(to be continued)
Everest Base Camp Trek
Day 1 Part 1: Kathmandu (1440m) → Ramechhap Airport (474 m).
As the flight from Kathmandu Airport to Lukla was affected by the high influx of stop-over flights, plans were changed and the flight was to be taken from Ramechhap Airport instead.
I woke up at around 1.40am to comb the streets for the minivan. While I was just dragging myself out to start the day, there were still many people awake and having no end to their night parties and drunken high.
The driver and coordinator were uncontactable. A group of us trekkers were patiently waiting by the roadside- with a few exchanges of sleepy conversations to pass time. It was based on trust and telepathy to have found the right vehicle.
On the way to Ramechhap Airport, the view was beautiful even though it was limitedly framed by the windows. It was heartening to be reminded that there's more out of the frame and much more beauty that I have yet experienced.
It was tedious that a 25 minutes direct journey to Lukla became an 8 hours one. But I was thankful for the helpful staff, for problems resolved, and that many things fell into place for us to reach Lukla safely before noon.
btw my phone clocked more than 10k steps from the rocky ride.
Shot on 15 October 2019, with Sony A7iii and Huawei P20 Pro
Day 1 Part 2: Ramechhap airport (474 m) → Tenzing Hillary Airport (2860m).
After a series of delay, bag checks and hoping that my survivor packet of MnMs can withstand the crushing baggage piles, I stood by the flying grounds and watched each plane land and take off, one by one. It's my first time on a propeller plane.
The plane gracefully glid above mountain peaks like a gust of wind. The calmness completely eased that it was going to land at Lukla's most dangerous airport in the world. I enjoyed the view and the caramel sweet melting in my mouth, as I played "Clouds" in my head- a song that 17-y/o Zach Sobiech recorded for his family and friends in his final months fighting against bone cancer:
"I fell down, down, down
into this dark and lonely hole.
There was no one there to care about me anymore.
And I needed a way to climb and grab a hold of the edge.
You were sitting there holding a rope
and we'll go up, up, up,
but I'll fly a little higher,
go up in the clouds because the view is a little nicer.
Up here my dear,
it won't be long now, it won't be long now.
When we get back on land,
well I'll never get my chance.
Be ready to live and it'll be ripped right out of my hands.
And maybe someday we'll take a little ride-
go up, up, up and everything will be just fine.".
Shot on 15 October 2019, with Sony A7iii.
Day 1 Part 3: Lukla (2800m) → Phakding (2610m) → Monjo (2835m)
The usual route for Day 1 is to start at Lukla and to end at Phakding, but plans were amended to an extension of ~12.5km trek, ending at Monjo, in view of easing Day 2’s trek.
Upon alighting the propeller plane at Lukla, I munched on a Mars bar instead of having a lengthy breakfast, as the goal was to reach Phakding in time for lunch (and to not create a domino effect of delay in the long day’s trek). Lukla was quieter than what is expected of the main start/end of the EBC trek- as it was 10+am, when trekkers have already embarked on the trek, or that it was too early to receive the survivors who have completed the entire EBC trek. With NSR2000 and a passport photo, a hardcopy of Sagarmatha National Park Entry Permit was obtained in Lukla.
Leaving Lukla, I had my first encounter of the countless Yaks, the mountainous sights, suspension bridges, flowing waters, tea houses and people who resided in that region. There were more and more little stories at every point- passing by fellow trekkers, porters and many tea houses that made the trek a less lonely journey. At Phakding, I gobbled down my first proper meal of the EBC trek- a comforting bowl of plain noodles+egg and a plate of potato momo(dumplings). This was the start to me avoiding all meat (and possible food poisoning (sian but i still kena-ed at Day 8 LOL)). I was quite tired from the long morning, but I wanted to stick to the plan.
