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Everest Base Camp Trek - Part 2

from Namche Bazaar to Lobuche


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The fourth day of our trekking was the least picturesque one. Almost the entire route between Namche Bazaar and Tengboche we spent inside clouds and consequently had no views. However, the stay in the village of Tengboche proved very interesting. After arriving at our guesthouse, we went to visit the Tengboche monastery, the most important one in the area, where we were fortunate enough to witness the making of a sand mandala. Four monks were working on the beautiful, almost finished mandala and added their tiny amounts of colored sand to the short-lived piece of art.

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It was a cold morning when we woke up the next day. The ground was covered in frost, but the clouds had cleared and brought us back the fantastic mountain panorama with Nuptse (7861m), Everest (8848m), Lhotse (8516m) and Ama Dablam (6812m). The weather stayed like this the entire day and we had this fantastic view in front of us for most of the trek. Shortly after lunch, we passed the 4000 meters elevation and at the same time went above the tree line. From that point on, brown and grey colors dominated the landscape around us. We spent the night in Dingboche, at an elevation of 4350 meters.

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From Dingboche, we had another acclimatization hike on our itinerary, the climb to a peak called Nagerjun. On this day, we had to climb 750 meters up to an elevation of 5100 meters and then back again, which made this the most strenuous day so far. The steep climb was absolutely worth the effort though, as it provided breathtaking views. On one side, we could see a different face of Ama Dablam with two glacial lakes at its base. On the other, we saw Taboche (6495m), Cholatse (6440m) and Cholatse lake. And last but not least, we also saw Makalu, at 8485 meters the fifth-highest mountain on earth. Thereby, we managed to see 6 of the 14 eight-thousanders in less than a month, including 3 of the 5 highest peaks.

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The following night was exceptionally clear, allowing Sam to take some great night photographs of Ama Dablam and Lhotse.

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Feeling excellently acclimatized, we departed towards Lobuche the next morning. This day was quite easy for us, as we ascended up to 4900 meters only, less than we did the previous day. Along the way, we passed a graveyard for climbers and sherpas. Many stone piles were standing around with inscriptions about the deceased. A special place to rest in peace for those who were connected to the Himalayas. We went sleeping, excited for our visit to Everest Base Camp the next day.

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Posted by samandmarta 18:30 Archived in Nepal Comments (0)

Everest Base Camp Trek - Part 1

From Kathmandu to our first view of Mount Everest


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We landed back in Kathmandu on October 7th and spent another two nights in the Nepali capital. There, we visited the famous Kathmandu Durbar Square. Unfortunately, this historic area is still severely damaged by the earthquake, but some of the temples were open for visitors. Among them was Kumari Chok, the residence of the Kathmandu Kumari. The Kumari is a little girl, who is proclaimed to be a living goddess by Hindu priests. From that point onwards, the poor girl is no longer allowed to walk or live with her parents. Completely by accident, we managed to visit her residence exactly when she was about to make her daily appearance. For about half a minute, she was brought to the window and looked down on the excited crowd in her colorful costume and painted face, but with a sad face.

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Our Everest adventure started with a flight to Lukla. Lukla airport is often called the most dangerous airport in the world, not because there would be many accidents, but because it is extremely difficult to start and land there. The runway is only 527 meters long and is angled upwards on a hill. Moreover, at the end of the runway a steep cliff rises up, making it impossible to abort a landing attempt. Only special planes and experienced pilots, trained especially for this airport, are allowed to land there. Flights to Lukla are also cancelled very often, because landing is only possible when visibility is clear and it is often cloudy around the airport. Luckily, everything went well with our flight and we had beautiful views of the Himalayas from our seats.

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Our travel companions, a fun and exceptionally well travelled couple from Australia, and our guide were arriving with a later plane, so we had to wait in Lukla for a while before starting the first segment of our trek. This short segment brought us from Lukla to Phakding and was the only time we would be walking more downhill than uphill, as Phakding was located a good 200 meters below Lukla.

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The next day, we hiked from Phakding up to Namche Bazaar, gaining around 800 meters in elevation. Along the way, we had to cross the same river 5 times across increasingly breathtaking bridges. Namche Bazaar is the largest town along the Everest Base Camp trek. There were many hotels, shops and restaurants. You could even eat Fondue or Raclette there.

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From Namche Bazaar, we did the first acclimatization hike of the trekking. This means that we would hike to a higher elevation, but come back to the same place to sleep, thus helping the body to adjust to the higher altitudes. First, we hiked up to a monument of Sherpa Tenzing Norgay, the first man on Mount Everest (together with Sir Edmund Hillary). From there, we already got the first glimpse of where we were heading. Mount Everest could be seen in the distance behind the Nuptse ridge. We could also see Lhotse, the fourth-highest mountain on earth, and Ama Dablam, the Himalayan answer to the Matterhorn.

