Monday, 31 March 2008

Dingboche, Nepal, at 4,300m altitude

Am writing this from a satellite Internet under cover but open to the elements with light snow falling. Prices here are high by Australian standards and astronomical by local standards (20R per minute for Internet, 350R per minute to use a power point, 360R for a small box of tissues).

Have caught a head-cold but am otherwise well. The scenery continues to be spectacular, but the cold weather (it's 2 degrees with a 40kph wind blowing up the valley) is testing. Food is still good (today's lunch was the first meat: tinned) but the lodges we are staying in are very basic. From Wednesday we'll be camping above 5,000m. We are surrounded by snow covered peaks. During the night we hear the yaks wandering around with their bells ringing. The yaks up here have very long fur and travel in trains carrying all forms of luggage.

Friday, 28 March 2008

Namche, second day

The costs of phone and Internet here are high: it cost me 500R for yesterday afternoon on the Internet, which is slow; calls to Oz are 150R per minute, and it takes a while for the connection to go through. I made a mistake not buying a SIM card in Kathmandu, as all the tiny villages we've passed through, and Namche, have coverage.

Had my first coffee since Kathmandu today, 70R for an "expresso", in fact a long black. After arrival yesterday enjoyed a shower (200R) for 5 mins in which I also washed 3 tee shirts and 4 undies. Unfortunately they are not yet dry, but should be by tomorrow morning. Put my 3 pairs of socks and trousers in for laundry, which were returned clean and dry today for 140R. Everything here is most expensive: 1 litre of water is 100R (10R in Kathmandu) and beer 200R for a can (70R in Kathmandu). Charging my camera battery (60 mins) cost 100R.

This morning I woke at 5:30am, then watched from my window as the sun rose over the huge snow covered mountain to the west. My room mate, Trent, and I watched fascinated, taking photos every few minutes. As usual, tea was brought to us at 6:30am.

We left at 8am to climb to the top of the mountain behind Namche (2.2km distance, 450m ascent to 3,900m). Spectacular views for 360 degrees, including a beautiful view of Everest with its distinctive plume of cloud, another 8,000m+ mountain (number 5 in the world), and 7 other mountains around us, all over 6,500m. Could not capture it on my camera. Everyone else in the group has SLR digitals, some with multiple lens, plus movie cameras. Was very windy at the top, and even windier coming down, but a delightful morning.

The meals on the trek have been fine, although no meat, and a small amount of tinned tuna at one meal. Lots of variety. Lunch today was the best: a soupy, vegie curry, with steamed dumplings and salad. For breakfast the choice is meusli or porridge, with eggs cooked in different ways each day served on toast. We have lots of tea made by the trek staff.

Thursday, 27 March 2008

Namche,on the Everest trail, Nepal

The trek for the first 3 days has been fairly easy, but once we leave here it will get harder and harder. We've trekked along a river valley, surrounded by forrest and immense mountains. The only means of transport from Lukla - the town into which we flew from Kathmandu - is the path along which we travelled. It is highway, with many trekkers - in groups and individually - and enderless streams of porters loaded down with huge packs resting on their backs by a strap across their foreheads, interspersed with caravans of yaks also loaded down. All the materials for construction and all the necessities of life for all the villages we visit come in this way. The mountain sides are covered with small pine forest, except where it has been cleared for cultivation.

The weather is crystal clear each morning, but cloud steadily increase during the day. The overnight temperatures so far have been about 5-6, and daytime about 13-15. I'm sure both figures will drop as we climb.

There are 12 in our group: 2 pommies, 2 South Africans and 8 Aussies. We have the main guide, Tisha, who is very competent and experienced, supported by 4 assistant guides and several porters. The guides ensure that we travel slowly, allowing us to acclimatise and keeping the group together. I'm sharing a room with Trent, a 59 year old from Adelaide and a good bloke.

Our room looks onto a large mountain, over which immense snow covered peaks tower straight up.

Sunday, 23 March 2008

Kathmandu, Nepal

Kathmandu is as I expected: full of life, good food and friendly locals, but poor infrastructure and dusty and very dirty. My trekking group had a trip to the main Hindu temple, with cremations proceeding and crowds of devoted praying and making offerings. We also visited a Buddhist stupa, which was in contrast to the rest of the city: peaceful and clean. It is surrounded by a Tibettan community, with several reasonable looking hotels and lots of restaurants, and appeals to me as an area to stay when I return.