Everest Basecamp Trek – Part 2

May 21st – Trek day 4

“Jumjum”, the Sherpas would say, more often by Henry than them, prompting us to continue our trek. The terrains are ever changing. Less trees now, more shrubs and plains. Today’s trek consisted of walking a steep uphill, slightly short of one hour, followed by a couple hours walk along ridges and cliffs. Everest now slightly bigger than it was yesterday.

The rooms are getting smaller and smaller. Shower now a luxury, not a commodity. I wiped myself with my abundant wealth of Dettol wipes. But even that, is depleting. My shirts smells. Others smells too, but probably not as much as me. Even at this altitude, I sweat.

[A mountain that can be seen from our communal balcony in Khumjung]

The lodges here, albeit not able to pass even as a one star hotel, are clean. Owners are usually friendly but they tired of meeting too many people, not bothering to remember one of the many faces, I presume. Foods are similar along the trek route. Been treating myself with Dhal Bhat, a Nepali vegetarian dish. Pizzas, local Momos, potatoes and sandwiches are also served.

We visited the school and hospital after lunch, in Khumjung and Khumde. “Chocolate”, the kids would say, asking for some, but they quickly pass. They must’ve seen thousands of foreign faces, ours, not special, buried forever, unretrievable from their memory. A couple of Nepali confused me as local when I strayed a bit from my group. “Always”, I thought. Loraine pointed out that I do not look Malay. “I get that a lot”, I said, no longer fascinated. I swear I could pass as local in most Asian countries.

[Prayer Flags framing the mountains]

Bikas exchanged Hindi with me, “pagel”, “chalo”, and “nahee”, were all I know. “Mero naam Angela ho”, Angela said in Nepali. “I’m a ho”, Loraine shouted. Conversation gotten weird with talks of Bollywood movie, Hayden reenacted some scene from bodyguard.

We get to see our porters more often now, probably because they have nowhere else to go. I didn’t catch their names. Dragon was all I remembered, conveniently the one with the Mohawky looking knit hat. They don’t speak English. I struggled even with Bikas and Himal, our Sherpa guide. Bikas recently admitted that he’s not of Sherpa descent, but takes the name Sherpa as his profession. They’re still great at their job though. The ethnic group, Sherpas, according to Tekei, are given their name after the surge of Everest summit attempts. They originally came from Tibet around 600 years ago. I have yet to check that fact.

[Our form of entertainment, Tekay torturing Bikas and Himal]

“Hello, dinner ready”, Himal called. Dhal Bhat and deep fried Snickers bar for dinner. Canned mango juice, Chabaa from Thailand, my new drink of choice, hot chocolate too. Yak dung kept us warm in the common room. We are sleeping at 3700m tonight.

“I’ve been passing wind”, said Henry. I knew the room smells odd. I thank god, my poops are still solid. Farts heard more often than my liking from the toilet through the thin walls, a type of diarrhea, Kathmanpoo, they suffered.

[Breathtaking view of Khumjung Valley]

I brushed my teeth and prepared my wudhu outside. Dogs barked in the valley, their echoes carried by the mountains. I took a deep breath, in solemn, I watched from atop the hill. The sky, starless, covered by clouds. The valley, dimly lit by houses. Inside, in between two beds, my roommate snoring behind me, I prayed as a mussafir. I skipped my book tonight, Life of Pi, a story it contains, will make you believe in god, it claims. I forced myself to sleep at 8PM. I broke wind, my wudhu gone. Henry, oblivious in his sleep. The deed is done.

May 22nd – Trek day 5

We lose altitude this morning, 500m altogether. It was a steady downhill down the valley from Khumjung. The next part was tougher with steep uphill, we gained 700m. We’re stopping in Tyangboche today at 3900m above sea level. Our pace agonizingly slow, like three girls in middle school walking to the canteen. But it helps with acclimatization.

“Slowly slowly”, Tekei reminded. Back on our way to Namche on day 3, when I was having a hard time breathing. He asked, “Did you train?”. A slight worry on his face with a hint of annoyance. “I did”. Liar. I ran 12km once, at sea level, one month before the trek.

We’re going to visit the Monastery later. Here’s the view from my room. I never want to leave.

[The view from our room in Thyangboche, we can see Everest from here]

To clarify, Henry was actually an awesome room mate. He has a minor case of superhero syndrome. He’s always taking care of his fellow trekker but I guess everyone else kind of did. But at the same time, I’m now contemplating if he partially contributes to my altitude sickness. Both of us are light sleepers and if one of us woke up, the other will too. I feel like I didn’t get much sleep with him always awake. One time, I was awaken by my headache and as I opened my eyes, I saw the the most impressive night sky. Then, I saw Henry with his camera on the window pane saying “look at the stars mate”.

[MashaAllah, Starlit sky above Everest]

May 23rd – May 25th – Trek day 6-8

[This is the place where I started having symptoms of “mild” altitude sickness]

It started as a mild headache. What I thought would not affect me too badly, Altitude Sickness. Headache became more serious with nausea in the middle of the night. Acclimatization didn’t help and I resorted to the blood thinner, Diamox. I’m thankful that everyone in the group was concerned. I feel pathetic but I would really had given up if it was not for everyone’s encouragement. I am especially thankful to Nadia, Michael and Tekei who had been with me step by step on the ascent to Labouche, Lorainne for the medicines, Bikas for carrying my day pack when I can’t, Henry who came back and carried my bag after Bikas. On a lighter note, there was a couple of mice in our room at Dingboche, all I can say is that jumping between beds is my forte

[I wonder how it feels like to live here permanently]

I have been holding off against using Diamox but in the end, I give in. The pain was too unbearable. Unlike sea sickness, altitude sickness lingers until you get to a lower altitude. We have been doing the opposite. Non-stop peeing is a side effect of Diamox. I probably peed ten times on this hill alone. It only lasted for the day though and I’m back on my usual routine after that.

[Spot the puny humans]

You often hear people say “I could not catch this on camera”. I don’t think it’s possible. You can try your best to take an awesome photo and it’ll turn out beautiful but you could never substitute that with what you saw with your own eyes. This is one of the reason I travel, to put things in perspective to how they actually are. And to put the mountains into perspective, count how many people you can see in the photo above.

[Tekay preparing my hydration liquids]

May 26th – Trek day 9

[An overnight snowstorm covered the whole area with thick snow]

I’m 3 hours away from Everest Basecamp. But regrettably, I cannot conserve enough energy to go there. I’ve been suffering from altitude sickness and figure that my safety defeats the bragging right. Tonight we sleep at 5,164m above sea level, higher than any mountains in Borneo or even Europe. We begin our descent tomorrow.

The last days of ascent was very anti-climatic. We could not see anything past a few hundred meters. I ended up not reaching Basecamp and we can’t even climb Kalapathar because of the ongoing snowstorm. But I’m glad I forced myself to at least reach Gorekshep, the last village before Everest Basecamp. I would have not done it if it wasn’t for my fellow trekkers. At least I knew that I reached my limit. And as crushing as this limits were, I have learnt how to cope with it. Sometimes things are just beyond your control and it does not always ends the way you want it to.

[My group reached the Basecamp albeit the snowstorm, Everest and its sisters nowhere to be seen]