Sunday, June 17, 2012

Learning to Love Life's Lakpas!

Wooooowwww! What an amazing trek in the seriously heavenly Himalayan mountains of Nepal... I already miss it!  The peace, the quiet, the simplicity, the incomparable views, the burn!!! It was (is) off season now, but even still I decided on the lesser traveled, more difficult loop trek to Everest Base Camp via a route called Gokyo and across Chola Pass.  I ended with a new elevation crown (5550m!), some spectacular memories, some splendid days of thinking and writing and drawing and planning, some new friends, unforgettable vistas, a few new self-help priorities, and... I’m keen to say some sexy legs too!!!!  In final height we climbed up (and down) 3,260 meters, but I’d guess the actual climbing was three or probably more times that with all the ups and downs!  :). This blog is not only to share with you, but is also my own memory bank... so after 17 days of fabulousness, this entry is a doozy! May I suggest a nice hot cup of milk tea to accompany the read :). 

More or less the route!!
Day 1:  5am wake up, followed by 8.5 hours of weather waiting in the airport, totally made up for by a surprise switch to a helicopter so we could still get to our destination!!! We’re told flights from Kathmandu to Lukla are 50/50 chance this time of year, so when the helicopter became an option (at only $10 extra!) a group of us jumped at the alternative! First amazing intro to Nepal: we were flying between the mountains, at times just a few 100 feet from a cliff or a little mountain house. This my first ride in a ‘copter ever, and I lloooved it!! The most amazing thing (besides the ridiculously beautiful mix of mountains/ valleys/ cliffs/ rivers) is the clear amount of painstaking effort obvious in the terracing of the land and the little mountain houses strewn about everywhere!  There are no real roads.. some of these places the people would have to trek hours or days just to get home. Not to mention getting the materials there in the first place! Wow!
Lukla weather doesn’t allow us to land there, so around 4pm we touch down in a flower field on the edge of a cliff in a little village called Shurke: AMAZING!   Couldn’t have asked for a more classic lead-in to adventure... which is good because the next 2 hours were brutal!  In hindsight, this was actually the most brutal day of them all! My hired porter, Lakpa Sherpa, was supposed to meet me in Lukla, so my packing of two bags became a real burden here, seeing as how we’re not in Lukla!  With just 2 hours of sleep, only a granola bar and some nuts in my tummy, we set off.  A bag on my front and back proved a bit tricky for seeing where to step... especially considering the whole trek, aside from possibly 5 paces, was up!!! Helloooo Everest region!! Regardless of the torture that was, this area was like my heaven on earth: Incredibly beautiful natural scenery, perfectly mixed all over with my favorite architectural ‘style’: Quaint!!!!  A little over 1/2 way, my porter arrives to save the day! WOW, what a difference 25 extra pounds makes. It was like night and day that last bit, ending in Lukla for the best Nepali spring rolls ever, and a nice and surprisingly toasty warm first night.
Shurke: 2290 to Lukla: 2840,  +550
2 hours, 4-6pm
First Helicopter ride Ever!  Wweeeeee! 

Incredible views for sure, but imagine walking home to this! 

Day 2:   Wow, Nepal, I love you :). Fully rested and fed today, we trekked from Lukla, 2840, to Monjo, 2865.  Don’t let those numbers fool you, it’s up and down all day!  Not so bad though. We trek from 8:30 am to 3pm, me definitely being the slowest in the ‘group’.  Most of us from the plane left together, but that didn’t last but about 10 minutes!  For me, it’s an every-5-seconds-something-amazing-I-must-admire type of day :) I’m seriously overwhelmed by how gorgeous the landscape it, paired with the totally adorable tea houses all along the way. The visual pleasure is continuous, and it’s backed by this awe in admiration for how all this gets here!  The same way we are... trekking it in! As it’s off season, there really aren’t too many trekkers, which is nice, but there are still a ton of sherpas! Every single item up here is brought in on the back of yak, horse, or man. Mostly man... and a ton of them very young and with only sandals on :(.  It’s quite sad to see actually, but there’s the argument that if not for sherpas, there is little work in these parts, and really no livelihood!  I’m already planning to come back to Nepal some day, and I’m thinking to start a campaign called ‘Shoes for Sherpas’. Plan to send me your old tennies please!!!
Lukla, 2840 to Monjo: 2835, -5
6 hours, 8:45- 2:45

Adorable scene #223 today ;) 

This is more of a 'medium' size load.  At least this guy has shoes ;/
(ps..this pic is actually day 4)

