Everest region (Sagarmatha National Park) Trek 29th April to 6th May, 2007 Intended route Kathmandu; Luka; Monjo; Namche Bazar; Tengboche; Namche; Luka; Kathmandu Part 1: Lukla to Namche After a harrowing flight, literally straight into a mountain side, in pea soup conditions, we arrived at Lukla. It was like stepping back in time. No roads, just mountain paths. The only way to get goods and people up and through these mountains is on foot. These small, gracious, Sherpa people carry everything on their backs. As we started strolling down the path, a young woman passed us carrying 8 x 10 litre containers of fuel. Another person had 10 crates of beer. Yet another was carrying great beams of timber. The boys (we trekked with an American family with two kids – who we had met in Kathmandu) ran on ahead, so excited to finally get going on our big trek. The mountain path is cut into the hillside, look up towards forest and snow peaked mountains, look down to steep gorges with fast flowing rivers. Parts of the path have been washed away from monsoonal rains and have been upgraded with local stone. Each stone is carried, by back, from the quarry (where it is dug out by hand), then it is chiseled until it fits the jigsaw pattern of the path. All the stones are then chipped away and pounded, by hand, until they fit together snugly. When you think of the labour involved it makes you very grateful for each step. After a good 3 hours of walking up and down all afternoon we decided to stay the night at a delightful village called Phakting, or as Harry called it, “Farting”. You couldn’t have asked for a more picturesque setting. Soaring, snow-capped, mountain peaks, exquisite turquoise/blue, river, gushing over big round boulders, colourful, Tibeten prayer flags (hundreds of them) flapped in the breeze as they draped across the narrow valley and hung from vertiguous, suspension bridges. We sat down to a well-deserved meal, the children taught the porters how to play UNO (which they became addicted to) and then we headed to bed, our sleeping bags, for an early night. The next day was a grueling 6-7 hour trek, at least 6 river crossings, culminating with a 1,000’ climb. Towards the end, I wasn’t sure the little one’s would make it (let alone the big one’s!) As we passed trekkers on their way down, most would offer their encouragement and congratulations for bringing the children on such a wonderful experience, others muttered “idiots” under their breath as they rushed past. Then at our final resting point we met a motley group of middle aged English guys from a Welsh walking group. Their leader, Chris Brown, had climbed Everest some time ago and had promised to bring his mate and friends to Everest base camp. Chris seemed to be taken with Harry and the two struck up a conversation. (They had their photo taken together later when we reached Namche.) This spurred Harry on no end, and we managed to inch our way up the windy mountain track, finally entering the gates and welcoming Gompu of Namche, quite late in the afternoon. All the Everest climbers have to stop here, at Namche Bazar, for a day to allow for altitude adjustment, to see if their bodies can cope with the lack of oxygen). Namche is about 11,500 ft. (To let you know in flying it is mandatory to carry oxygen above 10,000 ft. Light aircraft are therefore never allowed to go beyond 10,000 ft limit.) A well deserved day of rest followed. The kids played and we all mooched around this fantastic bazaar village. (It reminded me of Morocco.) We visited the museum, the army post, tried to see Everest, but as usual it was shrouded in mist and cloud, visited the monastery and had a lovely time laughing with the Monk. He blessed us all and garlanded us with beautifully twined string from the Dalai Lama. One of the American children had been showing signs of altitude sickness all day, so it was decided that she couldn’t go any higher. Actually if the symptoms continued she would have to descend. My knee (the one that our cow had kicked around Xmas) had been playing up, so I offered to stay in Namche and mind all the kids while the American parents went on to Tengboche Monastery as planned. As Tengboche was another 1,000’ min climb, the kids were quite agreeable to stay together. Mark decided to head in the other direction, towards the Tibetan border, to visit another Buddhist monastery that he had an interest in. (I agreed, if he would take one of the porters with him.) The next night at Namche was a full moon. One of the most magical scenes I have witnessed. Clear pyramid (crystal) shaped mountains soaring up and up and up with a full moon shining down onto an amazing sherpa village, somehow situated in a mountain side... and I was here...with my family! I vowed to all that I would be up at 4.30 am to witness sunrise from the lookout, a further 500 ft up, from where Mt Everest and it's sister mountains can be clearly seen. At 5.00 am the next morning the only person fit and willing to accompany me on the climb for sunrise over Everest was ..... Harry! He sprinted out of bed, pulled on all of his thermal clothes and walking boots. Off we set hand-in-hand, early morning mist coming out of our mouths as we puffed our way up to the look out. The lookout happens to also be the Nepalese Army's post to protect itself from an invasion from China. We were the first to the check point as the soldiers changed guards. Fresh snow crunched under our feet and I held Harry's hand tightly, both to warm it (he didn't have gloves on) and to share the excitement we were both feeling. The sun's glows were lighting the mountains up like giant candles, one at a time. We finally made it to the top and just stood, mesmerized by the absolute beauty around us. Mountains, almost as big as Everest, surrounded us. As we looked towards Everest there was a plateau and on the plateau sits one of Nepal's largest monasteries, Tengboche (where we were meant to trek to). Below Tengboche ran the mighty Duhd River, which we had been traversing during our trek up. Duhd means milk. Not for the first time during this trek I closed my eyes and meditated, taking my awareness inside. As I opened my eyes there it was beaming with white light… pure white light of this amazing snow capped mountain peak. Everest. Harry and I both blessed the World by doing a lovely yoga sequence called “Salute to the four Directions” and finished by sending peace and light