11th day of trek, 23th of December 2010
Lobuche (4.910 m alt) – Phorse (3.810 m alt.)
After a new sleepless night - admire my face!! - and an early start from Lobuche, today was a terrible long day. It is so strange to read about „long hours“, isn’t it? Because one hour will always have 60 minutes, but sometimes the 60 minutes are shorter or longer. The group of 12 Americans (Exodus Group) and their army of porters began at 5:30 in the morning to prepare for their start, so my chances to get a short sleep were killed and this can give you a twitter. But .... I am in the middle of Himalayas, I enjoy these and I ignore the lack of common sense or respect which the people manage all the time.
Terrible cold, I almost feel my guts as being cold inside my body, can you imagine this?! Can you imagine how it is to feel your own shit inside you? Yeh, I know, it sounds disgusting, but it is so real. Last night I didn’t go outside to the toilet, so I used the plastic bin and I washed it up in the morning, it was no problem. You have to find solutions when you meet extreme conditions and I remember those cold nights in Bulgary at about 3.000 meters when you had no possibility than going outside in the snow for the toilet at minus 25 degrees Celsius, day or night!
Exodus group left the hotel before 8 a.m. going to Ghorak Shep and further to the Everest Base Camp. I didn’t understand the reason of starting so early, as they stay over night in Ghorak Shep and they don’t carry any heavy luggage by themselves. But of course, a group of 12 people climb in a longer time than one ore 3 persons. They seemed to me pretty spoiled people, as all other Aussi and NZ-people I met so far in big groups. I have to say the I was impressed in an unpleasant way of their behaviour, lack of education and respect for the locals.
The only advantage because of the very early start of this group was a warm dinning room. The disadvantage was the noise and the dirty toilet in the morning. So, I wouldn’t trek in Himalaya in high season! The lodges are crowded and can be terrible unpleasant to stay together with all these kind of tourists from all around the world and to assist to various rude behaviors.
I left Lobuche at 7:45. The British couple and the Danish guy started 15 minutes later, they walk faster than me, so it would be a wonder if I can keep their rhythme today. I intend to stop in Pangboche anyway, but it depends how I manage to walk after so many sleepless nights and not so much food.
Wonderful morning. Pretty sad about leaving this corner of the world where I found a sort of indescribable fascination. To see such of glacier for the first time can be a revelation for life. I climbed two vulcanos-glaciers in Ecuador over 6.000 meter, but I never saw such a long glacier as here, in Himalaya, it total different, everything is different. About 8:30 the other 3 guys reached me and following them I observed we go on a different trail as the one I followed when I came alone to Lobuche, that day when I was worried about trekking the right trail. I still don’t know where I took the different path, but anyway I reached my destination in due time. We reached Thukla Pass at 9:45. Amazing place, really! It is worthy to spend here several hours just looking around you or reading or drawing or listening some music, then going back to Lobuche or climbing down to Dukla. The descent takes only 15 up to 20 minutes, while the ascent takes about one up to two hours. I saw again a local Sherpa climbing uphill and carrying a very big door on his back, this is so impressive .... I suppose it is for that ugly and big and in the future expensive hotel they build in Lobuche. I asked yesterday evening about it, as the manager of that future hotel came in our dinning room for a chat. They want to offer in that hotel luxus conditions for the tourists, including wireless in every room. I asked about the prices then. They think to charge about 20/25 UDS per person per night. I wonder if the high Himalaya does really need such of things which only destroy a natural habitat. Just think about the fact that the toilet water coming from a hotel which claims to be in Eco style flows directly into the only river which crosses Lobuche at almost 5.000 meters o.s.l. and pours down into another river and so on, up down, finally reaching the lower villages and the urban areas, the Capital city itself.
We had also a break of 10 minutes in Dukla, after only one hour and 15 minutes of walk. We crossed the river, followed the narrow path and after about another 15 minutes the path splited left to Dingboche and right to Periche. Entering the long valley which leads to Periche is pretty spectacular. On the right side are some fascinating mountains and summits and a contrasting combination of colors: dark brown and white snow, blue sky and grey rock. The valley is very similar with the valley from Muktinath to Jomson, but not so crazy windy in that day, I think we were lucky from this point of view.
For the next hour we really marched to reach Periche for lunch. Claire intended to reach Gokyo today, such a crazy idea! It must be about 14 hours from Lobuche to Gokyo, at least fourteen hours! But I didn’t comment, I just wanted to try to keep together so long I only could.
Entering dusty and windy Periche gives you another feeling of discovering a good preserved ancient small village, another isolated corner of this world where there are human beings and animals who live, eat, work, love, born children, speak and die. No local on the way. I filmed for some minutes. It looked like being left, nobody in the village. Only some cattles. There is a specie coming from a mixure of yaks and domestic cattles, used for carrying stuff especially, not such a long hair like the yaks and different constitution, different horns. Black, brown, white and mixed. Because of the icy irregular way we had to find entrance and to cross some yards. You don’t want to fall on that ice, having 15 or 20 kilos on your back, this is for sure.
