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Almost home 🙂

I’ll pick up where I left off. Getting back to Kathmandu was weird, seeing cars again and being back out of the clean mountain air, anyway, we survived another bus ride through the mad traffic and got to the hotel, where it was definitely shower time (since 9th April, it was the 24th when we got to Katmandu, so almost 2 weeks since my last shower). I’m sure the water was brown as it came off me. After that I had a relaxing morning and sat and watched TV and read, until lunchtime, when Mike, Eric, Helene, and Myself went for lunch, finding the Danish Embassy en route, after that, some more relaxing before heading to Thamel to hand back the hire gear and have a wander about before dinner. Following a tasty buffalo steak in K-Too Steakhouse, we went to a Shisha bar, which also happened to have Laphroaig, very good times! They had a wee band playing covers too who were alright, and we followed this by a walk back to the hotel.

The next day was mainly spent being tourists around Thamell but we did have lunch in the “Garden of Dreams” which is a European style garden with fish ponds and such which was left to dereliction in the 60s and restored and opened to the public around 2006 with the help of the Austrian Government. It was a nice wee sanctuary away from the madness of the rest of Kathmandu. After that and some more lessons in the “Kathmandu school of haggling”, all my gifts were bought and it was time to present Phur with his tip (including the “Nepalese Flat” tshirt I couldn’t not buy him) and go for our very last supper and included wild boar.

The next morning we were up bright and early (as usual) to catch our flight out of Nepal. Early in the morning seems to avoid most of the madness on Kathmandu’s roads (top tip right there) and after much queuing and 6 or 7 security checks, I was sat down in the plane ready to go to Delhi. The flight was uneventful but must have been a different route because the ground was a lot less flat underneath the plane this time (or maybe I had been sat on the wrong side for terrain on the way out).

On arrival in Delhi we got a bus to the terminal and then queued before heading through security and I went to the bar where some under-age drinking may have been done. There was a sign that said liquor should not be served to under 25s. Ah well, then it was time to board the flight back to Heathrow and it’s famous immigration queues, which were even long for “British” folk.

After saying goodbye to David and Mike I bought some Irn Bru and got the bus to Mr Hindshaw’s house, I somewhat overshot the bus stop but after a short trip in the Punto we were at his classy pad.

He lives next to some guy called Dave.

The next day was fairly unexciting, just watching TV and such, then a McD’s on the way to Gatwick and a long wait before catching the old sleazyjet flight to sunny Glasgow and then onwards to sitting on this here train.

Some beautifully ironic junk mail I came home to .

Even more beardy than usual

Fin!

 

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So here I am “sitting in the terminal bar, wasting my spare change” as Jaya The Cat once said. I’m waiting for some Guinness to come.

And here it is!

Anyways, now fuel by Ireland’s finest export and a motivational AB phonecall I can tell you about the past few days.

The 23rd was our last day on trek, and a “Nepalese Flat” walk back to Lukla with the last stretch being very uphill for a while, but easy enough (back in the relatively thick air of 2800m, being acclimatised now to much higher). After we arrived at the teahouse, we sat about for a while then it was time for the obligatory tea and biscuits. Kwality biscuits this time.

Nepalese know the correct spelling!

Anyways, after this, it was time to tip our sherpa team, and our old, unwanted trekking gear got doled out between them. They deserved it, they were fantastic the whole trip!

The dream team! From L to R: Dawa, Phur, Dome, Kami, Santa, ????

Them plus the westerners.

After that we took Dome to get new shoes because his old ones were broken, and after he’d chosen, we took him to the World’s highest (probably?) Scottish Pub to celebrate, we even played pool,

The only proof that It was a Scottish Pub!

After this joy, it was back to the teahouse for our last supper of MEAT! (chicken sizzler, tasty stuff, which was preceeded by the famous Sherpa Stew, which the sherpas don’t eat, funnily). This was followed by rum punch, and eventually Bagpiper Whisky so it got mildly drunken. Good times.

The next morning I was up early so I went outside and stared at the mountains for a while and then had breakfast, after which it was time to go to the airport for our flight back to Kathmandu. After being given scarves by Phur’s uncle (who runs the teahouse we were staying at/ causing a drunken scene in) we wandered down to the airport and said goodbye to Dawa and Dome, and went throughsecurity to the highly modern departure loung with hot and cold running water in the toilets.

Could be worse, could be Paris Beauvais!

I forgot a point about the Scottish Pub actually, the second authenic point about it was that the toilet was almost an exact replica of “that” toilet out of trainspotting.

Anyways, time to board the flight and I got on the Staboard side, which is the good side for the flight back, and wow, they were right, the views were AMAZING. Luckily my camera was working and I made a wee video of the flight back.

Well, my writing technique* knows no bounds. Keeping you in suspense for a whole day! Anyways, I was going to talk about how it’s good to see the benefits to the local people  (ie. schools and hospitals etc.) of all the tourism that their mountains generate.