Day 3: Momentus day! Today I was nervous... everyone had warned about the crazy climb to Namche Bazar, but I have to say, getting 10 hrs of sleep, carbed up, and with only one bag to carry makes a huge difference! It wasn’t a cake walk, (gaining over 600m) but it didn’t even compare to day one brutality! On trek, I walked w/ some horses for a while, and had my first and hopefully last horse fart in my face!! I laughed heartily out loud about that :)  Also a crazy sight, I watched a porter fall off a cliff!!! ackk! We ran to the edge and he had already popped up, not a scratch! Luckily it was only about 12-15ft. I swear he had a guardian angel... that could have had a lot different ending! :/  We arrived by 9:30am, so a short day (started at 7).  That was intentional as I wanted to get here to enjoy the most of the festivities... Yup... how lucky am I to be here during a festival?!?!!It’s the anniversary of the first Everest summit, so there are performances, fun little carnival games, food booths... a typical festival, Nepali style :)  Another super neat coincidence? Getting to be at the finish line of the Everest Marathon, which just so happens to be today also! Yaaaa... these people are running 26.2 miles from Everest base Camp here to Namche! Whoa! It’s the highest marathon in the world... and I might just make a wild guess one of the toughest too!! Insane... and impressive! I can’t say I  wasn’t a little incentivized.. but based on later days struggle with oxygen, I can’t even fathom running so high, making it all the more admirable! :).  Later I met some friends to watch the documentary, “Everest”. Soooo neat to watch it while being here. Summiting has gotten quite commercialized they say, but still a crazy feat. Maybe too crazy... I’m happy to just go to base camp :). After the movie, I’m not feeling so hot, so head back to my room to try and sleep off my first headache. Ended up napping till 11... woken up by booming tunes. From my window I can see the festival has turned into a mass dance party!!! Jump up in a flash to go join in!  Run into Caroline &Ash (helicopter buddies) and dance the night away!!! Learn some Nepalese moves, get dipped, joined a congo line, and of course jumped on the stage :) SOOOO fun! I love how no one is crowding or worried about looking cool (or so it seems)... it’s a free for all!! They love Justin Beiber, haaa!!  After about 2 hours, I called it a night when it started raining (which was fun too), but back at hotel meet my cool dude neighbors and chatted w/ them over an hour! Its a pretty safe bet to say most trekkers have some interesting stories!
Monjo, 2835 to Namche Bazar, 3440, +605 
2.5 hours, 7- 9:30am

One of three sweet bridges we crossed today!

The Everest marathon winners! Ridiculously impressive! 

Llama dance performance!

Midnight dance parrrrrrtaaaay!

Day 4: This is supposed to be an acclimatization day... but I’ve been here for over 24 hours, thats enough! I am a bit ‘anti-city’ ! This place is like any booming urban area, so its crazy that you can only arrive by hiking!  I feel fine, the next town is only 200m higher than this, and nature calls!!!   It was a beautiful day, and here we split off from the frequented EBC trail to the Gokyo trail (mostly up!). We crossed maybe 3 porters, not one other tourist! Yay! We pass thru a rhododendron forest (a few still blooming!), a delish smelling pine forest, and I saw my first Yak train!!  Yes, of course I shouted, “Yakkety yak, dont talk back!” hhhaaa :).  In the past I’ve been on hikes where I have been determined to get there, but today was not one of them! This is the nicest thing about altitude trekking. We have predetermined stops, limits to how far you can climb because of the need to acclimatize to the elevation. Thus being the case, some days could be quite short, so it absolutely becomes about the journey, not the destination. If you know you’ll only hike for 3 hours one day, why rush? So, I stop... alllll the time!:)  A water break, a snack break, a photo break, a this-is-beautiful-I-must-just-sit-and-take-this-in-a-while break!  After a hefty climb to a village called Monj, it dropped straight back down! I was uber glad to have walking sticks here...  preventative measures to save my knees and ankles and feet :). I’d soooooo rather go up!  I arrive to my favorite spot (looking back now), a teahouse on the river’s edge of Phortse Thanga.  I was one of only 2 patrons there, and spent a good deal of time sitting on the banks, just soaking it all in :). 
Namche Bazar, 3440 to Phortse Thanga, 3680, +240 
3.75 hours, 12:45- 4:30pm

How can you not just stop and watch this for a while? :) 