11:15 – 12:15 – nice, but very small lunch in Periche (4.240 m). I had a cup of hot lemon tea (60 NRP), a cup of hot delicios seabuckthorn juice (absolutely delicios drink!) for 60 NRP and a Sherpa stew, my daily choice (280 NRP). To drink was much more important than to eat. I knew that I have a cheap lunch, I cann afford much better for the dinner. The breakfast in Lobuche eas 580 NRP, the lunch 400 NRP, so I had a rest of 1.000 NRP for my dinner and accommodation + some tip, of course. I take care to have the decent tip every day and I decide due to the hospitality conditions of the owner.
Leaving Periche started already too fast for me, I mean that in 5 minutes I already lost the others who didn’t care to wait for me at all. I stopped to shoot some pictures and this was enough to gain relevant distance between them and me. Hm .... I dislike these situations, but in that day I had a particular feeling I simply have to keep close to them. And it was a right feeling, I have to say it.
Claire was probably obsesed about reaching Gokyo, so they marched terrible fast. I needed about half an hour of almost running with my 19 kilos backpack to catch them, it was bad. Not to mention that I tried also a feeling of being upset because they didn’t wait for me at all. So, at about 1 p.m. I had every reason to feel physically exhausted. From Periche, you go down to cross a bridge, then steep up again, then you reach the large plateu in Orsho and you enter again the path to Pangboche until the point the way is splitting up to Upper Pangboche and left to Lower Pangboche, of course. The trail is so different! We went right, starting to climb to Upper Pangboche and looking down to the villages I crossed when I trekked from Tengboche to Dingboche.
When I had to stop again for a few minutes to drink some water, they dissapeared again and I run again up and down. I felt some disconfort about Peter who wasn’t happy about waiting for me, I saw him looking behind him several times. Crazy day. I reached them after 2 p.m. in Upper Pangboche, here they waited for me. It was much to early to stop here, but a little bit late to go further to Phorse, as we didn’t know exactly how many hours will take and how it is the trail, up or down?
As the trail up to here, the settlement of Upper Pangboche (3.930 m) was also quite different. Only one lodge, maybe 10 houses, isolated, ancestral picture, for sure not so often visited by the tourists. To cross this settlement needs about 10 minutes, not longer. Very-very narrow and steep settlement, you hardly could find a straight place to put a tent, for instant. I didn’t explore the village, but this was my impression, maybe I’m wrong. Down on left side the terraces of Pangboche maximize every cm of space on the mountainside. There is a gompa in the center, but we didn’t stop here.
We didn’t know what to decide: to stay over night here or to trek further on, taking the risks of a long segment without any other accommodation possibilities? We entered the first and probably the only lodge in the village. In the yard was an old Sherpa man with a very beautiful hut. Peter asked him, if he can take a picture of him. And the man said something about payment.
Then, Peter said “OK, thanks, than no picture.” It is somehow strange to pay somebody for taking a picture of him, it is not about the money itself, but rather about the value of the gesture and demnity. The old sun burnt Sherpa said “joke, joke” and he laughed in his way. So I also took a picture of him then.
Upstairs on the first floor of the lodge we discovered a very cosy dinning room. All the sun was inside like a crepuscular aura and all the warm colors of the manufactured pillows and carpets offered a real show of beauty. A tall Sherpa woman about 40-45 y.o. appeared. She didn’t know any English, but we asked about Phorse (3.810 m) and she communicated through clear gestures that we reach Phorse in about 2 hours and the trail is nicely descending.
So, we decided together to keep the group and to rush to Phorse, because in about one and half hour the sun will go away and it will be to cold. So, we were late in a way and started immediately. It was 2:20 as we left Upper Pangboche and the next almost 3 hours were terrible long, cold, windy and endless, on a terrible narrow wavy path. Crazy adventure, but we kept together and this was the best idea for us that afternoon, not only for myself.
The trail becomes a sort of sensational from the point it split between the both Pangboche. A lot of ascending, then descending again, the path is narrow, not even 1 m, you cannot follow this trail if you're suffering of altitude sickness. It is so spectacular, it throws you to heaven and down you to deep ravines, is stretches in front of you like an enormous anaconda. Sometimes you can see the next 800 m in front of you, waving into and outside the mountain, sometimes you see the trail in the cold shadow going down and up and you have no idea what is next behind that high point. You look behind and say “good bye” to the AmaDablam.
We all four marched in line, with Peter in front, me in the middle, Claire and Andy behind me. I cough and loose blood through my nose, but I sang the “Edelweiss”! I was in a sort of lost paradise, I must missed the sun and warm. We marched through thick white-gray-black clouds. The dusty narrow path threw me up to the heaven and all I could see 10 steps in front of me was a close horizon line and the blindness caused by sunlight that pierced the cloud on the trail.
