Honestly speaking, Nepal was not my first choice. I was ready to go to India, so why not pop-next-door and make it up to the Everest Base Camp? Without giving it a second thought, I packed off my bag and headed towards Nepal.
Three days after booking my ticket with intrepid, Nepal was hit by a 7.8 earthquake. Those who knew that I was going to Nepal thought that I would obviously cancel the plan. Why risk your life and go somewhere that was now razed?
I was bewildered to get such a response from everyone. I understood the fact that trekking is the backbone of Sherpa’s economy and around 40% of the country’s revenue relies on tourism. The earthquake didn’t affect my decision, not even a bit. Infact, it made me more certain and resolved.
I was in constant touch with intrepid throughout the weeks leading up to my scheduled journey and they ensured me that all the regions are safe. Builders and engineers had been given lodges. Kathmandu was cleaner more than ever before.There was absolutely no reason behind not going to Nepal at that moment.
So there I was, sitting on a plane with no reservations. A nepali girl named Goma was seated next to me. She seemed very pleased to see me traveling to her country. On the way, she cups my cheeks in her palms and says, “Thank you for coming to Nepal and helping my country”.
As per my schedule, I moved forward to my hotel in Thamel. The drive to thamel is enthralling. The streets are so vibrant and radiant. One cannot actually believe the fact that the place is pulling itself out of the rubbles of ruins. I could see no damage caused by the earthquake until the 30 minutes of the journey, until my guide Mr. Ram Bahadur Moktan, indicated a previous palace-cum-museum.”The gates are destroyed but we are getting it back”, says Ram Bahadur.
After Settling down my luggages, Ram Bahadur introduced me to the group who accompanied me in my expedition to the base Camp. The group comprised of 4 australians.
When I booked the trip few months back, the group had been full.A couple of Canadians, a few English, the ever-present Aussies. It was a drop down from 16 people to only 5 of us now. I felt intensely saddened to see the shrinked numbers.
Anyways, then I met my australian group members and bonded with them instantly. We even loved calling ourselves “The Everest expendables”.Ram Bahadur told us that we were the first group of brave people to be going to the Everest Base Camp after the Earthquake. We bonded over some bottles of beer and the night ended on a great note.
The next morning, we headed towards the Kathmandu domestic airport to take a flight to Lukla Airport- the starting destination for the Himalayan trek. But luck was not in our favor as the flight eventually got cancelled due to bad weather. We returned back to our hotel in Thamel for one more bonding over beer and ended the day. Thankfully, our flight was right on time the next day.
Flying above the clouds, over the green gullies shrouded in mist and watching the aerial view of the sun rising slowly – there truly is a different world up in the sky. Lukla airport is considered one of the most dangerous airports in the world with its runaway being tenth of the standard size. Having known that, our nerves were a little heightened.
After a quick refreshment in the nearby lodge, we geared up for our very first trek of 3 hours. We were accompanied by our assistant guide- Sanjay, our lead porter- Surya and of course Ram. 3 of them were our guiding lights for the next 11 days. There were 3 other porters to carry our huge backpack. We carried our daypack which included water bottles, water purifying tablets, wet weather gear and copious amounts of SPF50 sun block.
Finally, after a 3 hours trek we arrived at our first stop named Phakding, at an altitude of 2610m. We stayed there for the rest of the night. After discussing our plan for the next day over supper, we called it off a night.
The next day, we set off for a 6 hour of trek full of ascents and descents. We were even told that the last 2 hours was going to be solid uphill. After getting all pumped up, we headed towards our second destination -> Namche Bazaar(the administrative center of the Khumbu region).
We had crossed 5 swing bridges on the way.The walk was exhausting and tiring to be honest but it sure was not endless. Our guides assured us that there are frequent stops for toilet, refreshments, shops, etc. Suddenly, Namche Bazaar was visible ahead. We breathed a sigh of relief on reaching the final destination for the day. Ram informed us that Namche Bazaar was facing power cut due to April Earthquake and monsoon.
To our utter surprise, the lodges were quite cosy and comfortable unlike what we had been told. Day 3 was a long 3 hour trek up to 3800 m and getting back to sleep another one night in Namche.
We encountered many Sherpas loaded with massive blankets and supplies. Human portage was the only mean of transportation up to the villages from the Lukla airport. We even encountered a teenage boy carrying a 113kg generator as cargo. Such a grueling work for a teenager!!
We reached a bunch of new places in the following days like Phortse Gaon at 3810m, Dingboche at 4410m and Lobuche at 4900. From crossing immense landslides to climbing high passes to visit monasteries and museums, we did it all.
Mountains like decadent chocolate brownies stretch before us, the tops dusted by dosings of icing sugar. Villages sprawl above and below us like little Monopoly board towns. Stacks of sticks and stones lay here and there, the remains of what used to be homes that crumbled in the earthquake and have not yet been rebuilt.
Day 8 was the most important and most awaited day. It was a day where we would be reaching our ultimate aim , The Everest Base Camp. We had a long day ahead of us – firstly three hours trek to Gorak Shep, then a short break and then again 3 hours trek to our stop at an altitude of 5364m.
There was an outburst of excitement upon reaching “This way to Everest Base Camp” signboards on our way. We were deeply and profoundly immersed in our footwork. Suddenly, after a particularly unsteady rise of rocks, Ram cries out, “Congratulations!”. Bewildered, we gazed at him to find out what was the sudden happiness all about. He smirked and declared that we have finally made it to the Everest Base Camp.Woo Hoo!!! Everyone started exclaiming with joy.
That place had an amazing power in itself. It was a bizarre feeling to be able to make it up to a place which holds so many tales of triumphs and tragedy. We made it to the pinnacle. There was no snow at the base camp itself as it was the end of monsoon season. The base camp was a stony space redolent of the moon. After snapping tons of pictures, it was time for us to head back. With a heavy heart and a mind full of the memories we had made so far, we bid farewell to the base camp.