Everest Base Camp Trek – Day 6

Everest Base Camp Trek – Day 6
Date: 17 November 2017
Walked to: Dingboche
Distance: 3 miles
Altitude: Sleeping at 4,400m (walked to 4,750m)

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Today – going up much of Nangkartshang Peak – was pretty much the shortest walk I’ve ever done. I haven’t even hit my 10,000 steps for the day. But those three miles took three hours, such is the snails pace that you need to walk at when you’re already almost at the height of Mont Blanc (the highest mountain in the alps) and you need to get over 1,000m higher. In normal circumstances the slow shuffles up the hillside would kill me – but in this case, it’s the slow-mo that should stop me from getting ill, so I’m all for it. Plus that while breathing thing gets harder if you try to go any faster!

We’re staying at the same tea house in Dingboche as last night, except there are a lot more people here today than yesterday. Some of whom are very loud (I’m sure it’s a coincidence that they are American). With all the free time that’s been afforded by finishing the day’s walk by 11.30am, I took the opportunity to have my first shower in three days. And after the warm water running out after two minutes and having to wash my hair in ice cold mountain water, it’s also going to be my last one for at least four days. It was all a bit traumatic and there was a bit of swearing, and it’s too cold to sweat here anyway, so there.

Good thing it’s so bloody beautiful, isn’t it?

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Everest Base Camp – Day 5

Everest Base Camp Trek – Day 5
Date: 16 November 2017
Walked to: Dingboche
Distance: 7 miles
Altitude: Sleeping at 4,400m

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I was very happy to leave last night’s urine-scented tea house behind. I think it’s safe to say that their design decision to lay down a (type of) carpet in the toilets, especially when westerners aren’t used to squat toilets, was a poor one.

Anyway… on with the walk. So far I think every day has been progressively more beautiful. We started off by walking downhill through our final forest (we’ve now left the tree line behind at tonight’s sleeping height of 4,400m – the same as the highest point on the Inca Trail in Peru) and spent the day heading through and up the Khumbu and Imja Valleys.

There was a final climb up to Dingboche after the stunning river crossing by the confluence of the Khumbu and Imja Kholas rivers (today’s photo), and now that the cover of the forests has been left behind, the mountain air is feeling decidedly chilly. It’s still light outside and we’re huddled in the tea house, waiting for the fire the owners have just lit to take hold, so we can start to remove the multiple layers of warm clothing we’ve all piled on. It is SERIOUSLY cold.

 

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Everest Base Camp Trek – Day 4

Everest Base Camp Trek – Day 4
Date: 15 November 2017
Walked to: Thyangnoche
Distance: 6.9 miles
Altitude: Sleeping at 3,870m

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The start of today’s walk was a little cruel – we had to head downhill in order to cross the Milk River again. And there’s few things worse, when you know you need to head up, than to be made to go down. Nonetheless, it was very pretty, and within minutes I was walking in my short-sleeved top because it was warm and sunny (as the days have been so far – it’s the nights that have been properly cold).

After a tea-break (mine was – of course – a hot chocolate) we started our slow but steady climb up through through the forest, where our group finally walked fast enough at altitude to pass a Nepalese person. Said person features in today’s photo; you’ll see he’s carrying a very heavy looking load, including a door. In these mountains, the walking routes ARE the main roads, and freight is carried by yaks, donkeys and humans. A good reminder of how privileged I am to have been born in a country where, whatever happened, I was never going to have to earn my living in quite such backbreaking circumstances.

We reached our home for the night, the village of Thyangboche, by lunchtime and worked on our acclimatisation by an afternoon ‘stroll’ up the flagged-decked hillside: the rule is that when you’re walking at high altitude, you must sleep lower than the top height you reached that day. So far it’s working for me, and I’ve fingers firmly crossed it stays that way – the altitude is already affecting a couple of people in my group of nine.

 

 

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Everest Base Camp Trek – Day 3

Everest Base Camp Trek – Day 3
Date: 14 November 2017
Walked to: Kyanjuma
Distance: 7.5 miles
Altitude: Sleeping at 3,600m (high point was 3,880)

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I woke up with a bit of a headache this morning, and had to force breakfast down – the effects of altitude were beginning to hit. But luckily, the moment I was out of last night’s tea house and walking uphill, I felt fine. That was very handy indeed, because today was probably the most extraordinary day of walking I’ve ever had, in terms of knock-out scenery.

The walking day started with a stiff climb out of Namche Bazaar to a viewpoint of Everest, Ama Dablam (my favourite looking mountain) and the other surrounding mountains, before heading on up to what was probably my highest altitude (to date) hot chocolate, at the posh Everest View Hotel. Then it was on to the twin villages of Kunde and Khumjung, fitting in lunch, a visit to the local school and hospital (both originally founded by Sir Edmund Hillary), and to the nearby monastery, which has been rebuilt following the 2015 earthquake.

Home tonight is a tea house in Khumjumg, where, after three days of walking, I’ve finally had a shower; sounds minging, I know, but it is seriously cold here once the sun goes down. It may also be my last one for six days as the guides advise against it once we get much higher. On the plus side, because it’s so cool, and because we’re walking so slowly due to the altitude, there’s not a whole lot of perspiration going on. Ah, the glamour of walking…

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Everest Base Camp Trek – Day 2

Everest Base Camp Trek – Day 2
Date: 13 November 2017
Walked to: Namche
Distance: 9.1 miles
Altitude: Sleeping at 3,440

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Today was all about the suspension bridges and gaining height while hopefully acclimatising to the altitude, and our first glimpse of the top of Everest, the highest mountain in the world, in the distance. Oh, and on a more mundane level, traffic jams on the mountainside – except unlike the London variety, this congestion was made up of donkeys and yaks (or yakxis as I like to call them) carrying supplies between the settlements on the trail.

