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Trek to Everest Base Camp, November 2003

What follows on this page is an electronic copy of the journal I wrote as I undertook the first of my many trips of a lifetime, a trek to Everest Base Camp in Nepal, in November 2003.

I have not changed the content of the journal as it records my feelings at the time, although I have added an Epilogue at the end, which captures my feelings in 2021 as I looked back over this epic and challenging adventure.

As always, to see an enlarged version of any of the pictures, just click on the image and it will open, full size, in a new window.

Enjoy...

Days 1 and 2, 3rd and 4th November 2003

I have decided that today will count as Day 1 of the holiday because apart from taking Tracy to Gatwick airport, calling in at McDonald's for lunch and the shops for some snacks, yesterday was a rest and acclimatisation day. I did absolutely nothing. I watched the MotoGP race and then garbage on TV until I finally called it a day at around half ten.

Today has started better. The sun is shining, I've been through my bags and notes and even managed to get a photocopy of my passport. To ensure the day started OK, I went and had breakfast in the hotel. I'm not sure when I'll get to eat again and given that was a couple of hours ago and I'm still full, I doubt I'll need to...

I just need to make a few phone calls - Laura has already rung to say goodbye - and I'll drop the car keys off at reception and get the bus to Heathrow. Then the fun really begins!

...

I arrived at the airport with loads of time to spare, so found a seat and started reading Catch-22. I met up with a fellow trekker, John, when checking in to the flight at 17:15 and we chatted whilst waiting to board. The flight to Doha was good, long at 6 hours, but the food was excellent (Lamb Curry!) and I watched a good film called Confidence which helped while away some time. I managed to get a little shut-eye, but not much, and so the 2 hour wait at Doha, now on Tuesday morning, was tiresome.

The flight to Kathmandu afforded another 3.5hours reading, eating and dozing time, before we could see anything from the windows. I was fortunate to be on the left side of the plane, next to Andy (another of our party) who had the window seat. About half an hour from Kathmandu all eyes on the left side of the plane were glued to the window, as there, protruding up ABOVE the clouds were our first glimpses of the Himalaya. The sight was quite staggering, especially as I'm used to looking down on mountains like the Alps from a plane, not across and seeing them standing proud of the clouds at well over 27,000ft!

I don't think we could see Everest itself, but there were certainly some giants there, including, I think, Lhotse and the range that would have obscured Everest from view. Simply beautiful.

Following our arrival at Kathmandu, we quickly passed through customs and were collected by our welcome party, the gear loaded on the roof of the minibus and off we went to the hotel. My first impression of Kathmandu was that it was a run-down, dirty, dusty place, with lots of traffic and a distinct 3rd World feel. That impression changed as we arrived closer to the Kathmandu Guest House as the number of run-down or partly-built buildings decreased and the neon-signs increased. All along the roadside are local shops, not disimilar to those I've seen in Turkey, but less opulent, perhaps. Everywhere are carpet shops, budda shops, map shops and outdoor shops (the latter selling dodgy-looking knock-off North Face gear!).

At the hotel we were sorted with our rooms. I'm bunked up with Dave, a likeable Scotsman and we've met the rest of the trekkers - some 13 of us in the hotel. Having had a quick shower, which was cold (the water only got hot when Dave went in after me!) I repacked my gear ready for an early start (6:30am for breakfast). We then left as a group to the infamous Rum Doodle Restaurant for a local Nepalese meal. This consisted of a starter - some hot, spicy soup, dim sum with a hot satay dip and cold spicy potatoes followed by a plate of rice with little bowls of dips and sauces, only 1 of which I liked and that had some knuckles of meat in it. Finally we had dessert which looked like rice pudding but tasted like muelsi with yoghurt. As I write I feel full, but the smell of Indian food from the hotel restaurant is still causing me to salivate!

I have now had chance over dinner to discuss the trek with Dave, Mike (who I also met briefly at Heathrow before losing him), Bill (an American who is trekking with his 28-year old daughter Melissa), Rich and Jonathan. Like me, they're all excited by the prospect and all are novices at Himalayan trekking, as seem most of the party. More about them as we go!

Now it's back to the hotel, 9:25pm and time to call it a day (although in fact it has been 2!).