From Phakding to Monjo, I crossed the second out of the 9 suspension bridges of the EBC Trek. I enjoyed the view, and prayed that I could sustain my excitement and optimism for the remaining trip. As Monjo was not a common destination for Day 1, it was a calm and peaceful town that I called it a day at. Resting at the slightly warmer lounge, that was right beside the steamy kitchen, I had the same bowl of soupy noodles and a cup of ginger tea that warmed my stomach and my homesick-heart. Snuggled under the quilt, I knew that it was a good Day 1, and good courage to have embarked on an experience that I had set out to complete.
Shot on 15 October 2019, with Sony A7iii and Huawei P20 Pro.
Prior to the trip, I've read reviews mentioning the danger of Everest Base Camp trek suspension bridges. But I felt very safe crossing the 9 suspension bridges. The bridges only swayed when supporting large weight of trekkers/ yaks. There was nothing dramatic like <slow-mo camera tracks> broken pieces of bridge falling into the waters.
The bridges were situated in very different settings; although all got tree, all long n all v high. Maybe it felt different because at every point, I was in a different mood, physical state and I thought about different things. There were bridges with views and breezes that temporarily took away my discomfort; bridges crossed when I only had the day's destination in mind; bridges that I gazed at the blue waters gush and splash.
I have experienced the bridges different from the reviewers, and at different times, my experiences were different too. Experiences are subjective and I have been learning to acknowledge that I am entitled to have opinions; to feel-be happy, angry, upset etc; to have my preferences, to simply be myself and owning me.
Things in life like the bridge may be scary for some, and other things in life are scary for me; there are people whom I like but others don't, there are things that matter to me that don't matter to others. There is no need to bridge the gaps, and it can always remain unique as we cross valleys, and journey towards more.
Shot on 15-16 October 2019- Day 1 and Day 2 of EBC Trek,
Lukla (2800m)> Monjo (2835m)> Namche Bazaar (3440m), with Sony A7iii and Huawei P20 Pro
Day 2 Part 1: Monjo (2835m) → Namche Bazaar (3440m).
Downed lots of water to hydrate myself before reluctantly leaving my warm bed (good job body heat). Stood up to roll up the sleeping bag and noticed my calves were aching. “Wow naise day 2 ache liao.”
The lounge was busy in the morning, as most of the trekkers woke up at around the same time to embark on the day. After a hot bowl of milky oats and the teahouse payment made, I hopped on the stream of trekkers up this steep incline of altitude for the day. There were numerous suspension bridges on the way to Namche, adorned with tattered prayer flags, hammered by the wind. Although the flags are flapping turbulently, crossing the bridge, there was a strange calm in the air, juxtaposed with the sounds of the rushing glacial river below. I was a tiny human suspended in the middle of towering mountains. I was often in awe.
Took it slow during the infamous steep ascent to ease into the new altitude (budden also cos I couldn't go any faster LOL). Friendly greetings and encouragement from fellow hikers and a big doggo (that reminded me of Blackie :) ) warmed my heart in the cold, and gave me a little extra push when ever the thought of “wahbiang the steps how can so many one” crossed my mind.
At the end of climbing up the infinite number of steps, I was heartened to catch a glimpse of Namche Bazaar- finally, the destination of Day 2. So thankful that I didn't roll down the steps. (if not need to climb back extra)
Shot on 16 October 2019, with Sony A7iii+Tamron 28-75 and Huawei P20 Pro.
Day 2 Part 2: Namche Bazaar (3440m).
Upon reaching Namche Bazaar, I whipped out my offline google maps to locate where Panorama lodge was. Namche Bazaar was shaped like a basin and the accommodation was located near the rim. While climbing up, I walked through the town and wondered how there could be so much development in a remote place. But after a few steps, I stopped wondering about anything. My body and my 9.5kg bag felt extraordinarily heavy. So heavy that my chest felt so tight, I could barely breathe, my head was light, I felt so weak. I dropped myself on a random step, leaning again the fences and repeatedly gasped hard for air like a fish gasping out on land. I sipped on water, closed my eyes and regulated my breathing. Inhale, exhale, inhale… The faintness and breathlessness reduced. I rested enough to gain enough strength to inch slowly towards the lodging. And upon speaking to Ming Mag, the lovely lodge owner, who has witnessed many cases of altitude sickness, sian, I guess, altitude sickness had hit me at a much lower altitude and earlier than I expected.