from the top of the World. It felt very relevant and powerful. We finished in silence just watching the majesty of the continuing sunrise over this Mother of the World. (Mt Everest's true names are, in Nepali "Sagarmatha" and in Tibeten "Jomolungma" . By amazing coincidence they both refer to "Goddess Mother of the World". Little Harry was feeling the cold and as we descended the lookout others were starting to walk up. Already clouds had begun to gather around the peak of Everest. (This happens most days so visibility of Everest as clearly as we saw it is rare.) We continued in silence until we traversed to the Namche Monastery, where I sat and meditated for a little longer, just to keep that very special experience, before joining the others back down in the village. Part 2 Namche Bazar – Lukla A busy morning moving the American kids into our room, Wendy and Sean preparing for their trek to Tengboche Monastery, Mark preparing for his trek in the opposite direction to Lama Zopa’s Monastery. The children and I decided to accompany Mark up past the Namche Monastery to see him off. As we reached the crest of the hill and turned the corner that led to Mark’s path, we were met with the spectacular sight of an amazing waterfall, cascading down from the melting ice, atop the mountain. Fare welling Mark, we looked back down to Namche village – such a pretty setting. We decided to circumambulate the monastery, turning the prayer wheels as we went, then all piled into the Namche monastery. The monk was still chanting his morning prayers and his eyes gently peeked open to watch as Harry and Quinn took up their position on the meditation mats. (We had visited the monastery the previous day, which was Buddha’s birthday. The monastery was aglow with hundred’s of butter lamps. The boys looked like two little monks as they sat between the butter lamps and the golden statues of the Buddha.) I sat to meditate. In time I thought I heard the monk actually speeding up his chanting. I glanced his way and saw him watching the children but still turning the pages of his teachings. As he finished his chanting he motioned to the children and one at a time they knelt in front of him to receive their blessed Dalai Lama necklaces. He then invited us to see the rest of the monastery. We were led up some very narrow, steep, wooden stairs where he showed us his quarters. Honestly, this space was no bigger than a closet (even smaller than Harry Potter’s cupboard beneath the stairs!). The bed was a wooden bench that was not long enough for a child to stretch their legs, let alone a grown (largish) man; a couple of shelves and a few blankets… that was it. He then led us up more stairs to a very special part of the monastery. It was much more ornate than the public space below, beautiful golden Buddha’s, Tibetan thanka paintings and murals decorated the room. The girls were gob smacked. The boys headed straight for the Tibetan musical instruments, giant symbols, drums and horns. They intimated they would like to play, so he kindly showed the boys and let them try each instrument – several times. I noticed a very large picture of the Dalai Lama and pondered for a moment how just over the mountains to our left the Tibetan people would be thrown in gaol by the Chinese for having such a photograph. (It reminded me of a visit to one of the children’s homes in Kathmandu when the children sang us a Nepali song. I asked for the translation and they said it was a song about the Chinese invading Tibet and how the Nepali’s don’t want the Chinese to invade Nepal.) We finally exhausted our visit to the Namche Monastery. I do believe the monk had a great time with the children. He seems to live a very solitary, lonely life in the monastery. We promised to send him photographs – he was delighted. The rest of the day was spent shopping by the girls (they became known as the sister shoppers of Namche, having visited every stall and priced every item in the whole of Namche Bazar). The boys played all day with two bamboo sticks. That evening the children met up with the only other western child at Namche. Her name was Sarah Hall, a 10 year old New Zealander. She had just been to Everest Base Camp with her mother, uncle and grand parents! Apparently she is the daughter of the famous NZ Rob Hall, who was the star of the book and film “Into Thin Air”. Her dad died on Everest on his 5th climb, her mum was 7 months pregnant with Sarah when Rob died. This was their 10 year return to Everest base camp to meet with other trekkers from that fateful Everest expedition to honour those that had died climbing the Mountain. What an amazing 10 year old she is. I asked her if she was going to climb Everest, her mother and father both having done so. She said “I suppose so”. Keep an eye out for her. The next day saw a tired Wendy and Sean return in time for lunch. Mark had returned also only to realize he still had the keys to the monastery and to Lama Zopa’s meditation cave. He asked the porter if he would go back to return them, which he did – running the whole way there and back in a record 2 hours, 15 mins (this had been a 3 ½ hour trek one way for Mark). The group, together again, started our long descent from Namche to Monzu where we stayed in some magnificent cabins, hanging off the edge of an embankment. Poor Wendy, who was ill with Guardia, just lay down in relief after so much arduous walking. That evening I met a lovely young Nepali man, who had a degree in Computer Science from Colorado University. He had been living in the U.S. for 5 years and was returning back to Namche Bazar to see his family. While in the U.S. he raised over US$60,000 to create a community Library and buy books for the school at Namche. What an amazing young man. He is now living back in Nepal. Although he is earning less than 1/10th his U.S. salary he loves his country and wants to be near his family. The next day we snaked our way up and up and up, back to Lukla where we finally arrived at our hotel. Hot (well not cold) showers all around, tips for the porters and a wonderful Nepali meal with everyone. Up early the next morning for our hair raising but spectacular flight back to our temporary home, Kathmandu. As we peered out of our little plane, the majestic, snow covered Himalayan range accompanied us all the way back to Kathmandu. We were all silent as we absorbed the memories and images of this amazing experience.