Back to Namche from Everest Base Camp

It was a long tiring day yesterday.

Early morning yesterday, I woke up and drank a cup of tea with Chhitiz. Bikash rose a little late and joined us. We just sat at the dinning hall of Ama Dablam Lodge chatting how slow the life moves in those areas.

At 8:15 AM, Bikash and I went a little bit farther waiting for the marathoner ready with our cameras. To my surprise, Deepak Rai came at 8:30 AM – 110 minutes after the start and was running like he has just started.

At 10:00 AM, we started our journey towards Tengboche filming the runners who would overtake us on the way. It was a long journey but when we finally reached there, Bhaswor and Deep were there. We stayed almost half-an-hour before moving out at around noon for our journey towards Namche.

It was amazing to see Nepali runners, untrained and raw leading and foreigners, who were most probably running their one of many marathons just finding it gruesome. At a stage, the cook who was probably 50 was strolling with a cigrette on a hand and a foreigner was trying to overtake him. He stood a few minutes to talk to us letting the foreigner to go ahead.

Its also amazing that the event created a stir in otherwise peaceful country life in the villages. Everyone seemed to either be running or watching the runners. One of our two porters, Bik Raj Tamang, ran and placed fourteenth. There were a few parent-siblings combination in the event.

We arrived at Namche at 4:00 PM. We took a room and went up to the finishing line. I tried to locate the winner there but it wasn’t official till then. I came back to the hotel where the results were confirmed. The ladies’ winner and runners-up were at the dinning hall, so I talked with them. I filed a story without quote of the winner as I feared the power down.

Later, I found a local boy who ran me five minutes to Misling to find the winner sitting quitely in a tavern with friends. He wasn’t drinking and also didn’t look like the man who had just won a prestigious, the world’s highest attitude marathon. I talked to him and came back to file his quotes from a cyber cafe. I also called office and home and talked with my wife.

Late in the evening, I was at Cafe Danfe for the official reception. I drank a bottle of Fanta but managed to grab two cans of beers which I fizzed out over my dancing friends. It was nice and after almost three years I found myself dancing. The last was in Bangladesh when I attended a marriage there.

The cafe was almost like a disco with everybody, more foreigners than Nepali, dancing on the tune of hit songs. At the cafe, I met Pakistani Ambassador and had a pleasant talk with him about cricket.

I returned to hotel at around half past eleven without my room key which Bikash misplaced somewhere. I broke the lock and found the key inside. Bikash came immediately after mid-night and we found that we were without quilts. We managed to grab a sleeping bag from next room which we used a quilt and slept on the floor.

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Return Journey Begins

I woke up late this morning. It was a good sleep and I didn’t want to miss that at the height of Gorak Shep. But since we were supposed to have a photo shoot for the promo of the marathon with 12 marathoners, I had to wake up. I ate breakfast with Chris who after hearing my proposal to participate in the photo shoot agreed for.

We had 10 local boys, a local girl and Chris for the photo shoot which went great as there were rarely a piece of cloud today. I made some good shots using the camcorder despite not being a profession at it.

Shooting was quite a fun.

We left Gorak Shep half-hour before noon supposely for Thukla but on our way we changed the plan because we had made shots that Thukla would’ve offered us. We walked for five hours 30 minutes plus one hour rest to reach Pyangboche via Lobuche, Thukla, Pheriche, Osra and Somara.

We met Dr Chhitiz at Pyangboche and it was fun. I called home (Rs. 30/min). I also called my wife but she didn’t hear anything on her mobile.

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Everest Base Camp, at last

It was quite an interesting day as I was at the final destination of my journey – the Everest Base Camp. After walking more than three hours, off-course very slowly, we reached the camp. It was 70 per cent walk on hilly ridge and other on the top of Khumbhu glacier. It’s quite amazing to see a large amount of ice cake-topped by rocks.

Everest Base Camp held nothing for me except the feeling that I was indeed there and the crunchy ice itself. I climbed up to a small pinnacle of ice and touched the ice with bare hands. It was quite cold but worth experiencing.

We had a mock-start of the Tenzing Hillary Everest Marathon and it was over in 10 minutes after the health check-up of every participants concluded. Our two doctor friends were quite busy.

