn't There.

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    18km is quite a substantial hike for a day.
     
  11. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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    Yeah, this day's hike took us just over 8 hours (including lunch and breaks). It's one of the longest days on the trail in terms of the distance covered. We ended up strolling into Lukla just after 6pm.

    When heading in the other direction (i.e. uphill) most people will split this distance up into 2 days, like we did at the beginning of the trek.. Some people do walk the full distance from Lukla all the way to Namche Bazaar in one day. It's possible but not recommended, as at the beginning of a hike like this you don't really want to have one of your toughest day on the trail on the very first day, at a time when you aren't acclimatized at all yet. On the way back down though there are no acclimatization concerns, so you can walk the whole route without worrying about high altitude sickness effects.
     
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  12. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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    Back in Lukla

    There weren't really that many photo ops on the trail and you've seen it all anyway.. but here's a photo of us walking into Lukla after an 8 or so hour long hike



    Here's one of the establishments we walked past in Lukla. I would bet their burgers are average but their coffee is excellent

     
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  13. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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    Victory Dinner in Lukla

    It is customary to treat your guide (right) and porter (left) to a meal of their choice when the hike is complete. We were more than happy to oblige.



    Another custom is a tip for both the guide and porter, which is handed over unceremoniously in nondescript envelopes. I did some research on the proper amounts we should be tipping ahead of time, deciding on $50 USD per person for the guide and $20 per person or so for the porter.

    It turns out that this particular establishment's credit card services were down for the day, but we just ended up having enough cash left to pay for the meal and to tip our guide and porter. We had been budgeting what we had left ahead of time, suspecting that it might be possible that our credit cards would be useless in Lukla... If you remember, we had brought all the cash we'd need for the whole hike with us from Kathmandu, so we had to ration and budget that as we went to make sure there would be enough left for everything we'd need along the way. We brought just about 20% more than we first budgeted and it ended up working out rather perfectly.

    The vast majority of visitors who stay in Lukla overnight have just finished their hike, so the atmosphere here was very jovial. We hung out for a couple hours after dinner. We spent most of this time playing the card game that's so popular on these trails, the name of which I am not allowed to write here. It ends with "head". Each player has several mystery cards they have to play right at the end of their game, which leads to a lot of excitement as you can see below.



    We were departing from the dining hall just as it was being converted for some music and dancing. A DJ started spinning up some tunes and people were starting to get a bit rowdy, but we were extremely tired. We were out cold pretty early.. also anticipating an early morning. There were no set flight times, so it was key to arrive at the airport as early as possible. This was to be the next step on our journey.
     
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  14. Birdjaguar

    Birdjaguar Hanafubuki Super Moderator Supporter

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    Hmmm.... do you know or did you meet the guy drinking coffee at the table beyond your guide and porter?
     
  15. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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    No, I don't think we talked to him, but it was over 3 years ago now so I could be misremembering. Does that look like someone you know? Or is it just that he's in the middle of the shot?
     
  16. Birdjaguar

    Birdjaguar Hanafubuki Super Moderator Supporter

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    He seems to look somewhat like you and he is in the middle of the shot.
     
  17. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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    Just a coincidence and somehow I didn't even notice it
     
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  18. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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    Day 15
    Aka The Flight Back to Kathmandu

    It wasn't really day 15 of the hike, but I'm including it as part of the adventure for reasons you will soon understand.

    We woke up early, ate breakfast, packed up, and headed to the airport. There we sat around and waited to be notified that we had secured a flight back to Kathmandu and could proceed to the actual waiting area at the terminal. We sat on these plastic seats and waited, and waited, and waited.. until eventually in the not so early afternoon we were told to grab our bags and go.

    This was a bit nerve-racking for Jeff, who had secured a flight out of Kathmandu for the next day. If we couldn't fly back to Kathmandu on this day, me and Steve wouldn't really mind.. It wouldn't be great, but we'd just sit around in Lukla and play cards.. Jeff would have missed his flight back to North America and would have to book another one. We had an arrangement with the company I hired the guide through - they would hook us up with accommodations whenever we ended up flying back to Kathmandu.. so we didn't have to worry about that part at least.

    If you remember, in the mornings you get more or less blue skies, and as the day goes on there are more and more clouds.. Flights get suspended when the visibility becomes too poor, and that happens at different times on different days.. The longer we waited, the more it was possible that we just wouldn't be able to fly this day. So it was great to be finally told to grab our bags and go!

    So we got to the airport terminal, have our tickets in hand, we go through security, which is segregated by gender.. right before that we said our byes to Pemba, our amazing guide.. and we're in another waiting area.. and we wait.. There are flights arriving and departing, one at a time, and some of them carry cargo only.. We have no idea when our turn might be, as the flight numbers on our tickets don't really tell us much.. and the displays inside the terminal weren't very helpful either..

    As you're waiting occasionally a flight number is called out, and those who are lucky to have that flight number printed on their ticket scurry forwards with their belongings.. while the rest of us drop our shoulders and continue to wait.. while others still scurry around asking for clarification about which flight was called out and which flight is actually printed on their ticket.

    Nevertheless our flight was eventually called out as well.





    After an uneventful flight we were picked up at the airport in Kathmandu by somebody affiliated with the company I hired our guide through. They were standing there holding a sign with my name on it, which made me feel a bit important.

    The ride to the hotel was uneventful as well. The rooms seemed as advertised - at about a 3-3.5 level of quality. There was an occasional issue with the water pressure and temperature in the shower.. and we weren't given enough fresh towels. These were our first observations as we freshened up and got ready to head out for some food with meat in it.
     