Day 5, May 31:   "Today was the most mentally amazzzzzzing day!!  I’ve always been one to enjoy the simplest things... but today was a flood of love love sweet loveeee for every rock, tree, flower, bird chirp, whiff of pine, cool breeze, sun ray on my face, waterfall view (of which there were 4 today!), and even the brutal sets of ascents. Why so much today?  I finished reading (devouring really) the book Siddhartha this morning, as recommended by my nomadic soulfriend Ryan. The thing that really makes a good book, is not so much that it teaches you new things, but it evokes emotions and feeling that were already in you. Simple but important reminders, of which we all can use sometimes. In one section of the book, Siddhartha is holding a rock, and talking about how the rock could evolve to become soil, and then maybe to a plant, and then to an animal, and then even to a human.  He says before he would have revered the rock only because it may eventually become a human. But over time he realized, and says, he loves it because it is a rock, as it is now, ‘it is already and always was everything’.  (Then he says his words sound silly when he says them to others, which I totally relate to also;)  I found this a beautiful analogy to life. Maybe strange sounding, but this was really beneficial for me today! As much as I try not to, I tend to spend a lot of time thinking about what might happen, what’s coming, what might be, rather than the beauty of that exact moment I’m in. In reality, everything in the future is absolutely unknown, even those things that seem certain, and it’s quite silly to spend so much time dreaming/wishing/dreading, or loving, what will be. Instead, just be. Love the simple and the unknown! I love surprises anyways:). The good and the bad ones, they all teach us something.  Oft times I contradict myself, sometimes set on the goal/future for sure, or some other contradiction, and I see that I do that because of some new thought or inspiration.  Just like today I was refreshed and rejuvenated and inspired by Siddhartha and River, it only takes but-a-one visual, one sentence, one conversation, one moment that can change the course of a day.  I don’t know what happens tomorrow, but right now I’m sitting on a rock wall, in the sun, looking at some dang fine mountains, a little stream with purple flowers along it, beautiful stacks of firewood (I love wood!), colorful buildings, and holding a well worn journal that let’s me express myself as foolishly as I want.  I am happy as can be :)." 
Phortse Thanga, 3680 to Dhole, 4110, +430 
2.75 hours, 11 - 1:45pm

Cutest window ever? I think so :) 

Day 6:
Today was a walk in the clouds! Literally... but not figuratively :).  We’ve reached the altitude where they are enveloping us- you can see them but not feel them, pretty neat! Not such an easy day physically though... I’ve developed a cold, a sinus type stuffy nose cold, where my nose is super congested but runny like a faucet still!  Not such a big deal?  Hmmm, well, except everywhere you look there are signs about High Altitude Sickness- a serious issue! I’m the highest I’ve ever been at this point (woohoo!) climbing  over 4000m, but I’ve got a slight headache, and have started having trouble sleeping!  I had to go slooow slow today! My heart rate was outrageous! I’ve had two incidents w/ my heart in my life: I was born w/ a hole in my heart, and then a few years back an EKG showed I had some ventricle issue. I ( or doctors) didn’t do anything for either and they both ‘healed’ themselves, but now whenever I feel it going crazy, I actually wonder if I’m giving myself a heart attack! Slow and steady it is :).  It was luckily quite sunshiny when we arrived to Maccherma, because it’s getting colder and colder as we ascend.  I did some laundry in the river, a few hours of rock hopping, but as night fell it got freeezzzing! I did some crossfit in my room to warm up!  Wow.. it is really June 1st? Just one month ago today I was sitting in the India Himalayas in a snow covered tent... so I’m grateful for this cute little teahouse :) 
Dhole, 4110 to Machherma, 4470, +360 
3 hours, 9- 12pm

Walking in the clouds :)
Day 7:
Listen to my body day!  I woke up feeling like balls :(.  Slept pretty terribly and with a grand headache, so today I will take a rest and acclimatize day.  Ended up being a super nice day filled with reading, writing, drawing, working on my business plans for Barefoot Village.  A bunch of people ended up showing up, so we had lots of international chats, a magic trick sharing, and book trades :)  The zillionth miscommunication with my porter means we’re pretty much out of money, so we’ve got to be on the cheap cheap for 5 more days till I can get to an ATM :(. Grrrrr.   With blowing my nose as much as I am, this creates a dilemma!!  I’ve never been a snot rag type person... kindof gross I think! But, when a roll of TP costs 5x more than a room for the night you do what you need to do! I still think I’m the luckiest person in the world, because up till now (and actually over the whole trip), this is the ONLY day there was not even a peak of sun, and it was the day I stayed inside w/ my book, journal and quite necessary cup of hot tea :). Yay! 
Machherma, 4470, Rest/ Acclimatization day 