It was interesting to see a sizeable number of local girls participating. The foreigners were quite enthusiastic that they made it to the base camp.

Although I and Bikash had an option of staying at the base-camp I insisted we should return because I was not quite willing to get a bad sleep in a tent at a cold place. We returned to Gorak Shep but the journey was quite painful for both of us.

Bhaskar and Deep left for Pheriche and will head to Tengboche tomorrow while we will move to Thukla tomorrow.

The loveliest thing for today was that we began our return journey and the most exciting thing was that we made it to the Everest Base Camp (Oh my god!).

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Kala Patthar, 5545m, Summitted!

Had a great sleep yesterday night without any problem and that was probably the reason I was at my best this morning.

With Dr. Bidhan and Dr. Chhitiz, we went to the top of Kala Patthar, 5545m. It was a long steep uphill walk and very cold at the top. From about the middle of the rocky black hill, we saw Mt. Everest and Nuptse and took some photographs but that was all as the weather was too cloudy to let us enjoy the view of any other mountains from the top of the hill. It was foggy at the top and it would be the highest place we would be at during the trip.

Me, Bikash, Bidhan and Chhitiz (sitting) on the top.

We came back half an hour past noon and had T-momo – a bun with curry. After eating that, I slept for three hours. Bhaskar and Deep joined me and Bikash for talks on various issues. It was entertaining.
Dinner was dal-bhat-alu. At dinner, I talked with a French runner – Chris who said the marathon was the only in the world where it’s difficult to reach the starting point than the finish-line.

Bikash felt headache and took a Paracetamol. Bik Ran didn’t return for the dinner so we suspected Prakash is either still ill or decided to descend lower than Pheriche.

Finally, we will be at Everest base camp tomorrow. Our actual plan was that Bikash and me would spend a night there while other return but we decided not to sleep there and come back here. Our much-awaited return journey therefore would begin tomorrow.

I don’t know why but lack of communication possibilities makes us a lot of home-sick and lonely. All of us are desparate to go back to Kathmandu. But, sadly there is still five more days for that to happen. I hope my family and wife are doing well. I miss her chattering and talks about her office and friends.

During evening our talks had revolved around girlfriends of Bikash and Deep and that made me my wife come live to my heart and that didn’t helped a home-sick man.

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Lobuche: It’s Not Easy!

Last night was the hardest night for me so far in the tour. After I slept for about an hour, I was woken up suddenly by the feel of heat inside me. I removed my jacket and inner woolen coat but the feeling of heat and restlessness didn’t go away. Whenever I tried to close my eyes, I felt like the whole world is spinning in my head.

It was, I believe, a mixture of lack of oxygen, feeling of home sickness, uneasiness in sleeping in a small room barely enough for two small beds and, most probably, the gastric-growing dinner last night caught me. I took a Diamox (tablet used to cure the high altitude sickness) on Bikash’s advice, had to go to toilet for two times during night but before I could sleep for five more hours from 1:00AM.

When I woke up in the morning, I was feeling alright with a little headache on back.

After tea and biscuit at Lobuche, we went up to a small hill. Although all of us were tired and experienced suffocation last night, we found that Deep and I were most troubled.

At 10:30AM, smiling Prakash arrived with the porter boy. We all ate lunch and started our journey to Gorak Shep, the last stop before the Mt Everest base-camp. Despite our advice to stay at Lobuche, Prakash decided to walk up with us.

The way that took us three hours was rocky but only one steep uphill walking. Prakash looked too tired, we even considered sending him back but he insisted he would come. Once at Gorak Shep, he vomited and doctors advised him to descend. Bik Raj accompanied him back.

I was little dizzy and decided to sleep. On and off, I slept for three hours before dinner. I am lot better than yesterday night but not on best of my health. A little headache and dizziness is still reigning on me. I hope everything will be fine by tomorrow morning.

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The Rule of Mountains

Finally a lucky day. Early morning today, the weather was kind to us and we could view mountains around the village – Ama Dablam, Thamserku, Lhotse among others. They were visible for around half-an-hour and it was a magnificent view. I was amazed to see mountains tops so near to me. They looked like if I could touch them or casually walk to the top :-).