Wednesday 5th November

I was woken early at 5:45am by the sound of Dave in the shower and a lot of banging, that sounded as though it was coming from the next room, but was in fact Dave trying to get the tap head back on the hot water! There was a steady stream sprouting out of the wall, scalding hot and filling the room with steam. He had already got a blister on his hand trying to fix it, so I helped and managed to get the water to stop first (finding the stop tap) then fixing it back together so I could at least have a shower - and a warm one for a change!

After the drama was over, I packed my bags and went down for breakfast, which consisted of cereal and fruit, followed by sausages, potatoes fried in garlic and a potato pancake, Surprisingly good!

After breakfast we checked our hotel bags in, loaded up into the minibus and were driven through the streets of Kathmandu - narrowly missing several people on bikes, passing the gruesome sight of a decapitated goat having it's blood drained into a bowl at the roadside, and on to the airport. The terminal building for the domestic flight is round the back of the posh brick International building and matches the chaos described in my travel books exactly. We were in the excellent hands of the Kathmandu crew who sped us through backage check-in, sorted the tickets and passed us through to the security check. It was here where I had my new Zippo lighter, a present from Tracy, confiscated from my hand luggage, much to my disappointment. I did manage to get the security guard to give it to the Kathmandu crew, but as I write this I've no idea whether I'll ever see it again...

After that little escapade, we waited in the departure lounge for them to call our flight - Yeti Airlines Flight D - and then we were on a bus and out onto the runway area to wait a short while for our plane to land so we could board. The plane was tiny, with a cramped fuselage into which we clambered, all squeezed up with our hand-luggage. Shortly before take-off, the air stewardess came round, no easy task given the lack of room between the seats, to hand round boiled sweets and cotton wool (for your ears due to the noise!). Take off was uneventful and we climbed steeply into the clouds. After a while it was possible to see the Himalaya poking above the clouds once more. Magnificent!

The landing at Lukla was remarkably uneventful, considering the short runway, but then it does go uphill rather steeply on landing! It must be very easy on the brakes!

Once we'd got our bags we walked a short way to where we met our Sherpas and porters and we then handed over our bags to be loaded onto the yaks. Then we went for a very leisurely tea break before we set off again, with the yak train through the streets of Lukla and finally onto the trail.

The path meanders down the hill and around the hillside, a broad stony path, easy to walk on and at a very leisurely pace. After about an hour the sun came our briefly whilst we stopped for a pee break, then went back in again. For the rest of the day the sky remained cloudy, with a low lying mist on the hillside all around us. The views are already lovely, tree-filled hills rolling up into the clouds high overhead, and the bright green glacial waters of the Dud Khosi meandering down below in the valley.

At noon we climbed for a little while and stopped at a tea house for lunch. I ordered off the menu and had a very good vegetable soup followed by some mixed fried noodles. But the most remarkable thing about lunch was the time it took - a full 2 hours 20 minutes before we were back on the trail again! At this pace, we'll never get anywhere!

After lunch we continued on the trail, past huts with big prayer wheels in called chortens and huge painted and carved boulders (which are always passed on the left in accordance with tradition) and eventually we arrived in Phakding. We passed many tea houses and went right through the village to a long suspension bridge which we crossed before arriving at the Sunshine Lodge Guest House. This is a nice building with clean rooms, a sit-down toilet and a communal room for eating. This time I'm sharing a triple room with Andy and John, and we have single wooden beds with 2 sleeping bags each as well as fleece liners - suggesting it might be a tad cold overnight!

Having checked in the 3 of us went down to the river for a wander and to take some photos, before returning to the lodge and writing my journal before dinner. I ordered Onion Soup and Vegetable Fried Rice, and it was excellent although I skipped dessert as the choice was between Apple Pie or Apple Pancake (and I can't tolerate cooked fruit!). Everyone seems tired, but I don't think that it's due to today's walk, more the lack of sleep over the past few days...

Thursday 6th November

I was up early after a difficult night's sleep - I first woke up at midnight after just 2.5 hours and thought it was time get up so had to try to get back to sleep again. Then I woke again at 3am (for the loo) and when I woke again at 5:45am I got up. The morning dawned bright and we watched the sunshine hitting a large mountain behind the lodge before having breakfast - a cheese omelette on toast with jam on toast washed down with a hot lemon juice (which is rapidly becoming the group's favourite drink).