We had to stop at half past three and to put some thick clothes on. The sun was almost gone, we marched 90% in the cold shadow and the trail seemed to be really endless. Behind me stretched out the last panorama of the entire Imja Khola Valley with AmaDablam on the sky, so I felt I have to enter a new stage of my trip. From that point we clearly decided to keep close together, it becam to creepy to stay alone on that trail in the coming dark.
After a while I took over the leading of the small group and it was more convenient for me as I wanted to film the trail without Peter’s legs. Unexpectedly it came a very steep zig-zag descend and I started to sing and to talk to myself: “This is crazy! They said nice trail to Phorse, only two hours, no problems! We're already marching since two hours and I am so tired, so much climb and so cold, I have terrible headaches.” I descended very carefully, filming in the same time, that was crazy indeed! I was so excited. Tired, sick, but excited, I enjoyed each moment and I wanted to keep for ever. It was a moment when I gave up to expect the end of this day and I felt prepared in my mind to walk entire night. I felt the taste of a new adventure. All around dark clouds and a rest of the sun light. Looking behind me I didn’t see Andy, Claire’s husband and I said we have to wait for him. We just came out from a high curve and could see about 200 meters behind us. And we waited for five minutes, but Andy didn’t came at all. It was strange, as he always was fast. Claire left her backpack on the spot and went back looking for him. It was everything OK, Andy was OK, he just stopped for some minutes because a sort of feeling sick and tired.
We met 2 men coming from the opposite direction. It was 3:40 p.m. and we asked how long would be to Phorse. They said: “Oh, Phorse, very close, fifteen minutes!”. Wow, only fifteen minutes? Great! After 20 minutes a young Sherpa woman coming from behind exceeded our group in full speed. I saw her coming and I started to film. At the moment she reached me I asked if we still have long way to Phorse and, without stopping, she said only “Phorse ja”, so it was a confirmation of the right direction at least. I didn’t stop my camera, but I increased my speed following her and keeping a visual distance from her. She stopped twice and looked to me, I didn’t know why. I talk to myself again, in a sort of irony: “Oh, yes, 15 minutes. Where are the 15 minutes? 25 minutes have passed since they said 15. Ah, of course, there are Nepali 15 minutes, this can be half an hour or one hour ....” but in that moment, as I stepped into a cloud and followed the path into a very tight curve I suddenly saw a blue roof of a house, somewhere away deep in a new valley!
Sensational scenery, we were for sure in another universe. A valley lost in clouds, some red and blue points seemed to be roofs of some stone buildings of a human settlement. The others were behind me about 300 m so I stopped and said: “I see a roof!!”. In that moment, the Sherpa woman in front of me had a panic reaction, she probably didn’t expect my voice sound, she stopped and turn to me and made desperate gestures saying “no pictures!”, so I just stopped my camera.
It was 4:30 as we reached Phorse. It was cloudy, we were at 3.810 m high deep in the clouds, we couldn’t see much from the entire village, only the steps in front of us on the descending path. We didn’t find any entrance in the village, so we just climbed down a little bit chaotic, entering a yard, crossing a stone fence. We saw a large red roof and a large yard, so we supposed that could be a lodge. As we got closer to the lodge at our feet a very friendly Sherpa woman came outside and it was the warmest welcome I ever met in my life! Due to her reactions I realized she didn’t met tourists since long time and she has exceptional happy to have guests again.
Everything was perfect here. Very clean, a perfect toilet, even outside the building, she started immediately the fire in the dinning room, so in 10 minutes was a nice atmosphere inside. We were the only guests. I could charge my camera battery here, 150 NRP/hour. I felt so terrible well in this place, that I let also the biggest amount for only one evening: 2.200 NRP!!
She stayed with us the entire evening, talking about her family and the building of this lodge during 6 years. She still have plans to extend the lodge, so until it will be ready it will take 4 years longer. I enjoyed staying with her in her kitchen while she prepared our food. One of her children was studying in America. Her husband and son were on the way to Periche, the two men we met on our trail. She was very worried about them, as they started very late and the way to Periche was terrible long in the dark evening and her husband had a little to much alcohol.
I was amazed to hear how much money the people in the heart of Himalaya can manage. The construction of her big lodge has cost so far about 40.000 USD. They don’t loan from the banks. They start renting a room, saving money, then expanding the house. Everything is made in long time, everything have to be carried up to here and it costs a lot of money.
I felt so well and so familiar that evening, despite the strong headaches. I also had my second bier on this trail, 330 ml for 350 rupies (5 USD!!). Thousand meters lower and 50 rupies cheaper than in Lobuche. I wished to stay there for the Christmas Evening, but not alone. The others wanted to reach Gokyo tomorrow. Being in such an isolated place, I said it is better to keep walking with the group. We all were very tired, in the dining room was very warm, we enjoyed the evening a lot. I went to bed about 9 p.m. and I was sure I will sleep over night, I was much to tired.
The best lodge, really! The best host, she really knows how to be pleasant for her guests.
the story of the 12th day: Christmas Eve
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