But soon it was over. The fog rose from the bottom and they were all blanketed over. But after 9:00 AM, some part of them were visible again and as we walked up the hill to acclimatize at 5000m. We could see beautiful mountains on and off with clouds. Sitting on a stone at the top of the hill, the village looked beautiful at distance. The only sound we could hear was that of the river.

From the hill, we descended to Thukla – a place with only three lodges. Our original plan was to stay there but since we reached there at 3:00 PM and the height of it was only 4620m, we decided to move forward to Lobuche – three hours walk including a steep uphill that tool us 75 minutes to ascend. People say if you could finish that particular hill, then you could go all the way without problem.

My team: Prakash, Deep, Bhaswor, Me, Bikash & Todd

We have to leave Prakash at Thukla because he was too tired to walk. I am a bit afraid because he is alone there. We have a plan to send Bik Ram, our porter, there early morning tomorrow and to see if he could make it to Lobuche. It is sad to leave behind a member of the team but the rule of Himalaya is that if one couldn’t make it, he should stay back.

I am feeling it has been too long out of Kathmandu despite this being only the fifth night. I miss my home, friends and my beloved a lot.

At Lobuche, we stayed in the lodge that I felt was too narrow. I took a pain-killer because of slight headache.

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Dingboche’s Entertaining Night

A partially lucky day as we could see glimpses of mountains in the morning and on our way to Dingboche. We would see a part of it and would constantly raise our eyes to see more but soon fog would reigned and we would be robbed of the chance to experience mountains.

The journey today was easier as it was just around four hours of walk from Pyangboche and not much steep uphill. We walked through rocky hills, sometime on wide nearly flat land but mostly on narrow trails.

It was cool due to cool soft breeze. It wasn’t strong but hit our neck giving us slight headache.

Dingboche is a small village with nothing to do. We were staying in a lodge called Kala Patthar which hadn’t enough solar power to charge batteries. I have to move to another lodge for that. The discounted rate for one hour was Rs. 350. The lodge was owned by Phindi Sherpa, a four-time Everest summiteer who also owned a trekking agency in Kathmandu.

When you are en route to Mt Everest base-camp, then there are high chances that the Sherpa you are talking to or loitering around is an Everest summiteer.

Bhaswor and I went down to river bank, 15-min steep downhill walk from Dingboche. The reason we were there was the relieve ourselves from the bowel pressure as we find the toilets in the lodge we were staying too difficult to do that. Toilets would be a major concern for anybody during the walk but in most of our stations we find okay toilets with panes. But in some places, we just have to use the holes. We also took some pictures of ourselves.

For dinner, I chose potato-pancake, a special dish of Sherpa. It was okay but wasn’t at all like that I had hoped for.

The night is probably the most interesting of the our trek as the leader of the group that is going there for the marathon was a jolly good man. Suresh Yonjan ‘Damche Dai’, a so-called former hippie and science graduate, was good at music too and sang a lot of songs including that of Bob Dylan – a singer whom I loved. We all plus two doctors – Bidhan and Chhitiz enjoyed singing until late night.

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Still No Mountains!

At 2:30 PM, when I penned this on my diary, we were at Tengboche, 3830m and five hour walk from Namche. We stopped here for lunch. Telephone is Rs. 20/min and internet, yea, for Rs. 10/min. I called home and checked mail. It was wonderful feeling to talk with my beloved from this point and I know it won’t be possible until the evening of May 29.

The saddest part of our tour so far has been the weather that has curtailed us from seeing any mountains. I hope it would be fine tomorrow. I even joked during our walk that we would probably return Kathmandu without even seeing glimpses of mountains. It could be possible, the porters told us and we laughed with heavy heart.

During our walk from Namche to here, we saw beautiful gorges and hills with fading redness of rhododendrons. The sights were eye-soothing and that made our long walk a bit easier.

Bhaswor and me on the way to Tengboche.

10:10 PM, Pangboche

Settled at Pangboche, two-hour walk from Tengboche, for the night. After lunch in Tengboche, we walked downhill and uphill to reach this small villages at 3930m.