International Teahouse party :)
Day 8:
Hallelujah! My prayers/ wishes/ thoughts to the universe work everytime! I woke not only feeling better, but to the most sunny day yet!!!! Thank you, thank you thank you!!!!  Started the day with my typical porridge breakfast, followed by the most fabulous trek to Gokyo! I walked w/ Julie today, an Australian gal, and she was a nice companion.  We took it slow and relaxed and w/ plenty of pictures:)   This route, to Gokyo, is the path less traveled by most Everest region trekkers, and I’m quite pleased by this, but perplexed:  since it’s amazing!  The first Gokyo lake (there are 6) is speckled with hundreds of the rock stacks, called cairns! It’s incredible!! I love love love it! ...and obligatorily I add rocks to quite a few:) I love how time spent looking at something beautiful seems like the best use of time :)
Since we got here with some sun to spare on arrival, I took my first and only shower on the whole trek. Haa! It was supposed to be ‘hot’ but I’d say lukewarm at best, and freeeeezzzzingg in the little outdoor house (worth it though.. my hair was seriously grease ball ;). I was curious how I would like teahouse trekking, where you stay in a simple lodge each night,  since it eliminates the true camping portion of hiking that I love... but I think this is the way to go (at least in cold weather that is) !!!! You’re still getting the hiking, the wilderness, the rawness... but you don’t have to set up a tent each night, delish hot food is made for just a few bucks, and your toes stay a bit warmer :) As we get higher they get less and less fancy.  It’s really just a room with a mattress.  There’s usually a hole for a toilet, a bucket of water for a sink, and if you pay extra you can get that boiled water bucket shower!   The food becomes more expensive as we climb, but the rooms are pretty much free. I never paid more than $1.20/night, and actually a few nights if you eat at their restaurant, you do stay for free :).  The rooms are cold, so come nighttime everyone gathers in the dining room around the center stove.  It looks like a wood stove, but if the name comes from the fuel source, then it’s a cow-and-yak-shit stove :).
Machherma, 4470, to Gokyo, 4790, +320   Side trek to Gokyo Lake 4 
3.75 hours, 7- 10:45pm, then 2.75 hrs, 12:15-3

Julie and I at Gokyo Lake #2!

Day 9:
“I’m sitting solo on top of Gokyo Ri right now, 5357m high, 360 degree panoramic views, 3 of the worlds tallest mountains perfectly visible in one of the clearest days yet!  We had a bit of a party up here earlier, which was fun, but this now, sitting here alone -- is pure unadulterated bliss!  I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many amazing peaks and the views down into the valleys, at the lakes and the glaciers-- holy shit I’m sooo lucky!!!  There are super neat cairns and prayer flags everywhere. Such a great day so far, and it’s only 9am! We started the trek at 4:15am-- intending to make it to the top for the sunrise. We didn’t quite make it (thanks to no oxygen!), but it was still amazing. Hiking up in the dark was quite spectacular, all the mountains, black silhouetted against the early morning blue haze sky! The hike was super tough, being it over 5000m meters I was stopping every few minutes to breath! It’s so strange when you don’t feel tired, your legs are okay, your mind wants to hurry, but your heart and lungs say ‘slllllow the f down’!  I think this is what it must be like to get old, your body and mind disagreeing! Over the last few hours everyone else has descended, but I stayed behind and had an uncontrollable mass gratitude session! I really can’t get over how many blessings I have. I decided my ultimate goal in life is to just try and become a better person everyday. I’ve been struggling w/ all sorts of emotions surrounding the fact that I don’t really trust or like my porter.  Everyday all I can do is acknowledge them more, and slowly but surely, like how you climb this mountain, plan to tackle them!“
Gokyo, 4790, to Gokyo Ri, 5357, +567, to Dragnag, 4700, -90
2 hours, 4:15- 6:15am, (45 return) then 1.75 hrs, 2- 3:45

Gokyo Ri party, all trekkers welcome :) 

Me and Everest on a perfectly clear day :) 

