let your thoughts wander

Category: Nepal

Crowd of people standing in front of an airline kiosk with a green sign with Tara Air in white and a clipboard holding a white piece of paper with black letters reading "All Lukla flight delay due Lukla weather".

Lukla is closed

We arrived at the airport by 6:30am and were greeted by not so welcoming signs indicating “All Lukla flight delay due Lukla weather” and thus our 7:45am flight was delayed. Around 9:45am we were finally issued boarding passes and taken through security to the “gate area”. Excitement ensued. Several hours later, we were called for departure, bused out to the plane, watched our bags get loaded onto the plane, and eventually were told we could not fly out.

We went back to the gate area and waited some more. Our flight was called again for departure. This time we boarded the plane before receiving the news that “Lukla was closed”. The even more discouraging news was that the pilots were near their 10 hour limit for working that day. Which meant there was no chance of us departing.

Following much debate over seeking a helicopter vs booking a flight for the next day, we departed the airport around 3pm. After nearly 9 hours in the airport, we left with the hope that our 10:30am flight would put us in Lukla the following day.

Busy narrow street with shops lining both sides and people crowding around the sides of the cars.

Chaotic Kathmandu

Kathmandu is a city of chaotic streets full of vehicle and foot traffic, bustling shops, temples, and livestock. We were fully aware of this before we arrived, but the full effect of its atmosphere does not hit you until you are there, immersed in the chaos. Upon arriving at the airport, we were greeted by a man who hurriedly gathered us and our bags, and guided us to the vehicle waiting to take us to our hotel for the evening.

We had booked our entire trip through Imperial Nepal Treks and they took care of every detail for us – with the exception of a few of our meals, time spent during our free time, and the couple days at the tail end of our visit. We arrived at the hotel, were shown to our room, and informed that we would be meeting with Ram, the manager from Imperial Nepal who had arranged our entire trekking package. We had to make payment as we had decided to do so in person by credit card – the other option was a wire transfer ahead of time, but we preferred to be safe and use a credit card, while also earning points. We also had to be briefed on the details of the trek, and the schedule for the next few days.

During our meeting, we were informed that we would be paired with another couple, Steve and Louise – a father and daughter from northern England. This was somewhat disappointing as I had requested we be on our own with the guide, should we need extra time along the way. In hindsight, after the trek was over, I told Bill it might have been for the better that we were not alone as we may not have gotten along with each other very well. The trek was very exhausting, both mentally and physically, and we would very likely have gotten on each other’s nerves had we been spending the whole time with only one another to talk to most of the time.

As part of the trekking package, we were treated to a welcome dinner with a live Nepali Cultural program. I always enjoy local cultural programs – it’s interesting to see the different dances and learn about the stories behind them. The dinner was also an excellent ice breaker for getting to know Steve and Louise and our guide, Hari. After dinner it was time to head back to the hotel and prepare for our departure the following morning.

Mountain peaks in the distance, with village buildings in the foreground.

Mountain memories

It’s been one year since we reached Everest Base Camp, and I have decided to take this time to reminisce on our mountain memories and share our experience in a series of posts covering our daily experiences from the 12 day round trip trek from Lukla to Everest Base Camp and back, as well as the days spent in Kathmandu preceding and following the trek. Below are the highlights with links to the full posts coming as each is published.

Chaotic Kathmandu

Kathmandu is a city of chaotic streets full of vehicle and foot traffic, bustling shops, temples, and livestock. We were fully aware of this before we arrived, but the full effect of its atmosphere does not hit you until you are there, immersed in the chaos.

Day 0: Lukla is closed

We arrived at the airport by 6:30am and were greeted by not so welcoming signs indicating “All Lukla flight delay due Lukla weather” and thus our 7:45am flight was delayed. Around 9:45am we were finally issued boarding passes and taken through security to the “gate area”. Excitement ensued. Several hours later, we were called for departure, bused out to the plane, watched our bags get loaded onto the plane, and eventually were told we could not fly out.

Day 1: Cleared for take off

We departed our hotel at 9am. The day vibrated with positivity. My cough was gone (I had arrived in Kathmandu with a residual cough that I had before we left home.), there were blue skies, and the sun shone brightly in the sky. Back to the airport we went, with hopes of safely arriving in Lukla within just a few hours.