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  19. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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    Victory Dinner in Kathmandu

    You might remember that this whole adventure started in a hotel that used to be a palace. A palace hotel with a really good and well staffed kitchen. Everything we ate there was delicious, and it was only about a 15 minute walk from our new hotel.. so it quickly became our number one option for a proper celebration dinner. The celebration dinner we had in Lukla was adequate, but the menu there was quite limited. Here we could feast like kings for a very reasonable cost.



    As you can see we ordered some cold coca cola beverages, as those were always quite prized on the trail and we would stay away from them for the most part due to the caffeine content.. Everest beer is the other beverage of choice, and later there would be a third as well (coffee).

    What you are looking at on the plate in front of me though are a bunch of momos. Momos are my favourite Nepali dish, so I had to order a plate of chicken momos just for myself to eat as an appetizer. At the opposite end of the table, in front of Steve, you can see a salmon fillet with potatoes and veggies. It's something I got here before our hike that I remembered being really good. So we both got it, and it did not disappoint

    After dinner we got some coffee, since we remembered this restaurant also having amazing coffee. Coffee was seriously really really good no matter where we went in Nepal.. but this place especially had magical tasting coffee. We would have multiple cups every morning.



    And now for the final addition to the victory dinner:



    Jeff was back at his old hotel while all of this was happening, but since we all had Nepali SIM cards in our phones it was easy to stay in touch. We met up at a place called "Friday's Bar & Grill" which according to Jeff was the place to be at. This is what it looks like:



    I actually did not take any photos here.. This is one I was able to find online. We were sitting up above by the first plant from the right, with a great view of assorted local musical acts creating music down below. This place had pretty good food (yep, I ate more), good service, and an interesting setup. Good job Jeff for finding Friday Bar & Grill! We vowed to come back here again before returning home (We did not).

    Jeff was flying home the next day or the day after that.. while me and Steve still had a number of days left in the country. We went to some interesting places and I have some photographs that I think would be interesting to post here.. so I will continue this thread! It was about a week or so of us walking around Kathmandu, taking taxis, etc. We made it to some interesting places and even got into an accident once (Everyone was fine). This part of the story is worth telling, so I will continue
     
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  20. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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    The Garden of Dreams

    The next morning me and Steve woke up at about 5am to a woman ringing a bell from a balcony on a nearby building that happened to be facing ours. She was also singing and reciting something. According to my research this is a religious practice common to the area. There were also other assorted sounds coming from the now waking up city.. People, animals, vehicles.. The hustle and bustle of the chaotic city that is Kathmandu!

    Our old palace hotel was in a somewhat secluded part of the city, hidden away from busy streets.. It was still fairly central, but it was really quiet at all times. Not so here, a mere 15 minute walk away. In the end though we were getting this room at a very cheap cost, from what I remember about 20% of the cost of the palace hotel (which we got for 50% off and split between 2 people!). It worked out cheaper than most of the bunk bed dorm-room style accommodations I've stayed at throughout my travels and we got all the accommodations and cleanliness of a 3-3.5 or so star hotel. And thanks to Jeff's excellent haggling skills it ended up being even cheaper.

    Speaking of Jeff, he had checked out early in the morning and took a cab to the airport. He sent us a text later telling us that he was able to get an excellent (even cheaper) rate for his room, and sent us screenshots of how much exactly he paid. We would use this later to get almost the same rate.

    At first we were a bit weary of accepting to stay at a hotel that was owned by a family member of the owner of the travel agency who I hired the guide and porter through.. But they threw in all transportation to/from all the airports and made everything easy for us.. not to mention the very cheap cost. It seemed too good to be true! But it actually ended up being great, aside from the noises in the early morning that would usually wake us up.. and the sketchy towel service at the hotel.. and the at times sketchy shower water pressure and temperature.. But hey, for how little we were paying, we couldn't really complain. We were for the most part happy enough to be sleeping in proper hotel-style beds. This place was a lot more luxurious than the teahouses on the trail.

    As we were getting ready that morning we didn't really have any plans for the day. I had a decent amount of research done on all the sights we could explore in the Kathmandu valley, as well as potential cafes, bars, and restaurants we could try out around the city, and anything else that came up in my research. I had created a map with colour-coded markers for destinations to make it easy to figure out plans on the fly. I was looking through my notes and the map to figure out what we were going to do this day as Steve was still getting ready.. It didn't take me long to figure out where we were going to go first.

    "We are going to visit the Garden of Dreams", I said. "They have coffee"



    The Garden of Dreams was about a 15-30 minute walk from our hotel. I wasn't really sure what to expect to be honest, but as you're walking down the chaotic streets of Kathmandu, you're thinking to yourself: "Garden of Dreams.. yeah okay..".. Then you get there and your mind is blown. It is a Garden of Dreams! And somehow it is surrounded by a wall that keeps out all of the noise. When you're here you can't tell you're in a crazy busy city... even though right outside the walls is crazy chaos, dust, and the hustle and bustle of packed streets.

    This really was the best place we could have visited first. We were still tired from our 2 week long hike through the Himalayas, so we did not mind at all taking it easy. There is a very small entrance fee, so you are encouraged to stick around anyway. We busted out our cameras and went exploring.. And in contrast to photos on the trail, this time I had all the time in the world to frame my shots



    So what is this Garden of Dreams anyway, you might ask? It's a neo-classical garden attached to the Kaiser Mahal palace, built in 1920. It had been recently restored and renovated with the help of the Austrian government. A truly beautiful place you do not expect to exist right in the middle of Kathmandu.
     

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