Day 10:
Wow = today. My favorite favorite day physically, a monstrous challenge of all sorts of terrain and the most intensely steep climb yet.... but definitely my worst day mentally as well! What a combo! :P. A number of my flaws/ weaknesses/ issues came out today: selfishness, greed, egotism.  Almost like a test of my goal the day before, I was pushed to the limit today, and didn’t do so well! Before it even began it started out rocky, as I tried to get out of going w/ a group the night before, but Lakpa insisted we had to for safety. Many many people had told us already of their crossing of the Chola pass solo or as two, so I became irritated that it seemed the real reason was just that he wanted to stay w/ his other porter pals.  In the morning, I had an emergency bathroom issue, making me late, so both the porters were in my room breathing down my neck that everyone was waiting for me... and I hate to dissappoint!! As we start walking, the stress was already creeping over me...  I need to retie my shoes, I need to take off my jacket, I want to stop and take a picture, and everyone is ahead ‘waiting’ on me! uggg! Such a mental struggle! I can’t get my brain off the subject:  This selfishness that I just want to do what I want, versus this guilt that I don’t want to bother the others and slow them down!  Plus then the ego gets involved too: oh they’ll think I’m not physically fit!  Lame! A bit later, Ash doesn’t feel so good, so falls back and we’re walking together, stopping frequently, and my spirits instantly lift as I’m not the only one dragging behind!  As we approach Chola Pass, I’m back to heaven--- it’s a 600m climb pretty much straight up, and barely a recognizable trail! What a challenge! I love love love this! At the top, we cross a sweet glacier where we’re basically walking on water! You can see the little streams just under the ice! Then going back down the other side I’m just as happy as can be as it’s ginormous rock hopping straight back down!!!! I’m sooo happy in a physical challenge! THEN, there’s another mental crash, as our porters lead some other trekkers in the wrong direction! :( At first I defend them vehemently. I’m not the biggest fan of Lakpa, but we’ve been mostly chummy and at this point I still feel its mostly a personality clash between us, but upon further dialogue, it comes out they DID do it purposely! I’m sooo upset and not really sure how to deal with this moral dilemma before me.   I have an emotional waterfall to my three other pals, Caroline, Ash & Julie, about the porters, and also admitting and sharing my struggles of my internal insecurities and weaknesses.  They are all sweet and understanding, and say no one cared or noticed me going slow. I knew this, it’s just my own internal ridiculousness, not wanting to be in the situation.  I’m a strange bird: half isolationist/half social butterfly, and when it comes to the situations where I have to merge them without me wanting to, Im all aflutter, stressed, brain crazy mess!!!  Uggg! The chat ended up being really good for me, to get it off my chest. I may be able to ‘act’ positive but the thing is I know my energy is not the same as when I’m really in a good place. This day was amazing because, one, it was an unmatched physical challenge (9 hours of hiking) and two, it really does reveal some things I’ve GOT to address-- finding a balance between being fiercely independent and being a people pleaser.  What a day! If anyone loves a challenge-- cross Chola Pass!!! 
Dragnag, 4700 to Chola Pass, 5368, +668, to Dzongla, 4830, -538, to Lobuche, 4910, +80
6.75 hours, 4:45- 11:30am, then 2.25 hrs, 1:15- 3:30

Straight up!!! Yes please! :)

Day 11:
Today was one of my shortest treks, less than 2 hours, and I did it 90% solo, which was splendid.  Once arrived to Gorek Shep, it was too cloudy to mount the vista peak, so I lapped up a day off.  For once I didn’t feel like writing, so followed my hotel people around trying to get them to give me duties, a forlorn attempt! No matter my sincerity in asking, the reply was ‘the guests don’t work’! So I made art instead :).  Painted a couple rocks and gave them to the owner, who was very sweet and actually gave me free tea twice :)  We’re located right on this cusp, looking down on the Khumbu Glacier... so it’s cold up here!  I’m again grateful for the teahouse trekking... so nice to have a warm (relatively!) place to spend the day!  Another reason why teahouse trekking rocks?  Not sure if it’s my age, my genetics, my water consumption, or the diamox pills (for altitude), but I’m having to pee like 3-4 times in the middle of the night! Uggggh! So... it’s bad enough climbing out of a comfy sleeping bag, at least Im not having to climb out of a tent!  Also, when your nose is plugged and you have limited oxygen, a few things become really hard, like brushing your teeth! I’m a foaming, gulping mess!  And when using the bathroom...  I didn’t realize it, but I guess I subconsciously hold my breath. Not possible here... I come falling out of the door gasping for air everytime!  And then there’s eating! Forget being polite and keeping your mouth closed, I’d rather be crude than suffocate! 
Lobuche, 4910, to Gorek Shep, 5140, +230
1.75 hours, 9- 10:45am

