Hiking is something that I’ve always loved to do. Now, I know the difference between hiking up Mt. Warning and trekking to Everest Base Camp is substantially different, but when I booked my trek to EBC with Take On Nepal I guess I decided not to dwell on that difference and simply look forward to the adventure that I knew this journey would be. And my god, has it been one hell of an adventure. I honestly couldn’t have chosen a better group to accompany me if I’d had the chance to hand pick them all myself.
Myself and fellow trekkers Gui and Danny were lucky enough to accompany an abnormally big group of 9 Batase locals between the ages of 17 and 21 to the base of the top of the world. All of them were completely sponsored by Take On Nepal to compete in the world’s highest Ultra Trail Marathon, the Tenzing Hillary Marathon, on the 29th of May. Big stuff.
We started our trek with the trademark terrifying flight from Kathmandu to Lukla. The scenery from the plane window was incredible and I confess we passed a little too close to a few of the surrounding mountains to feel 100% secure in the tiny aircraft. Luckily enough the weather was perfect and we landed without any dramas on the side of the mountain at Lukla airport.
I’ve learnt many things over the course of the last 3 weeks of trekking, but perhaps the most rewarding lesson has been that the human body is capable of so damn much. I almost feel as though I’ve conquered enough mountains to have no need of a car or any form of public transport when I get back home to Australia because surely there is no place that I can’t walk. And at sea level? Piece of cake. The feeling of walking for hours on end up, down and then back up again, only to look back and actually be able to spot some minuscule town in the distance where you’d had breakfast or tea that morning is incomparable.
Being able to physically see (on the odd occasion when there weren’t mountains blocking our view) the huge distances we covered during this trek fills you with such an addictive sense of achievement. Although I already had a huge passion for nature and the outdoors, Take On Nepal has helped me uncover a love for mountains and challenging my body in ways that I never thought would be possible, let alone ways that I would actually enjoy.
However, once you start trekking 4000m above sea level and beyond, at times it was hard to tell whether I love trekking or hate it with a passion. The best advice I have to offer anyone who’s considering doing a trek like this one is to DRINK LOTS OF WATER. For someone who only consumes around 2 litres of water on a normal day, being told that I need to drink a MINIMUM of 4 litres per day in the high altitude was a little daunting.
I can honestly say that water is the best cure for everything and that includes high altitude sickness. On the one occasion when I did experience a headache and nausea from the altitude at Dingboche (4200m), sculling a quick 2 litres of water and a power nap was all I needed to make a speedy recovery.
Up until Dingboche, the walk was fairly easy. Don’t get me wrong, NONE of it was flat and for anyone who’s planning on trekking anywhere in Nepal in the future, if your guide tells you that any part of the trip is flat you’ll quickly learn that ‘flat’ here in Nepal is code for ‘ha jokes, we’ve only got 4 mountains to go’. After Dingboche, the altitude definitely makes everything 10 times harder and the key is simply to walk verrrrrry slowly. Unfortunately, for most of the time that you’re physically walking it’s nearly impossible to properly enjoy the breath taking views in every direction. So take my advice and stop. Often.
There’s no point in pushing yourself to the point of exhaustion if you’re not going to stop and smell the roses. This trip isn’t so much about the destination although base camp was pretty cool, but for those of you who don’t know, you can’t even actually see Mount Everest from Everest Base Camp. So relax, take it easy. If you walk 20m and feel completely drained, it’s ok to take a break. If you stumble across a beautiful spot that’s just begging for someone to sit and appreciate it, then why not? You’re in the Himalayas for god’s sake and everyone here runs on Nepali time.
Which means that there really is no time limit and no concrete plan. You’ll make it to wherever you’re going, whether it takes 3 hours or 7. Really, the only difference is that the people who rush end up sitting in a tea house somewhere in the middle of the mountains with nothing to do and no energy to do anything even if they wanted to.
Personally, the hardest days for me were the walks from Lobuche to Gorukshep/Base Camp and the day after for our sunrise walk up Kala Pather and down to Pheriche. The altitude hit me pretty hard and the walk to Base Camp in particular is constantly up and down and damn cold. We experienced a chilly -13 degrees for our sunrise walk to Kala Pather, which was before the wind picked up so who knows how cold it actually got. I was so physically exhausted that day that I wasn’t sure if I could make it back down to Pheriche, but once you get below 5000m you can breathe a little easier and your energy will start to come back.
Highlights of the trip are too many to name. Off the top of my head, following the gorgeous milky river for most of the journey was amazing and a nice slice of home for someone who’s been missing the familiar creeks and beaches of Aus. The countless fellow trekkers that you meet along the way and the sense of comradeship you feel with every single one of them was a great comfort when times were tough and energy levels were low. The dalbaht was delicious. The tea house staff were so welcoming and always keen to teach me new words and phrases. Base Camp was as amazing as I hoped it would be. Walking beside the giants that are the Himalayas was extremely humbling and an experience that I will cherish forever.
Most of all, spending the last 3 weeks with my Nepalise family out here in the wilderness playing cards, sharing meals, taking ‘longcuts’ as they took all the impossibly steep shortcuts, singing songs, constantly laughing, drinking tea, washing clothes, not showering, sleeping early, laying awake listening to people sleeping talking, listening to everyone snoring, learning different languages, drinking more tea and dodging yaks has taught me that home is where your people are and I’ve found some pretty damn great ones through Take On Nepal.
To Anil and Phulmaya, my official guides and friends from the last 4 months living in Batase Village, thank you for your expertise and for all the laughs over the past 2 weeks. Thank you both for being so patient and encouraging during every gruelling step in the high altitude.
To Dinesh and the kids – or more appropriately, young adults – from Batase Village who accompanied us as our porters and also to participate in the marathon, thank you all for keeping us so entertained and for helping us so much when we were physically and mentally exhausted from the walk. You’re strength and endurance is so inspiring as well as a huge wake up call for us unfit foreigners who have all finished this trek with a new thirst for adventure.
To Mane, my guide from the trek I did to Poon Hill a couple of weeks ago and my fellow trekker this time round, thank you so much for everything that you are. Even though you weren’t our official guide, the fact that you so often chose to walk at our slow pace even though the rest of the marathon team sometimes needed a break and shot off ahead proves how professional and dedicated you are to making every clients journey as fulfilling as possible. Thank you for teaching us about the local villages and landmarks along the way to EBC and for recognising my love for flowers and pointing out every possible colour of rhododendron there is. You’re a natural guide and your patience is unparalleled, Take On Nepal is so lucky to have someone like you.
I truely didn’t think that my time here in Nepal could be any more memorable, but thanks to Take On Nepal I’m more in love with this country than I ever would have dreamed and I can’t wait to do it all again next year.
~ Amy Roberts (Australia)
© Take on Nepal 2020