On the way, I met the Philippine expedition tam. I happened to know a little about them because of my visit to the Philippines last month for a seminar. The team was actually formed as one but later split into two and were being sponsored by two competing TV channels. The team was first Philippine to ascend the highest mountain in the world. The team I met was actually sponsored by ABC CBN and actually set the record.

We later met two more members of the team including a reporter. The other guy was very interested to run Everest Marathon and promised to come back next year.

We have rented a two-bed room for Rs 200 a night. Before dinner we had a wonderful time as we five, sans Todd, sat in a room and joked about girlfriends of Deep and Bikash. It also reminded me of my home and wife and a pinching realization that I wouldn’t be able to call her for next seven days.

At dinner, we met a few Sherpas who had just returned from the Everest expedition. A guy among them made it for fourth time and spoke very little with us. I asked if ascending Mt Everest is as enjoy for him as the foreigners. He just smiled. They believed Appa Sherpa’s 16-time record was not as great as it was in media as what he was doing was just walking on the prepared way to the top.

Today, I learnt that every hotel in the route have a separate setting for the porters. They would provide them a common room to sleep which was, off course, free. I went to see the room here and it was clean and well bedded. I loved it because since we started from Lukla, I was wondering where there porters go at night.

We also invited our porters to eat with us at our costs. One of the porters said he had eaten on the way. I tried to reimburse it with a hundred rupee bill but he didn’t accept it.

Walking was a lot easier today although we walked for more than five hours. On the way, we saw a Danfe – our national bird for the first time. The hills were all covered by beautiful Rhododendrons and foggy weather was making it look like blurry red.

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Preparing the Long Walk

I had trouble sleeping last night because of my leg aches and back ache. Although the pain on legs went away after some time the back pain caused by carrying a bag stayed on and I could only sleep after midnight though I was dead tired. I had to use the relaxation cream on my back and legs in the morning.

Morning was cool and, unluckily for us, foggy. After breakfast, we climbed up to Syanboche, the highest altitude airport that no longer operates for aircrafts, and Hotel Everest View, the world’s highest altitude hotel at 3880m that offers view to Mt. Everest and other peaks from everywhere (dinning hall, lobby, room and even bathrooms). Sadly for us all we could see was pictures of what is offered.

We slowly walked up and down the hill as it was too foggy and visibility was very poor but nevertheless we lost our way and came down through the way which was closed.

Namche will be without light for four days as Khumjung Bijuli Company is closed for maintenance. Khumbhu Cyber Café opened for a few hours on generator but the fluctuating electricity broke down the modem used to connect to Hong Kong via satellite thus we couldn’t use 128 kpbs internet. Its amazing to find really fast internet here at this place.

It was a foggy cool day and unlucky for us as we were deprived of majestic views of mountains that surrounded Namche, the gateway to Mt. Everest. It was an informative day but nothing that made me feel I was at Namche.

Highlights of the tour so far have been Todd’s sleep (he decided to sleep instead of joining us for trek), Bhaswor’s walk (he would the be the fastest to walk in beginning, slowest after some time, quickest to rest and slipping every now and then) and Bikash’s phone (he talked to someone for more than 60 mins today that costed Rs. 600) and the phone boy was saying ‘he should have stayed back in Kathmandu’ and asked me if he had been recently married.

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At Namche (After 8 & 1/2 Hour Walking)

I was really looking forward to the tour that would take me up to the Everest Base Camp. So, it was only natural that I started early morning for the flight of 7:30 AM.

We were a team unofficially led by photojournalist Bikash Karki and including Samaya Weekly’s Bhaswor Ojha, Kantipur Television’s Deep Gambir Singh Rayamajhi and Prakash Pariyar and American photojournalist Todd. We gathered at airport and board a Dronier of Sita Air.

The most amazing thing that I saw before the flight was how they kept the cargo in the passenger aircraft. Since we were only 11 traveling to Lukla, the airlines officials took out other seats and made space for all kinds of things. It was though natural because everything in the Lukla region entered by air.

I was first to board the plane and I walked through biscuits packs. I took the seat just behind the cockpits (I told the others I wanted to ensure everything will go right in cockpit). It was my first domestic flight though I have traveled a few times on international flights. I actually liked the flight because it flew low enough to let me watch the hills and houses.