Rock art = free tea! Excellent deal :) 
Day 12:
Today was again incredible.  Started at 6am with a climb to my new record high, 5550m, the tippy top of Kala Patthar, which is the closest and best views of Mt. Everest! It was a beautiful day. I started off on trail w/ C&A&J... but just 30 minutes in, the pull of off-trail nabbed me :).  I went straight up on the left to the south summit, completely loose bouldering. I know what is it is, that off trail/ challenge/ adventure thing that I love.  It’s the feeling of being in the moment so intensely, that you cant think about anything else except exactly what you are doing!!  I suppose it’s dangerous, because one wrong move and you could be in some big trouble... but what it becomes is a physical and a mental challenge.  It’s not just a trail where you walk and your mind can wander.. it’s a logic puzzle of choosing your route and your next step. Same reason I love rock hopping on creeks! I reached the south summit an hour later, and paraded along the ridge to the high summit, a splendidly sluggish endeavor, having to earning every breath. Once on top, I sat and had great convo’s w/ a German guy and we just savored the 360 awesomeness :).  After descent and lunch, Lakpa and I headed up to Everest Base Camp, another 4 hr expedition. Really this was just a technicality, as It’s off season so there were no summiters there. :(. Was still neat though, to see the start of their path over the ice fall, and the big rock where everyone marks their accomplishment in sharpie. But I didn’t have a pen! Dang it!  Back to Gorak Shep, I was so exhausted, but really wanted to go the 1.5 hour trek back to Lobuche to try and maybe get some sleep at the lower altitude.  Sleep has been pretty much zilch above 4400m for me, and last night the worst!  So off we set. With Lobuche in sight, I was so tired I got careless, made a silly step and fell in the creek!! hahahahah! I counted my blessings though, there are many worse falls I could have had (there are two signs for missing persons up lately), only suffering a bruised knee and wet front side :). Luckily we were only 10 minutes from a nice warm Yak Shit Fire :) 
Gorek Shep, 5140, to Kala Patthar, 5550, +410, to Everest Base Camp, 5364, +224, to Lobuche, 4910, -230
2.5 hours, 6- 8:30am, 45 return, then  3.75 hours, 12-3:45, then 1.5 hours, 4-5:30

South Summit, heading towards Kala Patthar
(which is in the middle of the pic, not the huge mtn in the back!)

Everest with it's typical cloud cover, Everest Base Camp at the bottom left (the swoop of snow is
where the summiters start their ascent, and me, enjoying it all :) 
Highest I've ever been! Standing at 5550 meters (18,208')!!!

Day 13:
It’s head home time! From here out we’ll only be descenting... which is a bit silly to say since there are still plenty of hills to climb!  The first two hours are pretty easy so I make it a trash gathering day, which worked out quite nicely, surprise trading in my full bag for a free tea in Pheriche!  Lakpa has a friend here, so we agree on a meeting time (he hikes more than twice as fast as me) and I take off solo.  After about an hour, I got to the point where the trees start coming back--- and I’m so so so loving it!  The next few hours are just splendid, going thru pine and rhododendron forests, walking along the incredibly powerful river which now has green on both sides! It smells wonderful, its cloudy so quite cool, I’m engulfed in the wonderful that is everything.   It’s a massive descent day of over 1000m, but right at the end it’s a brutal climb to Tengboche, and I’m sweating it trying to arrive, just in time, for a 3pm Puja (religious ceremony) at the Buddhist Monastery.  My first intro to monks chanting! It’s short but sweet, really impressive though... they talk so fast! Nikki Minaj could find some backups here :)  Involuntarily, my happiness quickly fades to irritation... Lapka is 2.5 hours late, with no attempt to hide he just was with his friends and didn’t want to leave :(.  Grrrrrrr. Meanwhile I’m sweat soaked and chilled now, with no change of clothes, no book, no journal, no water filter..... good thing for my pal JF, who makes great company, to keep me preoccupied!  
Lobuche, 4910, to Tengboche, 3860, -1050  Tea in Pheriche
6 hours, 8:30am- 2:30

The trees are coming backkkk!!!! Yipppeee

Day 14:
Love this day! I’ve come to terms w/ Lakpa and I not being compatible, and send him off with a “for sure” meeting place and time right from the get-go.  It’s instantly 300m down, cross the fabulous river, then 300 m right back up!  As much as the higher elevations are awe inspiring, I must admit that THIS is what I love. It smells just soooo wonderful with the pine trees! The birds are singing specially for me I’d say! It’s sunny, but with the tree cover and breeze, it makes what I like to call “Nature’s Glitter” on the path, patterns of moving light and shade show!  I also slept like a baby for the first time last night, so I’m happily energized physically too!  At the lower elevations now, I have air again, so I can sing to myself, and the hills are almost easy!!! 30minute climb? No problemo!  
Everyday, all along the trail, you witness the two main sources (besides tourism) of income: Sherpas and construction workers.  I’d wager Nepali people are among the hardest-working people in the World. I love construction: working it, watching it, learning about it. Many times during the trip I’ve sat and watched, or even chatted w/ the workers. The way these building are made is INSANE. Each block is first off hand dug out of the side of a cliff, hand delivered to site, and then HAND CHIPPED into a rectangle!!!  It takes TWO MONTHS just to chip all the rocks into block shape... and THEN start making the walls!  Today I’ve passed a ton of porters, and they are carrying huge loads of mostly plywood and wood beams! Ouuuuccchhh.  It’s the way it is here, but it’s hard to watch, especially when they stop for a break and you can just see the misery on their faces. At one point a young kid trips w/ his wide load! Luckily there were a number of other locals nearby cuz I was pretty useless! 
Back to bustling Namche Bazar, C&A&J and Steve and I all randomly run into each other... have pastries, and they decide to try the two local liquors: Roxi and Chang, plus some yummy momo’s too:).  I’ve got a buzz!!
Tengboche, 3860, to Namche Bazar, 3440, -420
3.5 hours, 8:30am- 12

Happy as a fat kid in a candy shop :) 
Seriously hard work to make each block!!!

