Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Kathmandu - Lukla - Phakding

So I've been generally off comms for the past 2 days other than keeping up with work. That side of things has been fine and I'm pleased with th remote working aspect. I've been able to partake in the morning meetings and get updates from JIRA and check my work email without any problems.

The trekking side of things has been problematic though.

Assembling to go to the airport - in broad daylight.

Ania P. and Anna B.

The Three Anias

 First off, just getting to Lukla was a megillah. Normally you get to the airport ~6am and try to get on the first available flight possible. The weather window opens and closes all the time so the earlier you get the the higher you are on the list for a flight. So by the time we got to the airport at 10:30 there was already quite a queue. In the end we spent most of the day there with all of our bags in a pile in the centre of the hall and taking it in turns to sleep on the baggage and/or guard it. In the end the group and its baggage were separated over 3 flights with the last few just squeaking into Lukla on the last flight of the day at about 6pm. By then the sun was setting and we were fairly shattered from the stress of it all.

Getting bussed out to the plane

Now most people would have just accepted the inevitable, spent the night in Lukla and adjusted the itinerary accordingly. But no, what actually happened is that we undertook a dangerous night hike from Lukla to Phakding. I'm not sure that the other trekkers understood the dangers. The group rapidly separated into fast, medium and slow hikers. There were points when the path split and none of the hikers knew which way to go and had to wait until one of the guides got there to point the way. I took 2 nasty falls, gashing my knee pretty badly and exacerbating my already dodgy back (from sleeping on the baggage at the airport).

All things considered, it was a miracle that only 1 of us was injured and fortunate that that was all that went wrong. Many trekkers are unaware of this but there are other dangers - there are people living wild in those mountains and they do come out to rob the unwary, particularly at night. Worse than that, every year trekkers go missing. Sometimes the bodies are found, and sometimes they are still intact.

In fact, I heard later that a trekker had gone missing from that stretch of trail just the night before.

So the next morning, even after taking some painkillers, I could barely move. Our guides did not offer me any advice/guidance/suggestions. In the absence of any help from the guides, I was initially going to just stay in Phakding and let the rest of the group go on without me until I had an idea - rent a horse! This way I could at least get to Namche where there are massages and, if needed, medical facilities. And it had to be better than being abandoned in Phakding where there is absolutely nothing. The cost was only $100 which, frankly, is what I spend on taxis on a Saturday night out so the call went out out get me a horse.

And so Rocky was procured. I have to say that I was slightly worried by the fact that I've never actually sat on a horse before (although I have ridden camels and elephants). As a New York Jew  I've never even been on a pony ride in Central Park (Horses? Feh! Filthy beasts and they bite - for what do you want to sit on a horse?). But as luck would have it, it turns out that I'm a rather good horsewoman and was able to keep my seat on even the steepest gradients. There were times, however, when I thought it might be best to get off the beast and hobble my way up or down - put it this way, if Rocky was getting fractious I figured it was a good bet to let him have his head rather than stay seated. I'm sure he knew better than me). I even rode him across bridges!

I'm not sure why I was able to ride with my back like this when I couldn't walk but who am I to argue - it just worked. And this way I was able to avoid the hell that is Namche Hill. I may even do this next time unless I can source an elephant instead. ;-) Anyway, I'll be sure to insert photos when I get back (Update 27-11-12: Photos inserted).

As we approached Namche the weather closed in and it started to snow  We were all pretty damned grateful to get to our lodge - the Kongde View. I'll be staying in Namche for the next week or so while the rest of the group continue on to Gokyo to let my back heal while everyone else goes on. Not sure if I'll remain in this hotel or find a nicer one but after today's morning meeting I'll have a word with the proprietress of Danphe's Bar (a fellow New Yorker) to get her take on which is the nicest hotel in Namche. Yet again there has been no guidance or help from the trekking company. Not that I would trust any advice from these jokers but you would expect them to say something!

And I'll be honest with you, I'm not that disappointed to be "stuck" here. I wanted to spend more time in Namche - there's so much to see with local monasteries and nice day hikes. I've previously said that I think the Khumbu treks should allow more time to spend getting to know the communities and cultures, so now I get my chance!

And I promise to keep you all posted!

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