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Ama Dablam (6812 meters high) was one of the most recognizable and impressive mountains during the trek. Its name is Nepali for “Mother Daughter”, in reference to the two steep peaks of this mountain.

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After the monument, we went up further to the Everest View Hotel, located at 3880 meters above sea level. We rested for a while and enjoyed the view of Mount Everest with a cup of tea, before going back down to Namche Bazaar for the night.

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Posted by samandmarta 18:30 Archived in Nepal Comments (0)

Towards Annapurna - Ghorepani Poon Hill Trek

Exploring the Dhaulagiri-Annapurna range


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We immediately fell in love with Kathmandu when we arrived from Tibet. Fantastic food can be found at every corner and the Nepali people are so incredibly friendly. We spent the first days in Kathmandu doing nothing but eat, sleep and making plans for the coming time in Nepal. Because Marta did not want to leave Nepal without seeing Mount Everest, we planned to do the Everest Base Camp trek. As a warm up, we have decided to do a trek in the Annapurna area near Pokhara. It involved 4 days of hiking and one day staying in Pokhara, the second biggest city of Nepal, located near the Phewa Lake.

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Our first day of hiking was through terraced mountains where locals grow rice and other vegetables. We started at an elevation of 900 meters above sea level and passed through local villages inhabited by people from the Magar and Gurung tribes. We finished at 1570 meters above sea level (m.a.s.l.) in a village called Tikhedhunga. Our guesthouse was decorated all around with Christmas colorful lights. All facilities were well maintained and rooms were shared only by 2 hikers.

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The second day was much more strenuous. We had to hike 1300 meters up to a place called Ghorepani at 2850 m.a.s.l. This village was a gateway to Poon Hill, a major lookout point for the Dhaulagiri-Annapurna range of the Himalayas. When we arrived, the sky was very cloudy, however, from time to time, clouds cleared and we could see the snow-capped peaks of Annapurna I and Annapurna South.

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The next morning, we woke up at 5am to hike to Poon Hill for sunrise. From Poon Hill, we saw a beautiful panorama of the Dhaulagiri-Annapurna range, including the two eight-thousanders Annapurna I (8091m) and Dhaulagiri I (8167m). The last peak was especially interesting, as it was completely covered in snow.

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After spending one hour at Poon Hill, we hiked back to Ghorepani with our guide to enjoy a warm breakfast before embarking on the further hike to Tadapani. Shortly before arriving, we were caught up in heavy rain. We spent the rest of the day warming up at the oven in the common area, talking with other hikers from Norway, the USA and other countries.

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On the last day of our hike we went 1700m downhill, via beautiful lush green rice terraces, which looked amazingly fresh right after the monsoon season. Again, we passed through many villages inhabited by the Gurung tribe. After reaching the end of the trek in Nayapul, we drove back to Pokhara.

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For the next two days, we enjoyed good fresh food in Pokhara and life at a slow pace, knowing that a few days later we will be departing on another trek.

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Overall, we very much enjoyed hiking in the Annapurna area. Teahouses were well equipped and maintained, decently clean and stocked with tasty food. Views during the hike were also great, although, the best ones we enjoyed from Poon Hill. This 4 day hike was, in our opinion, a good teaser for the famous Annapurna Sanctuary (the trek which goes to the Annapurna Base Camp) or the Annapurna Circuit. As we liked the Annapurna area very much, we feel encouraged to come back one day and try one of the longer treks, where one can see Annapurna I, II, III, IV and South much closer.

Posted by samandmarta 18:30 Archived in Nepal Comments (0)

Overland from Tibet to Nepal

Driving 10 hours for 140km


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After finishing the kora around Mount Kailash, we still moved back to Saga the same day, a very tiring 8-hour-drive. Despite arriving only around 10pm, we had to get up at 6am the next morning to drive to the Tibetan border town of Kyirong. The road to Kyirong was under construction, so we had to pass it before the construction work began. This involved around 2 hours of driving on dirt roads near the road construction site. The driver frequently had to leave the car to look for the right way with his flashlight. After we passed the construction site, the road became very pleasant. We had beautiful mountain views along the way, including the peak of Mount Shishapangma (8’027m) in the distance, the first of the 8000-meter-peaks we have seen. In the early afternoon, we arrived in Kyirong, which was almost 2000 meters lower in elevation than Saga.