Day 15:
Today was very highs and lows, both physically and mentally!  After a wonderful morning writing frenzy session, Lakpa and I headed up to Khumjung. In a tiny horizontal distance, we arrive at Everest View Hotel, 420m up!  This place is really spectacular... reminds me of Frank Lloyd Wright style actually... and at $200 DOLLARS a night (compared with my $1.15 hotel in town) it should be fab!  It was cloudy, so no far off views, but I’m quite happy with the details anyways :). We go down a bit into the town of Khumjung, which is a great little village of tiny ‘roads’, flanked by rock walls.  My whole intention of coming up here was to check out the meditation cave, only to find it another 2 hours straight up! ack! The monastery was closed too, so I suppose I’ll meditate in the ‘cave’ of my room later :)  We pass by the longest mani walls ever, hike back up, a ton, and then straight back down thru christmas trees lookalikes!  We’re getting along great so far, but still split up for lunch. After our third botched meeting time, 1 hrs later, I straight out ask Lakpa if all these things are really misunderstandings or if he is trying to be vengeful for some reason. He swears it’s random, and it ended up being a quite pleasant hike down. At one point we stopped at a water mill simply because I found it adorable.... and lucky me the owner shows and starts it up! He loaded corn in the funnel, then goes around and removed the water stop. The water starts flowing, the grinding wheel starts turning, and the kernels turn to corn flour! Neat! Happy to see the hard work done by machine and not man for once. Later we passed by a little house and a couple girls were hanging out, chatting and waving. We decide to have tea :). We were there for like 20 minutes... it’s so strange to be ‘part’ of a conversation that you have no clue what’s being said. I smile and laugh when it seems appropriate. ha :).   We had our latest arrival, about 6:40pm to Phadking, just as dusk was setting in.  We stayed at Sherpa Eco-house... where I had the BEST FOOD EVER!!! This ama was magic! Since I’d finally had access to an ATM the day before, I totally splurged here, and am sooo planning a breakfast feast!!! 
Namche Bazar, 3440, to Khumjung, 3780 (hotel is 3860), +340 to Phadking, 2610 , -830
3 hours, 10-1p,m, then 4.25 hours, 2:30- 6:45

Looking down onto Namche Bazar from only about 1/2 way thru this morning's side trek... wow

Love this :) 

Day 16:
Yup, best breakfast ever!!! So much so, I make a rock ‘award’ for the ama, Ngima. “Best cooking on the entire EBC-Chola-Gokyo Trek!” hah, I think she likes it :).  Hit the trail after watching more construction. Soooo soo soo very insane the amount of work that goes into building here. 11 guys working on a wall, hammering away at each stone to make sure it’s straight. Wow. We walk on, I love this part of the trek as there are so many teahouses, all of them quaint in different ways.  We arrive to Lukla at 1:30. Amazing trek complete!!!  JF and I head to a happy hour for a game of pool and a drink. There was not a soul in sight, not even the bartender, so I crawled thru for my best Cocktail impression and poured us drinks:).  Lakpa drops in and I buy him a drink, almost as a civil offering, but I can't say when we parted ways I wasn't a bit happy to know it was the last!! 
Phadking, 2610 , to Lukla, 2840, +230
2.5 hours, 11- 1:30

New teahouse underway

Moss covered stairway to firewood storage = :) 

Day 17
5am wakeup to prep for the flight that’s 75% chance not coming.  I find out two interesting facts:  Lukla is considered the most dangerous airport in the WORLD! Whoa! The runway is more/less 45 degrees, and with the planes pretty small and unsophisticated, if there are clouds, there is no landing.  Interesting fact #2... my airline, Agni Air, hasn’t been able to land here the last 3 days. Turns out they only have one plane... because the other one crashed a few weeks ago! Eeeek!  It’s back and forth to the airport all day, and the free internet place, checking in if there is even a peek of sun.  I sit down to lunch, pretty much decided I’m happy to walk back, when my hotel guy comes and says,  “It’s time! Be there in 20 minutes”!!!  I forgo lunch, rush over, am waved thru (no id check at all) and am on the 10 seater plane in just a few minutes.  As we’re rocking along, me sending out all my love vibes and preemptive gratitude for a safe return, the stewardess comes by with cotton balls for our ears and two pieces of mango candy:)  Yes please!!! 
Still looks pretty cloudy-- Accckk!!