Day 2: Phakding to Namche Bazaar

What a day! We crossed five suspension bridges over the Dudh Koshi, gained 2,723 feet, spent 6 hours and 40 minutes on the trail, encountered one dzo jam, and finally arrived at our lovely guest house in Namche Bazaar.

Day 3: Wishing for Everest

The first of our two “rest” days of the trek, this day left us wishing for Everest. We woke up to mostly clear skies and decided to venture out for a bit to see if we could find a place to view Everest. Unfortunately, the farther we got, the cloudier it got, and we decided to turn back.

Day 4: Namche to Deboche

Today was a tough one! Shortly after leaving Namche Bazaar we saw Everest for the first time! After a few more views of Everest, we were in for a long, tough trek. At one point today we gained 500 feet, then descended 1,000 feet, and finished with a 2,000 foot gain. All in 6 hours.

Day 5: Deboche to Dingboche

On this day we saw Everest, Nuptse, and Lhotse while standing out in front of the tea house. Everest was stunning from that angle. Ama Dablam made a brief appearance as well. As for the day’s 4.5 hour trek, it started out decent, but as the day went on, the air started getting rough on the lungs. Even the flat sections of trail proved to be difficult for breathing.

Day 6: Rest day in Dingboche

Today was an acclimatization day (say that three times fast) with a fairly steep hike. It was hard work, but worth it! The four of us set out around 6:30am. While it was cloudy when we started, we did still receive good views of several peaks along the way. It was also nice that no one else was on the trail and it was cooler without the sun out.

Day 7: Dingboche to Lobuche

Around 4:30am I looked out the window to see clear, star-filled skies. Bill and I put on our boots and jackets and went out to get a better look. It was amazing. SO MANY STARS! We also saw a handful of shooting stars and the silhouette of the mountains around us. The clearest view we had had yet – albeit a dark one.

Day 8: Everest Base Camp at last!

The big day finally arrived! And it was a success – the skies were clear most of the day, providing us with amazing views of the mountains, including Everest. It was very slow going for me at first, but Bill eventually took my pack to lighten my load and things got much easier.

Day 9: Kala Patthar & Gorak Shep to Pheriche

The word to summarize day nine: tiring. I was awake shortly after 5am, and at 6am I met up with Steve, Louise, Hari, and Binod to trek halfway up Kala Patthar. It was a nice view, but a rough up hill trek for so early in the morning without having eaten anything. It was also emotionally taxing as Bill stayed behind because he was not feeling well, and I knew Kala Patthar was possibly more important to him than base camp.

Days 10 & 11: Pheriche to Khumjung to Benkar

This day wasn’t so bad. It was still a fairly long day – around 7 hours of trekking – but not as much extreme up and down. We crossed the highest suspension bridge again today, as well as a couple other bridges. We also encountered a group of children we saw on our way out – their high fives very welcoming.

Day 12: Benkar to Lukla (coming soon)

Exploring the Kathmandu area (coming soon)

Preparing for Nepal

Most people know that Mount Everest is the tallest mountain in the world. Most people, however, do not decide they want to see Mount Everest in person. Yet, that is exactly what Bill, in his mountain obsessiveness, decided to set as a goal for himself/us.

About two years ago, he proposed the idea, and I was silly enough to say “Sure”. (It did help that the books I had for doing my research on the area had spectacular photos that grabbed my attention.) And so the planning began!

Mountain view

First came the decision of which side to attempt – Tibet or Nepal. We decided to go with Nepal. Sure it took 8 days of trekking to get there instead of 3, but the assurance that we could enter the country (had we chosen Tibet we could have run the risk that China would have banned foreign visitors for the time we were expected to travel), and the comfort of knowing we would have more time for acclimatization (starting at roughly 9,300 feet in Lukla instead of nearly 12,000 feet in Lhasa) were two very good reasons to go to Nepal.

When it came time to book our airfare, we had the unfortunate realization that Delta had changed their mileage redemption requirements and we would need 50,000 more miles than previously planned. (This change coming merely days before our planned dates would be open for booking.) None-the-less, we applied for a new credit card and replaced our furnace – something that was due to be required sooner than later anyway.