Walking wise it was another colour saturated day, with pray flags strung up across the mountainsides like fairy lights around a Christmas tree. And of course my fellow walkers and the guides are a brightly-hued bunch as well. The contrast with the natural beauty of the surrounding mountainside makes for some great photos.

Tonight I’m staying in Namche Bazaar, known as the Sherpa ‘Capital’ of Nepal. It’s packed full of tea houses, lined up in rows along the hillside, and shops selling a mixture of tourist tat (purple statuette of Ganesh, anyone?) and knockoff walking paraphernalia for any hikers needing a last minute pair of walking sticks or the promise of a warmer down jacket. You are expected to eat and drink in the tea house you spend the night in, which was fine with me because (oh my god) it is cold when the sun goes in and I would rather sit by the fire in the dining room (the only area that is heated) than spend even more time outside.

 

 

 

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Everest Base Camp Trek – Day 1

Everest Base Camp Trek – Day 1
Date: 12 November 2017
Walked to: Phakding
Distance: 5 miles
Altitude: Sleeping at 2,652m

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Today may be the shortest walk I’ve ever blogged about. But then most walking days don’t start with a white-knuckle ride of a flight on a tiny plane, where I was transfixed and terrified by the landscape in equal measure. The mountains were stunning – but we seemed to fly awfully close to them, and the runway at Lukla airport, where the Everest Base Camp trek starts, sort of appears on the mountainside, and features a very short runway that slopes significantly uphill as you land on it. It’s pretty bloody scary!

The first thing we did when we landed (you know, after I kissed the ground…) was head for the first of what will be many tea houses (basic restaurants that often offer simple accommodation) and wait for the sun to come up. Once it had, our group started our slow walk, with lots of stops, up the Dudh Kosi valley. The slow walking bit of what I’ve just said is very important, because, along with drinking lots of water and ensuring I keep eating, it’s going to be key to how quickly – or not – I can acclimatise to the altitude I’ll be walking at. This walk is going to be all about the height, not the distance walked.

All that aside, I’m struggling to describe the landscape I’ve walked through today. The snow covered peaks in the distance and the glacial blue river remind me a little of Patagonia. The stone path winding through a series of small settlements put me in mind of the earlier section of the Inca Trail. But the two combined, along with the brightly coloured prayer flags and wheels, and the carvings and paintings that adorn the large boulders strewn across the hillside, are like nothing I’ve ever seen before. It’s extraordinary.

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Camino de Santiago – Day 27 (the final day)

Camino de Santiago – Day 27
Walked from: A Rúa (outskirts of Pedrozo)
Walked to: Santiago de Compostela
Date: 29 October 2017
Distance: 21.5km

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As I entered the old town of Santiago, approaching the very end of my 800km walk across Spain, I heard clapping and cheering, the boom of celebratory music in the background, and someone shouting hysterically into a loud speaker. Turning the corner to the Cathedral, I was met with celebratory crowds. This truly was the way to mark the end of one of the world’s most famous walking journeys. I didn’t let the fact that the carnival atmosphere was everything to do with a local running event and bugger all to do with me completing the Camino de Santiago stop me from enjoying my entirety unexpected welcoming committee!

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For old times sake, I started my walk this morning just before dawn broke (an hour earlier than yesterday, due to the clocks changing) hoping for one last glorious Camino sunrise. I didn’t get that, but was rewarded with beautiful misty scenes as the day gradually lighted – mysterious looking woods, and fields filled with white clouds. Beautiful.

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The final approach into Santiago was a bit of a slog, but I felt so happy that I was completing my epic walk, albeit one shared with so many others, that I didn’t care. At breakfast, around 10km into my walking day, I’d seen Reme (pictured with me, below), who I hadn’t seen at all for several weeks. Reme was on his 80th, and final day, of walking – after travelling by foot all the way from his home in Switzerland. The joy and satisfaction I saw in his face and heard in his voice when we spoke of his achievement was incredibly moving; I didn’t cry, but as I parted from him it’s entirely possible my eyes were a little moist.

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After a bit of trial and error, and thanks to the help of a local policeman, I eventually found my way to the pilgrim office, where I walked straight in (at other times of the year they must be incredibly busy as they had an elaborate queuing system in place),showed them my Pilgrim’s ‘credential’ – which I’ve been getting stamped at places I’ve stayed along the way – and was granted my Compostela. It’s all Latin to me (quite literally) but I’ve been told it absolves me of all my sins to date, despite the fact that, in my case, my journey wasn’t spiritual or religious. A long walk AND absolution to boot? Now there’s something you don’t get on the Pennine Way!

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People walk the Camino for many reasons, and start in many places. While I did the main ‘French’ way there are many others, and while I don’t plan to ever walk the route I’ve just followed again, I’d love to explore some of the other Spanish or Portuguese caminos in future, and discover more of the fantastic Iberian Peninsula. Equally, while I wasn’t one of those pilgrims completing the walk for a religious or spiritual purpose, I greatly respected many of the people I met that were doing it for that reason, especially as many of them faced significant physical challenges while doing the walk. And there’s no doubt that the simple act of putting one foot in front of the other, day after day, until I’d crossed much of northern Spain was meditative. I don’t know exactly where I’m going, but I sure know where I’ve been.

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I’ll be back blogging in a few weeks… the next stop on my gap year adventure is a walk to Everest Base Camp, starting in mid-November. Buen Camino for now x

 

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