Back in Kathmandu: 
Overall, it was an amazing trip. I feel ridiculously lucky about it for a few reasons. One, it’s off season, supposed to be monsoon season, but I think I got rained on for a total of 3 minutes one day. It was bright and sunny at least part of every day, (except for the one day I was sick and inside anyways) and typically it was sunny all of most days.  The two days we climbed peaks to get views, from Gokyo Ri especially, and Kala Patthar, it was spectacularly clear, a gift to me from mother nature I believe :).  Even the foggy/cloudy weather made for amazing days... a hazey light making a pretty neat background as well :)!  It was a nature lovers paradise, pretty sure I used the word ‘wow’ an average of 30/day :). 
I did have an ‘internal raincloud’ hanging over my head during the trip, a negativity that loomed around, threatening (thankfully not succeeding) to spoil my bliss. From day one I started having my doubts of Lakpa, my porter. That ‘raincloud’  was not Lakpa though, it was me!! Specifically, my brain-- running away from me with reckless abandon over the dissension, and then a self annihilation for dwelling on the dwelling! 

Seriously... you're driving me crazy ;) 

I’m not going to harp over all the distrust, miscommunications, moral conflicts and irritations with him (of which there was something almost everyday)... let’s just say hiring a porter certainly wasn’t the highlight of the trek!! Maybe a different one would have been my best pal, but in hindsight it really was unnecessary, I had just been influenced by all the advice and injected fear that a women should not trek alone. I quite like carrying my own stuff actually, another reason to trust my gut!  With Lapka, it was almost like a bad first date, a blind one at that, where you know within 5 minutes you don’t really click with the person... and I was stuck w/ him for 17 days! Geeez!  

The thing is, there will be ‘Lakpas’ coming in and out of my life, for the rest of my life, no doubt about it!  As a people pleaser, it’s difficult for me to accept when I don’t get along with people... always looking for a way to fix it.  As a logic addict, not understanding why something is makes it harder, but sometimes you just don’t... and possibly won’t ever get an answer!  No answer/no logic/ no sense, people I don’t like, people that don’t like me, crazy shit that happens:  the new synonym for this is a “lakpa”. hahh:).  I make a funny, but again, the problem was me. I was having a horrid time of just letting go. I’d say I spent at least an hour a day trying to understand/ make excuses for/ bring logic to an illogical situation, and then beating myself up for not being able to change my mind’s focus. Simply because there really wasn’t another option and I didn’t want to make it worse, I remained civil w/ Lakpa, even chummy mostly. Although I could maintain a decent outward composure, internally I was beyooooonnnnnd ‘over it’.  I can’t stand the thought of repeating such mental agony over and over throughout my life, letting stupid shit eat at me and veil, even for little bit, the ceaseless amounts of amazing things that are all around. So lets turn this negativity into something good!!!! :). 

How to do that? Maybe immersion? Surround myself w/ people I don’t like? Maybe I should try to get a job at “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills”.  haha. Or better, change myself, because that’s the only real solution. Just like you exercise your body, you need to exercise your mind. I revert back to how much I like meditation, the goal of an inner peace, a be-here-now mentality, a don’t sweat the small stuff mentality, a power to control your own thoughts.  On day 12 (and during convo’s in India) I’ve come to realize an underlying reason why I like mentally challenging tasks, like climbing scary rock walls: It is because it’s so intense, I don’t/can’t let my mind wander, and THAT is a wonderful feeling for someone whose mind is normally a jumping bean!  I see clear evidence that it’s very important to practice this, to be able to get this feeling without the danger element!!!!  

The ultimate goal would be to be soooo internally peaceful, that I could not only control my mind-- stop it from running off on it’s own accord-- but to also ‘love my enemies’ :) It’s one thing to be patient and compassionate with the people you already love, even with strangers it can be pretty easy... but I think the most impressive thing is to maintain those qualities with people you don’t like.  Let’s meditate and love our lakpas! :)

...or better said, "Life is too short, to waste time disliking anyone"
I don't think I 'hate' anyone ;) 


  1. Becky Jo,
    As always loved hearing about your latest adventure. It appears that personal growth is a huge part of a journey like this. Thanks for sharing all you are experiencing. Love you! Mom with a heart

  2. Ahhhhh. I had the best time feeling your highs and lows while trekking through "The" mountains. Of course, I was reading with a fan blowing on me and a martini next to me...with olives. That's (likely)why I want to tell Lakpa to go ^*&^%$! himself! Oh well, guess I have a lot to learn even at 50. I'm trying BJ. I'm trying reeeaaaal hard.