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The Kyirong border was established only 2 years ago, after the old border has been completely destroyed in the 2015 earthquake. After spending one night in the border town, we were driven down to the Nepali border the next morning. The contrast between the two sides of the border could not have been bigger. The road to the border on the Chinese side was newly paved and at the border there was a big concrete building. Inside, our luggage was scanned and our passports were checked and stamped by the Chinese immigration officers. Once out of the building, there was the famous Friendship Bridge over the river which marked the border between the two countries.

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By crossing this bridge, we moved from a place of order to a place of chaos. On the other side of the bridge there was a shabby hut, where Nepali military went through our luggage with their hands. People were shouting everywhere. After our luggage was approved, we had to carry it around 500 meters down a dirt road, where we found another dirty hut that was the immigration office. There, we hastily filled out a form and purchased our 30-day Nepali visa. A bit farther down the road there was a bus waiting for us, to bring us to Kathmandu.

In Tibet, we were told that the drive from the border to Kathmandu would take 8 hours. We found this hard to believe, as the distance is only 140km. It ended up taking us 10 hours, to move down the craziest road we have ever experienced. The entire road was unpaved and very rocky. Sometimes, parts of the road were washed away by landslides, leaving only a narrow lane to drive. The first 5km of the road were lined with Nepali cargo trucks, waiting to be allowed into China. This left only one lane to drive. So when cars were coming our way, we sometimes had to back up half a kilometer to find a spot to pass. Even after the line of Nepali trucks ended, the road was often not wide enough for two cars, leading to a lot of trouble every time a car came our way. The passing of two cars was often an incredible work of millimeter precision, made even more interesting by the steep cliffs dropping from the side of the road. Very tired, we arrived in Kathmandu late in the evening.

Posted by samandmarta 19:00 Archived in Nepal Comments (0)

Tibet - Part 3

Mount Kailash


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After spending one more night at Lake Manasarovar, we moved to Darchen, the base for the Mount Kailash kora (pilgrimage), the next day. There was another monastery visit on our itinerary which we skipped in order to give more rest to our tired legs.

After one night in Darchen, we departed on our kora around Mount Kailash at the break of dawn. The first day involved around 20km of hiking, climbing from 4’700m to a bit over 5’000m. There were much more pilgrims here than at Lake Manasarovar and the trek was very busy. We saw many Indians being carried up the trek on horses. Apparently, the Indians who go to Kailash are very rich and therefore not at all accustomed to physical exercise. On the other hand, we also met one man who is walking the entire 52 kilometers of the kora in one day, everyday since two years. The atmosphere in general is very special, as most people there are extremely devoted to their religion. We saw many pilgrims that do this kora using prostrations instead of simply walking. Prostration is the practice of praying, while first going down on your knees and then laying down completely flat on the ground. After getting up again, the pilgrims do a few steps and repeat the procedure. It takes these people months to move all the way around the mountain. While most of the day was very cloudy, towards the evening the sky opened up a bit and we were able to see the bottom of Mount Kailash. The top remained in the clouds though. We spent the night at a monastery at an altitude of over 5’000 meters.

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We were quite surprised when we looked outside the window after waking up. Snow has fallen overnight and the dry, grey-brown landscape has been turned completely white. We started our climb up to Dromla pass very early in the morning. The trek was already full of people, but besides the sound of boots in the snow, there was silence. No one talked. Climbing up at this altitude was very strenuous. Oxygen was not wasted on conversations. The higher we climbed, the harder each step became. After a bit more than 3 hours, we finally reached Dromla pass, at 5’645 meters above sea level, the highest point both of us have ever been. Moods got lighter up there, as everyone found joy in their achievement. The hardest part, however, was still to come. The way down was much steeper than the way up and the fresh snow had turned into hard ice at this point. Our hiking boots were no longer appropriate for the conditions. We were still better off than some pilgrims who walked in sneakers with non-existent profiles. After around 2.5 hours, partly spent sliding down on our butts, we managed to reach the valley without injury. There, the path became much easier, going down very gradually. However, there was still 12km left to go. We reached our destination very exhausted, after 10 hours of walking.

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On the last day of the kora, we started very early, about one hour before sunrise, with our headlamps on. There was only around 10km to go and it was all downhill. We got some beautiful views of the sunrise over Gurla Mandhata, the mountain we have seen already during our Manasarovar kora. After less than 3 hours, we reached Darchen, where we were rewarded with a nice breakfast.

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We liked the trek around Mount Kailash much more than the one around Lake Manasarovar. Despite the fact that it was almost always cloudy and we have not entirely seen the mountain we circled for the whole trek, the mountain views were interesting and varied. Also, seeing the pilgrims and experiencing the atmosphere around this mountain made it worth enduring the tough conditions.

Posted by samandmarta 19:00 Archived in China Comments (0)

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