Then we loaded up and set off on the trail to Namche Bazaar, once again at a very leisurely walking pace, up through the forest and along the side of the Dud Khosi valley. We occasionally crossed the river using narrow suspension bridges, made of metal plates held together by wire cables - very reassuring but due to their length they bounce a fair bit making crossing a tad scary. Some were very long and bounced alarmingly as we crossed. The trick seems to be to make sure there are no yaks or porters with huge loads trying to cross at the same time!

We stopped for lunch at Josale, where we were entertained by a lovely little girl. She was very playful, taking great delight in the little torches attached to some of the rucksacks. Lunch was delicious, a hearty garlic soup and vegetable curry with dhal bhat.

Soon after lunch we crossed over the river again and continued on the way, eventually arriving at a suspension bridge set very high up, crossing a tributary as the main flow of the river turned away up the valley. The was rather exhilerating, especially when I braved a look down right in the middle, to the river almost 200ft below - scary stuff as I'm afraid if heights!

After the bridge the goind got significantly tougher, going uphill very steeply. We plodded along at a very slow, steady pace for about 2 hours. The only comparison I can make to this would be the steep ascent up Ben Lawyers - only where that took about an hour, this took 2...

The reward for all this effort was our arrival at Namche Bazaar, which sits at 3,500m, and we were all a bit tired from the climb. The altitude is having some effect, as we can feel a slight shortness of breath when walking around. I&epos;ve had a headache all day too, although I don't think that's the altitude as it started low-down and is the dull, familiar, headache I've had before. I took a tablet this morning and another after lunch, and will take one before bed to see if I can finally shift it.

Namche Bazaar is a big town in comparison to everything we've see so far. It sits perched on a horseshoe-shaped plateau surrounded by high hills. The houses are beautiful, painted in really bright colours and kept very clean. There is still traffic polution, even here, although it is not from CO2 from car exhausts but the smell of yak dung, which is everywhere on the trail and in some of the streets of the town. As the locals burn it for fuel they need to dry it out, which we saw a woman doing in the middle of the trail, placing pats from a large pile of dung on a spread-out plastic sheet!

The lodge we are staying in for 2 nights is very nice, high up in the village and even has a hot shower - which I'm saving for tomorrow. The other Himalayan Kingdoms group, who are on the same trek but a day ahead of us, are also staying here tonight so it's very busy. Fortunately, the dining room is big and has a large central stove - burning yak dung - so it's actually very warm. We're now all gathering in the room, writing postcards and diaries, and chattering about the day's trek whilst waiting for dinner.

Dinner was again very good - tomato and egg-drop soup then meat with roast spuds and veg, followed by chocolate sponge cake! After dinner a few of us - Andy, John, Clem, Elaine, Jonathan and me played Pass the Pigs - Andy having brought a set with him. I won one game, John 2 and Elaine the last, before we turned in at the very late hour of 8:30pm! Tonight I'm sharing with Tom, and at this rate I'll have slept with the entire group soon!

Friday 7th November

I was woken up at 6:30am with Bed Tea, a cup of hot lemon brought by to me in bed by Sherpa Pemba - How good is that!

I slept better than any other night so far, only got up to go to the loo twice, and the aspirin Elaine gave me for my headache seems to have helped. I still feel a bit tired, though, despite all that sleep, but am feeling fit following yesterday's hike - and today should be a lot easier (or so we have been told!).

It's beautifully clear outside, so when I've finished my tea, I'll grab the camera and get out there. Breakfast isn't until 7:30am today, so it promises to be a lazy day acclimatising.

Breakfast was muesli and cornflakes with hot milk, followed by omelette and jam on toast - I still don't think I've got my appetite back but am feeling really good today. After breakfast, at 8:30, we set off on the day's acclimatisation walk, following the trail up and round the upper part of the town towards Thamu. The first few steps were really steep and it took a little while to drop into the slow, melodic rythm of uphill trekking at altitude, but the rythm came and off we went. As a group we travel slowly, not because we're unfit, but due to the overly photogenic scenery and all the photo stops!

As we reached the hill above the village and looked back, we got a spectacular view, but unfortunately it was into the sun so not much chance of a good photo - though in the opposite direction the views were still impressive! As we climbed slightly higher, we got our first glimpse of Ama Dablam. That brought out some serious goosebumps as I'd seen pictures of this famous mountain in books I read as a child. It certainly is as beautiful as the photographs show, even from this distance. We then followed the trail round the mountain, through a forest, past little mountain villages and colourful chortens. We passed a lovely little school where the kids were in the playground in their neat uniforms, all happy smiles and shouting "Namaste!. Farther on we passed a family collecting yak dung for their fires - by hand - the little girl gleefully scooping up handfuls of fresh dung from the trail and passing it to her mum, while dad plastered great pats onto the walls to dry in the sun.