Onto today’s activities, after a leisurely outdoor breakfast, we went to Khumjung Monastery, where we didn’t even have to take our shoes off to go inside and could take pictures inside, including of the famous

YETI SCALP

Exciting stuff, the story goes that the villagers received it as a gift from the villagers of Thame and were so unimpressed that they kicked it around the streets for a while until giving it to the monastery.

After the monastery, it was time to leave Khumjung and head uphill to the Everest View Hotel, the highest hotel in the world, where I had a whisky, and we sat for a while on the terrace

and posed

taking in the view of, guess what, Everest. After the drinks were finished and we’d soaked in enough view we headed down past Syangboche airstrip (again) towards Namche, almost 2 weeks after we left the place, and returned to the same teahouse as we stayed at for our lunch and did some internetting and a wee bit of shopping. After that, it was time to head back the way we came which seems so long ago, but yet, not very long at all, weird.

Anyway, we stopped at the National Park post so David and I could get certificates of trekking, the rest weren’t so vain. We headed onwards and downwards, avoiding large trains of porters, Dyokyos, horses and tourists, until we reached the high bridge, after which the trail seemed to quieten down. After this it wasn’t too far until we reached Dawa’s family’s teahouse and stopped for a quick rest and tea there, which let Dawa see his kid before heading onwards to Monzo, only about half an hour away, where we stop for tonight before the final push for Lukla tomorrow.

*again, apologies.

 

Another pleasant walk today, in the warm sunshine from Thame to Syangboche airstrip, even passing through a place we had been before, Phurte, which  we had gone to on our afternoon walk from Namche on our acclimatization day a mere 13 days ago. That means that we’ll be visiting Namche again 2 weeks after we left, with only 5 nights left in Nepal now we’re seeing a slightly different side here in Khumjung, but I’ll write about that in a bit. (Check my writer’s technique* there, suspense and everything).

After a pleasant stroll on “Nepalese Flat” ground (actually, probably more downhill  than up, but I’ll check that later) to Phurte where we had some tasty lemon tea. It was a steady climb from here up to Syangboche airstrip, where we had lunch in a teahouse overlooking the airstrip (Syangboche’s answer to Tennent’s Last Stand I guess). Syangboche must be the only airport in the world where Yaks, porters carrying stuff (including windows), tourists, children and small dogs are allowed to roam freely on the runway.

Well, I say runway.

Luckily, there aren’t many planes to interrup this. I guess there must be some warning signal other than being chopped to bits by a propeller. Do planes have horns? Oh, I forgot, this morning, after discovering I had signal and sending a quick text to AB, we visited the Hydro Power station, winner of the Tank Award for

Best Decorated Power Station

We had a look inside and found they had two impressive generators and a plentiful supply of Glenfiddich. This station supplies power to the whole Thame Valley, down as far as Namche, and was built with help from the Austrian Government. It was weird seeing power lines again, and they’re wired without Kathmandu madness, must be the Germanic influence.

Back to wherever I was, ah yes, after lunch in “Everest’s last stand”, we headed uphill once more towards Kunde and the Hillary Hospital, where we got a short talk about it from one of the doctors there. They mainly treat locals here, as the tourists have insurance which will pay  for them to get helicoptered off to Kathmandu if they become ill. After this it started raining, so the trip to the monastery, (with it’s famous yeti scalp) was postponed until tomorrow, we made our way quickly to the teahouse. We were recommended a good bakery to go to so we went there for some coffee and a croissant. Then online to inform the world that I’m not, in fact, dead. (Of course, making sure especially that Aileen knows this)

After that it was back to the teahouse for… tea. It brightened up during this staple of the trekking day, so we went off to look at the Hillary School

If you’re in full use of your faculties you may have noticed a similarity between the school and the hospital. They were both funded by the Sir Edmund Hillar foundation. Sir Edmund was a man from New Zealand (who also happened to be, along with Tenzing Norgay Sherpa, the first person to summit Mt. Everest, or at least the first to summit and make it back down).

Sir Ed, in Kwality knitwear

He’s held in high regard in these parts, because after his successful ascent of Everest he gave a lot back to the local people, he asked them what they would like and they said education and healthcare, so they got schools and hospitals from money raised by Hillary.

Dinnertime soon, I’m sure I had more to write about today, but maybe later. I’m haveing macaroni soup for dinner, which sounds interesting.

*This probably offends actual writers greatly, sorry.

Today was an easy walk, mostly downhill for around 3 hours.

We saw our first tree for 10 days!

It was a momentous occasion. The land down here seems much more green and fertile. I guess that’s because it’s a bit warmer, today was definitely a tshirt day. Also on our way along we saw a

RUNAWAY YAK!

We’re back to extreme luxury today after last night’s rather basic, but nice enough, teahouse. Here there’s a TV, and even flushing toilets, serious amounts of luxury. After lunch, and a wee bit of lazing about we walked up to the monastery, which was quite impressively built on a hillside, and impressive inside as usually seems to be the case.

It’s a week until I arrive home in Gourock, I miss home a bit, and especially Aileen. I hope she’s not missing me too much, I should be able to get online tomorrow, I’ve just realised it’s been a week since I texted from base camp, but even longer since I got a message from her. Anyway, not long now, if not tomorrow definitely in Namche the next day.

