Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Walking Among Giants

   Mani Walls Along the Path to Everest

After yet another cloudy and exceptionally rainy week in the Lukla monsoon, karma was once again on our side at the weekend. The sun was shining and the clouds had cleared to reveal great snowy peaks in the Mera region around the village. We had heard of the Saturday market at Namche Bazaar, and headed out for a long walk to Namche in the morning. However we had also heard that we would need a permit in advance to enter the Sagarmatha National Park – Home of Everest among several other 8000m+ mountains so we were prepared to just walk to the national park gate and return the same day. 

 Emma Loved this White Horse at Phakding

After some 4 hours walk through small local villages, across some terrifyingly high suspension bridges and past some epic waterfalls we reached the gate. Guy attempted to sneak through unnoticed yet Emma had a less deceitful approach and sought out a person to pay. We paid our 1000 rupee ticket and entered the park. Inside Sagarmatha were the most spectacular waterfalls, more incredibly long bridges and “The Hill”. We met a young English man who completed the Everest base camp trek in the week, and he gladly informed us “The Hill” was the biggest hill in the world – Two-and-a-half hours up and around 1000m altitude gained! 

One of the Bridges before "The Hill"

Well we surpassed ourselves, ascending in less than two hours, and arrived in a cloudy Namche at around 16:00. We met our friend Astrid from London/Brussels/U.S.A in the same hotel and she donated us several Marathon bars and a pack of Cadburys chocolate raisins as a weight saving exercise.  It was so cold we just had an enormous Dahl Bhat triple serving and went to bed (in which we ate the whole pack of raisins – thank you Astrid).

 Everest, Lhotse, Amadablan - Giants

By morning the sky was crystal clear and we were up and out at 06:00 to catch a sight of Mount Everest. We walked to the National Park Headquarters where there were beautiful sights of Everest, Lhotse and many of the giants of the world. It was the perfect morning and Guy was so excited he nearly exploded. The park rangers, friendly and of course loaded with guns (hopefully not loaded), were excited to see some tourists and were keen that we visit the museum on site. Here, Emma fell in love with Sir Edmund Hilary and Guy fell in love with a Red Panda - see bonus pics. We then hiked up to the area of Khumjung to the Everest View Hotel for the best views. The Hotel was amazing, no less than the worlds highest hotel (3880m) and a 70’s chic masterpiece – it is unchanged since it was built and Guy thought it was the most James Bond place he had ever visited! As it is off season – it was totally deserted making it all the more curious.

 Everest Tourists

We took many photos and enjoyed this perfect morning very much, however, we had school the next day and a huge distance home as we had walked an extra couple of hours north, the opposite way, so we began the decent to Lukla. We briefly stopped in Namche and eyed up some good trekking gear and warm clothes, but we had not prepared to even stay for the night, so we only had enough rupees for some raisin bread and a coffee. We begun our trek back home in blazing sun and arrived at around 18:00 extremely tired after twelve hours on our feet. The last stretch of the journey was only achievable due to the gifts of Astrid – nuts and Marathons kept us going until home. The walking was all the more difficult for Emma due to her old, leaky and too-small boots – and her feet were, well…

Freddy Kruger Feet

So we returned to school the next day and have now sorted out all the computers we can – Eight fully working ones with a new XP OS and Office. We also spent some rainy days recording ‘Audiobooks’ for the children to read and listen in English. Emma spent a couple of days catalouging the library on Excel and making some excellent teaching resources. The children have very much enjoyed the computer lessons this week, and finally have been able to use computers physically, rather than learning about them from a textbook. When we arrived they had taken a computer exam, and never used a computer before. It was interesting to observe their work – they knew what to do, for example Space to make gaps between words, yet they did not know where Space was on the keyboard! The trainee teacher due to join Guy this week received a scholarship to undertake training in Korea, so sadly will not be joining us. Once again, please check out the school blog for more info on our work here:

During the week we decided that we would return to Namche the following weekend (which is only Saturday off) to get Emma some boots, and this time, we would take enough money for more than just bread! On Friday, at around 11:00 we left school and made an amazing five hours to Namche during another freak weekend of good weather – we did not stop even for food, just charged on, up “the hill” in one go and arrived at 16:00 in sunny Namche for a spot of boot shopping. Well we ended up with more than just boots; a lovely jumper, t-shirt and long johns for Guy (who has been instructed to give up his Pepsi addiction to compensate for the expense), and some boots, a cow bell and a new bag (containing the presents) for Emma. We had a lovely night with our new friends at the Hotel Tibet and were treated to another triple dhal bhat with the family.

 Namche Bazaar in the Morning

The next morning we set off to try to beat the 5 hours it took to walk here, and made it home in around 4 hours 40. Emma’s new White Tiger boots were surprisingly good and her feet no longer look like a horror movie prop.

The weather this week has improved and now it only rains a little every day, so our current week at school has consisted of painting the new library which has been funded by the charity. Over three days we undercoated and enameled the entire room and ceiling – with brushes only! The paint from Kathmandu is surely not-so-healthy and smells potent so we take a breather looking at the fine valley views. We met Astrid again in our hotel in Lukla, having successfully completed her Everest charity trek. Once again she bestowed us with more incredible gifts and we all had a fun evening with whisky and tea on the balcony. Today is a school holiday for a Nepalise festival, so we are taking some time at the quiet school to organise work for the following few days, along with writing these blogs.

 Undercoating Emma

So we have both felt, for a number of reasons, that our time in Lukla is nearing an end now. It is extremely expensive to eat here and our weekly bill is around 150 GBP, we have finished work as best as we can with the computer room and library for the charity and will no longer have a trainee teacher to assist, so by next week we will take the Everest base camp trek, which should take around 7 days round trip if we move fast. It is approaching Season time and the prices will shoot up even more for tourists, so we will try to beat the crowd. Another volunteer for the charity will be arriving tomorrow, so we will help her out for a few days and perhaps have a few more to spend when we return from the trek.

Bonus Pics:

Guy meets a Red Panda

Emma's New Witch House

Another Week, Another Moth for Mon Papa - This one was Huge!

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