When we arrived in Thamu we stopped for a cake and sat in the sun for a while, before collecting our gear together and heading back the way we'd come. By now the clouds had started moving in, obscuring some of the mountains, but it was still warm and the walk was very pleasant. We'd got a little bit strung out on the trail, but arrived back around 1:30pm, after a 5 hour walk - so much for a rest day!

Shortly after arriving back at the Panorama Lodge and Restaurant we were served lunch - and what a lunch! Vegetable soup with garlic followed by some bread, baked beans and potatoes with veg and garlic. Absolutely wonderful, so good that we eagerly devowered second helpings of both.

As we have the afternoon to ourselves, John, Andy and I are going to head off down into Namche to have a look around. The Tibetan market is still on and I'm concerned I may not have enough warm clothing for higher up, so will see what's on offer...

Namche is full of outdoor shops selling dodgy copies of North Face and Patagonia gear, so I bought a fleece and a prayer flag from a shop that also had a hunk of meat hanging out to dry. They cost 550rupees, or about £5! The Tibetan market, which looked very colourful from the lodge, was a disappointment. Basically a dirty market selling cheap tat - including pasta machines - and Chinese copies of other junk. We got back to the lodge in time for a hot shower, which was very welcome, and a change of clothing (my first since leaving Kathmandu!). Earlier we had washed our socks, though, the 2 pairs I had used so far, so I think I'll have enough even if they do get a bit smelly!

So now a few of us are congregating in the dining room, where the yak-dung-burning stove is ablaze, chatting about the day and I sat discussing cameras and photography with Andy. It's probably worth at this point recording who my fellow trekkers are, to provide some context to my ramblings:

Dinner was yet again delicious (we're really being spoiled!) and despite the huge lunch I had at 2:30, I still managed to wolf it down only 4 hours later. Tonight's delights were potato and garlic soup followed by meat curry, veg curry, rice and dhal bhat with apple pie for dessert for those without a cooked fruit allergy. At this rate I'll be going home heavier than when I left!

After dinner we sat and chatted for a while before playing a few rounds of Pass the Pigs until bedtime - just after 8:30pm. Then more drama. As Tom and I settled in to our nice warm sleeping bags we heard a scratching sound coming from the corner of the room. A frantic search for the mouse or rat or whatever it was revealed nothing, but kept us both awake a little while. In the morning, Andy and John, who were in the room opposite, recounted a similar story!

Saturday 8th November

Another bright and clear morning as we pack our bags ready for the trek via Kumjung, where we should get our first glimpse of Everest, and on to a stopover just short of Tengboche. And another superb breakfast - porridge (2 bowls!) followed by omelette and chapatis with jam. Lovely. Then we loaded up and set off around 8:30am, up the hill above the lodge then right towards the museum, from where... I SAW EVEREST!! I had goosebumps on my goosebumps! There was no mistaking that iconic shape and the plume of spindrift blowing off the top. All in one view we could see Everest, Lhotse, Ama Dablam and Island Peak. Four iconic mountains I've dreamt about seeing since I was a little boy reading mountaineering books borrowed from the library. I remembered Tracy's words when she said she could imagine how I would feel when I first saw Everest. Well, I doubt she could as I did not expect it to have such an emotional effect on me. Words cannot describe how I felt - I was totally awestruck. A lifelong ambition - to see the world's tallest mountain - fulfilled.

After taking lots of photos and wandering round the small museum we headed back towards Namche and then round above the village on a higher path than yesterday, up towards Syangboche airstrip. The climb, whilst fairly steep, didn't feel too bad at all, so the acclimatisation process is obviously working. The airstrip is tiny, just an area of flattened ground on which now only helicopters land following a crash of one of the STOL (Short Take-Off and Landing) aircraft a few years ago. This airstrip is mostly used to fly in rich tourists, mostly Japanese, who stay at the Everest View Hotel, which we will visit (but not stay at) on our return. As we climbed the hill above the airstrip we passed a group of Japanese, complete with oxygen bottles and masks. They were moving very slowly indeed, which clearly shows the effect of not taking time to acclimatise properly.