I’m still really enjoying being here though, it’s a really amazing place. Even though we’re away from the really big mountains now the mountains round here are still huge. Also the added bonus that it should be all easy days from now on.

It was a early start this morning to do the last of our 3 high passes, the Renjo La. The morning started off misty but the sun burnt through the mist as we were having breakfast and it turned into the usual beautiful day we’ve become used to.

The walk started off easily along a path at the side of the lake but then soon started climbing a bit steeper onto snowier ground, nothing too taxing though and we had plenty of stops to enjoy our best views of Everest so far, and probably of the entire holiday. It actually looked like the highest mountain today, Gokyo is definitely the place to go in Nepal.

Another shot for the Gokyo Tourist Board

After some walking through the snow, which is good fun, and very pretty, it was time for the final climb up to the summit of the pass, which was quite steep, but didnt takke long. The top was good and we sat around for a while and took photos and such and I gawped at the phenomenal view, amazing on both sides. I even had a wee scramble up to the absolute summit,

with the obligatory photo.

After this, it was time to go down the other side descending what is possibly the world’s biggest staircase, which was very impressive, there were some absolutely massive rocks that have been somehow put on the hillside to form the steps, After this, it was a relatively flat walk along grassland and even some desert-like sand. We saw some small stone huts that the Yak men use in the summer as the Renzo pass is a major Yak route to grazing grounds. After this flatness there was quite a steep, knee tester of a descent down to Lungde, which is a small, but drawn out village, with mainly stone, croft type looking houses. Also, another pizza thursday was successfully observed :).
.

Woke up well rested again today and had a decadent breakfast of porridge and cheese on toast (Note: the porridge was seperate from the cheese on toast, otherwise the breakfast would not have been decadent, it would just have been foul).

After these delights it was time for a short (2 hour) walk to Gokyo. Our walk was mainly over the Ngozumba (pronounced Nawgawzoomba) Glacier, from which we had views of Cho Oyu and some smaller peaks. After climbing up out of the glacier, (after a short period of very fast walking to clear a section of falling rocks) about 5 minutes of walking on flat grassy land we looked down over Gokyo, hands down winner of the “prettiest place we have visited so far” award.

OK, not quite our first view of Gokyo, but still, what a location.

As you can see, it’s fairly amazing (Note – I hope the Gokyo tourist board will be sending me a large cheque soon). It’s surrounded by mountains, (surprise surprise) and overlooking a (by March) partially frozen lake, the unfrozen bit is a bright turquoise in colour, pretty amazing.

On with the trekking story, after some tasty hot powdered mango juice and a small rest Mike, David, Dawa and I set off to climb Gokyo Ri. Helene and Eric were feeling a bit under the weather today so decided not to do the hike uphill. Talking of weather, it seems to have been fairly predictible up here in the Khumbu region usually. Only one day so far hasn’t started in bright sunshine, and eveno on that day it brigtened up quickly (after we had started off kitted up in full waterproof gear). It is usually bright in the morning and then around 3pm the clouds come and and sometimes there is a little snow, it gets windier in the afternoon too. But anyway, I digress, Gokyo Ri, it’s around 5300m (with the village being at around 4800m). It was quite a steep climb up, I really struggled for breath walking near the top, but it was well worth the extra effort for the stunning views, both on the way and from the top.

Insert “stunning view” picture here

After some photies and seeing a couple of sparrow type birds and also Dawa making a few phone calls. The locals seem to get signal everywhere here, but the network Orange use in Nepal must be a bit crap as the only time I’ve had signal on trek has been at Everest Base Camp.

After these delights it was time to head back down to the teahouse for lunch, and it was the perennial favourite, Sherpa Stew, with the added bonus of cheese and fried SPAM. Top. After that we went and looked at our room, the best so far, only missing a bin. It has the extra bonus of

Panda Wallpaper!

It also wins the room with a view competition as it looks right out over the lake

As I said, Gokyo Tourist board, cheque please

After a wee bit of sitting around, Mike and I decided to walk around the lake. As we started, we found ourselves walking with a small group of Nepalese Army soldiers who were quite friendly really. We soon turned to go round the lake as they headed straight on in the direction of Namche. The walk around was quite nice covering all types of terrain, including snow tracks, a section of the ice on the lake itself (which was well checked beforehand), some bog, and even a beach.

Sadly, I hadn’t packed my bucket and spade

There was even a wee shrine beside the lake. After we had walked round, it was time for some tea and biscuits back at the teahouse. We even ordered a cake for later tonight, we decided a celebration was in order (for no apparent reason whatsoever), good times.

In other news, our plans have changed slightly. We were meant to be staying here in Gokyo for two nights. Walking here one day and hiking up Gokyo Ri the next, but after checking the weather  forecast Phur has decided it’s a better plan to cross Renzo La pass tomorrow as the weather won’t be as good the next day. The extra day will be spent in khumjung visiting a monastery where they keep a yeti scalp and also the five star everest view hotel, apparently the highest hotel in the world. Exciting eh?