The 30-minute flight ended soon landing us at the sloppy Lukla Airport. We ate breakfast and started off for Monju, half-way to Namche, but on the way we decided to go all the way to Namche and riding on the decision we regretted thousand times later we reached Namche 10 and half hours after starting. It was dark when we were there.

The walk was too tiring and I suggest anybody to take two days to go Namche from Lukla so there would be no aches. On the way, there are a few villages and every house of the village is either a shop or lodge. The walk actually was good until we were too tired to notice the beautiful waterfalls and hills and the majestic mountain tops.

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Citizen Journalists Wanted!

Citizen journalism in Nepal would probably be more lucrative than ever.

When bloggers are getting attention and being awarded, (okay, the attention come with a price – MeroSansar was hacked and was offline for some hours today), Citizen Journalism Nepal is hiring citizen journalists (CitJo) and photographers. The job are paid ones:

As our contract reporter, you will be paid up to $50 per article, and every article published will get a minimum of $1. Photographers, generally get $2 per picture, $1 minimum and up to $25. Videos and audio reports will be paid a minimum of $2 and up to $50.

Both English and Nepalese writers may apply. No educational or previous experience required. Students are encouraged to apply. You should be at least 13 years old to apply; children under 18 years will need a consent letter from their parents with their application.

If you are interested, this is a chance to earn. And if you want your own free blog, you can sign in at CJNepal.

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Blogger Bags Rs. 51,000

It looks like good days are coming for bloggers, especially for MeroSansar’s Umesh Shrestha. After being featured as a professional blogger in Nepali Times, America Nepal Society has annouced a felecitation to him for providing up-to-date coverage of Nepal’s event. The society would also provide him a support of Rs. 51,000, Prem Sangraula, the president of the society in a press release. Congratulations Umesh!

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Thoughts on The Royal Ghosts

Samrat without sex is better than Samrat with sex! (That is of course in what he writes.)

That was my first thought after reading more than half of Samrat Upadhyay’s new story collection, The Royal Ghosts. At that time I was really looking forward reading the title story that was the last piece on the book and it’s really a pity that I put down a good book with a disappointment.

The Royal Ghosts, the story is something that I feel is nothing more than a marketing ploy. The title itself, since it was carried as the title of the book, is more to serve the marketing purpose (huh, since the Royal of Nepal is so on the buzz these days) than the story under it. And it was again, Samrat with sex – the story on homosexuality. I would have probably liked the story if it has been treated differently in a different backdrop.

The other stories however are very good. I felt like I am reading the stories of my neighborhood. I loved the flow of the story and the build-ups (and also Samrat’s ability to pick up simple ideas and putting them into words brilliantly).

I loved the Father Daughter, Wedding Hero, Chintamani’s Women, The Weight of the Gun and the Refugee more than others after finishing the collection in less than 24 hours after it landed in my hand for Rs. 295 (it’s the cover price and you may be lucky as me to receive a little discount if you ask with the bookseller).

Samrat’s earlier story collection Arresting God in Kathmandu was a hit earning him Whiting Award and novel, The Guru of Love, too was a good piece. I didn’t read the first one until I finished the novel which I liked with some reservations despite many of my friends believing it’s not that good. Arresting God in Kathmandu was a bit of disappointment for me after the Guru of Love.

Both his earlier books earned him fame (and defame) as a Nepali writer living in US and writing about Nepali society (and sex) without ever trying to go to the depth. But The Royal Ghosts is a better and I recommend everyone get hold of it to read the stories of neighborhood and some as for me may carry a little story of your own.

Here is my friend Deepak Adhikari’s pre-release piece on The Royal Ghosts.

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Blogger Umesh on Nepali Times

Umesh Shrestha, via

Nepali Times, a popular English weekly, has featured Umesh Shrestha, the first Nepali blogger to use Nepali unicode, in its latest edition. Umesh, the founder blogger of MeroSansar and the country’s pioneer in podcasts and video-casts, earned a lot of praise for his coverage during the Jana Andolan II. The article probably is an honor to his hard work during the people’s movement.

This is an example how the bloggers are getting noticed in mainstream media and thus by the general people. Congratulations Umesh!

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