From the top of the hill the views of Everest, Lhotse and Ama Dablam were even more impressive - so I got Andy to take a picture of me with Everest in the background to prove I really am here, which I still find very hard to believe as it feels like a dream. At the same spot, Dorothy came out with the quote of the trip so far when she asked Dave to take her photo with Ama Dablam in the background - Do you want me to try to get Everest in as well? asked Dave, No, I'm not bothered about Everest! was her reply!

Laughing, we continued on our way, gradually dropping from 3,900m to Khumjung at 3,760m. Khumjung is a wealthy village (by Nepalese standards) built on a flat area above Namche Bazaar. It is where the first school in the Khumbu region was built by Sir Edmund Hillary and his Himalayan Trust in the 1960s. The school is very impressive, very clean and with what looks like a football pitch outside, though how at this altitude anyone can run about playing football is beyond me!

As we wandered through the village we spotted some dots on the snow slope just below the summit of Ama Dablam. We confirmed through binoculars that they were climbers - 3 of them - who, according to Dave, would be descending having fixed ropes ready for a summit attempt tomorrow. I managed to get a picture using my long lens, so hopefully we can pick them out.

We then climbed up through the village, passing the locals digging deep holes in which to store potatoes to prevent them from freezing, and a mother and her 2 children who were playing, then on and up to the monastery. Here we took our boots off and went inside to see the budda and the 108 books that during the festival people from the village come to read. Everyone has their own book, which takes 2 days to read. They were all stored neatly on shelves, pressed down with wooden blocks and wrapped up in coloured silks. The monasteryalso has a Yeti scalp locked up in a glass box, which looked like a pointy-head with brown and black hair (whether it was really from a Yeti, I don't know...).

After the monastery we went for lunch in a lodge right at the top of the village. Lunch was vegetable soup (the best so far, so I had an extra bowl!) followed by a boiled egg and fried pasta twists with onion (much, much, nicer than it sounds!). And some rather good lemon tea. After lunch we headed down from Khumjung to Kyanzoma, where we are staying the night. Having arrived at 3pm, we've settled in and I'm now sat outside in my fleece and woollen hat writing my journal and eating (and sharing, of course!) my treacle toffees. Life is rather good!

Just before dinner we congregated in the dining room of the lodge, where the central stove had been lit, to read. Dinner was once again excellent - the food on this trip has been truly exceptional despite appearing simple - vegetable soup followed by ginger mashed potato and curried vegetables followed by fruit salad (for the others, I declined). After dinner we sat around the stove by the light of a parafin lamp reading by head torch, with pockets of quiet conversation. Very pleasant! It was at this point that I finished Catch-22, so I went to bed around 8:45pm.

Sunday 9th November

I had the best night's sleep so far, only waking up once at 4:15am when Andy in the next room started talking, so I had to get up and pee! I managed to get a bit more sleep before waking again at 6:15am, just before dawn, when I got up and opened the curtains onto a superb view of Ama Dablam. Once up, I wandered up the hill for a bit to take some more photos of the mountains as the sun rose - and noticed the 3 climbers we saw on Ama Dablam had not moved overnight. On second looking they're actually outcrops of rock!

It was extremely cold this morning, so a warming bowl of porridge, some toast and a hot cup of orange Tang were most welcome. We finally set off on the trail around 8am, all wrapped up with woolly hat and gloves. The trail descended fairly steeply over rough and dusty ground to Phungi Tenga where we once again crossed the Dud Khosi on a wooden suspension bridge before stopping for a short break. Following a guzzle of water we started on the long climb up to Tengboche, a climb of some 600m. The path started steeply, but we soon got into our rythm and the slow climb began. We stopped about halfway for a breather and a Tunnocks Caramel Wafer (staple food of the hill walker everywhere!) before continuing upward on the relentless climb. I walked with Clem and had a good chat about his life in the Navy - quite an achievement holding a conversation whilst climbing at this altitude - from 3,250m to 3,850m!

On the way up we passed a group of porters carrying loads of plywood panels - one stopped on the pass with what looked like a door, leading to a photo op with Clem miming knocking on the door!