After taking out my soaking wet socks and a few hours of adequate rest (+hearty tomato soup!!), I was well enough to take a short walk around the area for a breather. There were interesting sights around- a school, a local coffee shop, hidden streets with wall paintings, shy children, and most memorably, the overview of Namche Bazaar. The little building blocks looked so much like the plastic monopoly houses, except, more colorful, more unique, and built to withstand the harsh weather changes through the year. The thick clouds quickly loomed over and headed back to the lodging, bringing back many photos to whatsapp to my parents, hoping that they could experience this trip, without the difficulty of trekking haha.
Shot on 16 October 2019, with Sony A7iii+Tamron 28-75 and Huawei P20 Pro.
Day 3 Part 1: Namche Bazaar (3440m) → Thame (3800m).
Sometimes life seems hard to bear,
Full of sorrow, trouble and woe.
It’s then I have to remember
That it’s in the valleys I grow.
If I always stayed on the mountain top
And never experienced pain,
I would never appreciate God’s love
And would be living in vain.
I have so much to learn
And my growth is very slow.
Sometimes I need the mountain tops,
But it’s in the valleys I grow.
I do not always understand
Why things happen as they do.
But I am very sure of one thing.
My Lord will see me through.
My little valleys are nothing
When I picture Christ on the cross.
He went through the valley of death;
His victory was Satan’s loss.
Forgive me Lord, for complaining
When I’m feeling so very low.
Just give me a gentle reminder
That it’s in the valleys I grow.
Continue to strengthen me, Lord
And use my life each day
To share your love with others
And help them find their way.
Thank you for valleys,
Lord For this one thing I know.
The mountain tops are glorious
But it’s in the valleys I grow!
by Jane Eggleston
Shot on 17 October 2019, with Huawei P20 Pro.
With this Japanese man (who introduced himself to be 25 years old), there were lots of chunky english and hand signs conversing over the dining table. We laughed on high altitude thin air when we still couldn't understand each other after trying so hard to verbalise or act it out. Aside the language barrier, we could still share experiences, smiles and well wishes for the remaining journey.
But I could definitely understand when he exclaimed, "drink rum, no cold! drink rum, happy!"
Be it denial, blithe, acceptance, carefreeness...
Worry less, take it easy.
First shot is of him sober the next morning, taking a break while sipping on a new bottle of rum.
Shot out of focus when my cold hands were still trembling in the heated lounge,
on 18 October 2019- Day 4 of EBC Trek, Thyangboche (3860m), with Sony A7iii
There was a difficult part of the trek to Lobuche that I was barely breathing enough while dragging myself up a steep uphill. Thick mist loomed over the hill, like how I felt about the EBC trek and other emo life situations at that time- I couldn’t see the end.
Upon dropping my belongings at the Lobuche teahouse, I resisted the urge to nauseate at the lounge, and decided to use the remaining energy I had to mentally disconnect from my physical discomfort of altitude sickness. Swinging the exit door open, was a cold Khumbu breeze greeting before strolling around the small settlement with my camera.
The locals were friendly and the snowy mountains were calming. I felt warmer moving around with every bootprint imprinted on the thick white snow. I gazed at the carefree chases of the wild dogs and the smoke that guided me to peer over kitchen windows of dinner preparations.
I immersed in these simple narratives and there was nothing else on my mind.
I couldn’t see the end, but I saw the present.
The present was uncomfortable and upsetting, and the present was captivating and beautiful- it calmed the dread, discomfort and sadness.
Take a break and be at peace.
When the end is unclear, there is always still a part that is less unbearable.
Shot on 21 October 2019- Day 7 EBC Trek, Lobuche (4910m) with Sony A7iii.