Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The beautiful face of Everest

Thank you to all of you for being so patient with us! Our internet service has been spotty at best and this is the first opportunity I've had to write.  Well...WE"RE HERE!  Monday morning we headed back to the airport and settled in for another long day of waiting for a flight to Lukla, except that we ended up getting onto a small 17 seater plane at around 10am or so.  The flight was uneventful outside of people groaning and whimpering as we dipped and plunged with the turbulence and after 30 minutes we arrived at the famed Lukla airport.  It came up out of nowhere as we had been lulled into a false sense of safety after the bouncing stopped.  All of a sudden we were on a crash course right into the side of a mountain only to realize that that's exactly where we were supposed to be!   The airstrip in 450 meters long and goes straight up a slope that ends in the mountain.  It was quite something to see and experience.

We began trekking quickly after that and made good time.  The trail was light and easy and we really enjoyed the day.  Our first impressions?  Many hanging bridges to cross, yaks and more yaks, brick houses with rock walls forming paths that were intended to keep the wild animals out of the crops.  Everything is made out of brick with bright colored tin roofs and the window frames painted the same color as the roof.  The people out here take a lot of pride in their homes and yards, every one of them is swept clean, yes swept...the dirt is swept and it looks wonderful.  The people are so used to trekkers that they hardly notice us going by but the children make games out of chasing us and laughing at us, some smiling and waving, they are all adorable!

We arrived at a place called Phakding for the first night and stayed in a tea house which was really a boarding house with many rooms and a common toilet and shower.  We were very happy for a place to rest out of the elements because in the evenings it gets quite cool. It seems that there is an easy camaraderie amongst the people traveling even if you're not in the same groups.  A couple of us decided to shower and were a little creeped out because the shower was outside in a little building with wooden slats that had large holes between the slats and many people coming and going...yikes!

Tuesday we headed out onto the trail again, feeling quite relaxed and ready to get into some different terrain.
Our guide Pratap had told us that the first part of the day would be easier and then after lunch it would get harder.  I have come to realize that he is doing this for our own good but dang it, we were in for a surprise.  We walked though some wonderful forested areas with beautiful trees and flowers, then the trail turned a little nasty on us and got narrower and narrower until we were walking single file and feeling like we needed to clutch the mountain walls for fear of slipping over an edge.  I kept thinking... Lord help us if we come into a pack of wild yaks, we'd be done for!

The morning was interesting as we crossed quite a few suspension bridges, 10 in all which took us from one side of the mountains to the other and back again.  We stopped for lunch and had worked up a good sweat by that time and much worse could it be?  Are we not all in our middle ages here?  Should we not have learned better than to ask what could be worse?

The afternoon was crazy, that's all I can say.  We started up into an area that had steps, thousands of steps all hewn out of rocks and placed so you can walk up them and for two hours straight we climbed up these things.  The mountain was to our right and the cliffs were on our left and so we were making our steps very sure.  Our quads were burning, our butts were burning, our calves were burning...there was nothing left to burn!  We would go up and up and up for a ling time and then at one point we came to a place where we had to go down many steps and they were actually scarier than the ones going up.   I know it doesn't sound possible but picture this...ok, I know you can't close you're eyes and read this at the same time but try to imagine looking down about 100 feet of steps that are uneven, steep and at the bottom you can't see anything but the glacial river thousands of feet below plus you can no longer see any more steps.  That is faith, starting out because the guide twill be ok, is all okay, you see!  We started the descent carefully, step by slow step and made it down to the "landing" of the first part which was the end of that we could see at the top, only to realize we did a hairpin turn and there were more steps heading the rest of the way down.  That was pretty intense!

The last part of the day took us about 3 hours of hard, hard climbing and at the end we were rewarded with Namche Bazaar which was the place we stayed last night.  It is the most beautiful little village, a gem and a delight to the senses.  It is clean, pretty and has beautiful views of the mountains that ring it.  We stayed at what we dubbed the Himalayan Hilton because our rooms had a shower and a toilet in each one!!  Such small things means so much.

This morning was a rest day and Tina said that when she gets home she's looking up the word rest in the dictionary because she thinks it means something different than what we did today!  It was actually a rest day to acclimatize so we went on a day hike up to a restaurant way up in the hills.  We started out going to a government museum and enjoyed that.  We were outside and Pratap showed us where Everest was but it was clouded over.  The wind was blowing hard and the clouds were moving fast and sure enough...we caught a peek of the mighty peak haha and we were very excited!  Next we walked up another hill and gained 350 meters on a steep incline the whole way, no flat spots as teasers on this one!  We sat outside on a patio at the restaurant and enjoyed the view of Ama Dablam, Lhotse and Everest again, this time it was clear for a longer period of time.  We were wondering if Everest is a "he" or a "she"...and decided she was both.  Strong, powerful, huge, but also mysterious, beautiful and coy. 

We sat there for about an hour and then headed back down the hill.  The afternoon was spent shopping in Namche Bazaar which was fun and then true rest in the hotel.  Well, that's about it for now.  We have been relatively healthy and managing well.  We have noticed that the four of us don't seem to fit in well with the demographic of who's on this mountain, there are many young people, many old men but few middle aged women and especially none in their own groups.  We have drawn more than a few stares.

We have asked that our water bottles get filled each might with hot boiling water for two reason's, one so that it's ready for tomorrow but more importantly that it becomes a hot water bottle in our beds each night so we can sleep.  Have I mentioned that it's a little chilly up here at night??

See you sometime soon, don't know how often we'll get internet service so keep checking back!  Love and hugs to all
Rhonda, Tina, Valerie and Beatrice


Garner said...

Wow! That's quite the adventure! Just make sure you all come back safely!

Anonymous said...

Sending a quick hi from us - really enjoying your blog so far! Looking forward to hearing more adventures. Stay safe and enjoy - you should all be so proud of yourselves!
Love Garn and Michelle

Anonymous said...

Thinking of you and praying for you always my friend! Love you,


Anonymous said...

Hi Mount Everest trekking ladies,

Sounds like you are having the adventure of a lifetime !!! Love reading your blog, you're a great writer Rhonda! Praying for God's guidance and protection for all of you as you climb to base camp and back down and when the muscles in your legs are burning may God give you the strenght you need to accomplish your goal! Take good care!!!

Love and hugs.....Carol Elgersma

Love Carol Elgersma