The final part of the climb became steep again so the pace slowed and I could feel a slight headache coming on due to the increase in altitude (it soon passed on it's own), then we crested the rise by a chorten and into Tengboche. The views from here to Everest, Lhotse and Ama Dablam are as stunning as the guide books say. I still can't quite believe I'm here!

Tengboche is very busy in comparison to the other places we've been, with quite a few tent groups as well as full lodges. We're staying in a row of rooms at Gompa Lodge. The rooms are fairly basic - just wooden beds with thin mattresses, two to a room, but the setting is just perfect. When we arrived at about 10:30, the sun was beating down from a cloudless sky and it was hot as we sat in the sun outside the lodge, drinking coffee and watching the world go by. Lunch was served in the dining room, some form of soup (garlic I think) with poppadums, followed by pasta, potatoes and vegetables. Very good indeed and I'm pleased to see my appetite remains good!

Shortly after lunch the opening ceremony for the Mani Rimdu Festival began, with sounds of the long horns blowing and the monks appearing wearing bright headdreses, blowing musical horns of various shapes and banging symbols and drums. They walked out of the monastery and round the corner where they sat down with the head monk (Lama) sat in a brightly painted hut ready for the ceremony itself. Having taken a few photos, I wandered back through the crowds to the lodge to catch up on some journal writing and to wait for my bag to arrive as it was being carried by a porter today not the usual yak and so hadn't arrived. I was glad when it turned up as the afternoon cloud had arrived and the temperature dropped dramatically, meaning I had to don a couple of thin fleece layers to stop myself from freezing as I wrote my journal.

Then someone had a good idea. Just behind the dining room is a... bakery and caf&eactue;! Yes, here in Tengboche, high in the Himalaya, there is a café selling great fruit cakes (in HUGE portions!) and Cadbury's Hot Chocolate! So we stayed inside for a couple of happy hours, once again discussing toilets (a topic that's rapidly becoming an obsession!) until it was time for dinner.

Dinner consisted of garlic soup followed by rice, vegetable noodles, vegetable curry anc chicken curry, followed by a piece of chocolate cake. I don't think I've ever eaten quite so much for such a long period of time - but it's a good sign, as loss of appetite is a symptom of altitude sickness, I keep reminding myself. The dining room was also boiling hot with the heat from the central stove, and there must have been 50 people chatting away, writing journals or reading books. The atmosphere inside was great!

As I&apo;sve mentioned toilets I suppose I better explain why it has become such a topic of conversation amongst the group. It all started at the airport in Lukla, when a few of us needed to go (probably due to the excitement of the scary landing!), including Elaine. The toilet was of the Asian squat type and absolutely disgusting. After that, every toilet since has been ranked and the establishments given a cistern rating akin to the usual star rating. The Panorama Lodge at Namche was excellent and has the only 4-cistern loo so far. Here in Tengboche we are in the land of the wooden-hut with hole in the floor style loo, which have a pile of leaves inside that you are supposed to throw down the hole after you've done your business, to create a compost heap below the loo. It's quite an eye-opening experience to those of us less-travelled. Due to the number of people staying here for the Mani Rimdu Festival, the smell is quite dreadful. The only consolation is that the window through which you look whilst attending to business and trying not to fall down the hole or get pee on your trousers looks directly towards Everest. Probably the toilet with the best view in the world!

After chatting around the stove in the dining room it was time to turn at 9pm (a late night!), and back to the room I'm sharing with Jonathan.

Monday 10th November

That was not a good night's sleep. First, there was a lot of noise, with a big group arguing outside the lodge, then I needed the loo at midnight and my stomach was gurgling all night. Then I needed the loo again around 4am, this time rather urgently! Thankfully it was mostly wind, so I should recover quickly.

When we got up at 7am we had a bowl of luke warm water to wash in, so I washed my hair and underarms and that was that. Such luxury! Breakfast for me was a cup of hot lemon and an Alka Selzer to settle my churning guts. Shortly after breakfast we wandered up to the monastery to watch the Mani Rimdu Festival. Inside the courtyard was fairly busy, as was the balcony on which we stood. The festival began with monks blowing long horns and banging drums (as they had at 2:30am, waking everyone up!), then banging cymbals together before finally dancing in a circle banging their cymbals. Shortly after that, the Lama appeared on another balcony, drinking tea, and it started to get cold, so we headed back to the café for a hot chocolate and slice of chocolate cake - great now my stomach had finally settled down.

While we sat outside in the sunshine there was some drama as a helicopter came to collect a guy from the other Himalayan Kingdoms group who has come down with pulmonary edema (fluid in the lungs) as a consequence of altitude sickness. It will fly him down and he will be taken all the way to hospital in Kathmandu, his trek over. The helicopter circled Tengboche looking for a place to land, but all the flat ground has tents on, so he hovered for a while, spreading dust, yak dung, rubbish and tents everywhere before setting down behind one of the lodges at the top end of town. Once landed the guy was carried across on a stretcher and loaded aboard before the helicopter took off again, dropping dramatically over the side of the hill as soon as it was airborne, before rising above the bottom of the valley and disappearing into the distance.

We sat in the sun and chatted some more before wandering back up to the monastery to watch a bit more of the festival, then back again for lunch which was tomato soup followed by cheese and tomato sandwiches. Nice. After sitting in the sun some more, we decided to go for a walk to the chorten on the hill above town, so off Andy, John, Elaine and I went, while the others read, ate cakes or visited the festival (Jonathan and Rick had already been for a walk high on the hill above town earlier in the day). Once at the chorten, surrounded by the clouds rising from the valley as they do every afternoon, we decided to push on higher to break the 4,000m barrier. Once just past this milestone we sat on the hillside, chatting and drinking water, and watching Tengboche monastery appear and disappear from the clouds below. Quite an odd way to while away time, looking down on Tengboche!

We then wandered down to town, meeting Mike and Dave who had walked up to the chorten after spending time at the festival. On the way back into the village we stopped at the Tibetan stalls, where Elaine, Andy and Dave bought daft yak hats. We all then went to the café for another hot chocolate and piece of cake, before returning to the dining room to write journals, read and wait for dinner time.

Dinner tonight was mushroom soup followed by yak steak and chips (weirdly very nice!) and vegetable rice, with yet another piece of cake for dessert. My stomach is still gurgling a bit, so I've taken another Alka Selzer to try and calm it down, but am concerned as now I only have 1 left for emergencies. Up at the monastery tonight there was some Sherpa dancing, so we all went to have a look. In the courtyard the Sherpas (including Dawa) were doing a traditional line-dance - no music, just the Sherpas singing. We stayed and watched for a while before leaving them to it and heading back to the lodge and bed. It was not only the Sherpas partying, though, as close by the lodge was a bar and there was a lively party going on inside, that proceeded without stopping until 6am, when the cymbals and drums in the monastery started and seemed to stop it!

Tuesday 11th November

I woke early, largely due to the crashing of cymbals, but at least they stopped the incessant party music coming from the nearby bar! I hadn't had a bad night's sleep, only getting up 3 or so times in the night. Breakfast was awful. The porridge was OK, if a bit runny, but the omelette was inedible. I think we were all glad to see the back of Tengb and set off down through the forest, continuing our way towards Everest. Jonathan produced a piece of poetry about the group when we first stopped to shed some layers as the sun warmed the day. Unfortunately, I didn't get a copy of it so can't include it here. We then continued on the trek in glorious sunshine, alongside a rhodedendrun forest with Ama Dablam for company to our right, and Everest peering above Lhotse and Nuptse at the head of the valley.

Our lunch stop was in Shomare, where we had vegetable soup, a boiled egg with fried potatoes and baked beans. I think I ate too much because when we set off again, climbing out of Shomare, I felt weak and started to get a headache. Before too long the scenery changed and we were crossing a moraine - a wide expanse of stoney land with clumps of heather - it reminded me of the moors back home but without the peat! Crossing this featureless, rolling, terrain was increasingly hard work, my headache was getting worse and my pace slowed to such a crawl that I ended up at the back of the group. By the time we arrived in Dingboche, a small farming hamlet with a handful of trekking lodges, I was feeling pretty awful. I cadged an aspirin from Elaine and went and sat in the dining room feeling sorry for myself - it was still only mid-afternoon. By the time dinner arrived, I'd lost my appetite completely, though I did manage to eat some tomato and egg-drop soup. Several othrs in the group were also feeling a bit under the weather, which I put down to us passing over the 4,000m (12,000ft) mark.

After dinner I retired early and took an ibuprofen to try and shift my headache. I had a very restless night, getting up several times to pee, and once to retch - I woke feeling pretty miserable.



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