With our airfare booked, it was time to fill in the details, starting with choosing the start date for our trek. We were scheduled to arrive in Kathmandu on September 25th and depart October 13th. To optimize our time, we chose to start trekking on September 26th. This would allow for extra time in case of flight delays to or from Lukla (which we knew happened often), and also provide flexibility during the trek – should we need to take more time to acclimate along the way. We then had to decide on which trekking company to hire. I narrowed it down to 4 or 5 companies and we ultimately chose Imperial Nepal.

Our package with Imperial Nepal included three nights accommodation in Kathmandu and guided tours of Swayambhunath (Monkey Temple), Pashupatinath Temple, and Boudhanath in Kathmandu. I added a day tour to Bugamati and Khokana, ending with a tour of Patan’s Durbar Square. We stayed overnight at the Boutique Heritage Home in Patan and then were picked up and taken to the Hyatt Regency Kathmandu to stay for the two remaining nights before heading home.

Outdoor pool in the foreground with hotel buildings in the background

With the itinerary in place, it was time to be sure we owned and packed the proper gear and supplies. Some of the key items we took with us include:

Baby Wipes

Knowing we would be going multiple days without showers, we were sure to pack a substantial number of baby wipes. Thanks to a recommendation from one of our friends, we sought out the fresh smelling cucumber baby wipes from Target.

Balaclava

Not knowing exactly how cold the temperatures would be at any given time (thankfully they weren’t bad the majority of the time), we heeded all recommendations of clothing listed on sample packing lists for the region to help keep us warm. While we only used them a couple times, our balaclavas certainly came in handy. Living in the midwest,  they will also be valuable for years to come. A scarf and hat in one – what more efficient way to keep your head and neck warm!

Beef Jerky

Meat, with the exception of canned tuna, was off limits after our first day of hiking. (The result of all meat in the region being carried in for days with no refrigeration.) The Kirkland Signature Premium Beef Steak Strips Jerky was the closest to meat we would get for 11 days.

Buff

Protection from the sun was at the top of my list of concerns. As a result, I put a BUFF UV Multifunctional Headband on my Christmas list and it was far more than just protection from the sun. It was a great ear and head covering, headband, and buffer (no pun intended) for breathing the cold air as well. It helped that it’s pretty cute, too.

Young couple standing in front of a pile of prayer flags

Clif Bars – LOTS of Clif Bars

You could say we should have bought stock in Clif Bars before we left. I believe we took 20-30 Clif Bars between the two of us. After all, we needed to be prepared in case the food was not favorable to our taste buds or our stomachs. Our dominant flavors of choice: Chocolate Brownie, Cool Mint Chocolate, and Berry Pomegranate Chia.

Darn Tough socks

I cannot say enough about these socks. They are comfortable, durable, and light weight. They come in fun colors and fabrics, too! Read more in “Never buy socks again”.

Day Pack

An absolute necessity to hold the essentials (water, sunscreen, sun hat, snacks, toilet paper) you may need each day.

Deck of Cards

MUST HAVE! Used nearly every night. It was fun teaching others the games of my childhood. The two popular choices – Kings Corners and 31.

Fruit Snacks & Energy Chews

To have some variety in snacks, Bill took fruit snacks. I chose to take Honey Stinger Organic Energy Chews for myself. My flavor of choice: Pomegranate Passion Fruit. I figured they would be healthier than fruit snacks, and they definitely did seem to give me a boost of energy during a few times when I was wiped out.

Gatorade packets

A much needed treat at the end of a long day of hiking! The chosen flavors: Orange and Glacier Freeze.

Gloves

The gloves we chose were rated for cold weather, but did not do the job as well as we had hoped. If you plan to hike to Everest Base Camp, be sure to buy high quality gloves that are rated for cold weather and have good reviews if you can.

Head Lamps

Although not frequently used, our Black Diamond Head Lamps were highly beneficial during the times when we had no power at the tea houses higher up.

Hiking Boots

While the locals are seen carrying refrigerators on their backs wearing sandals, I do not recommend doing the same. Bill and I both wore our KEEN Targhee II Mid Hiking Boots throughout the entire trek. And I know my feet were thanking me in the end!
View of two people's feet wearing hiking boots and standing on multicolored rocks

Honey Stinger Energy Waffles

Having been on a flight in which they provided stroopwafels as a complimentary snack, I purchased a few of the Honey Stinger Energy Waffles for Bill as a Christmas gift (primarily to help meet the purchase limit to receive free shipping). He liked them so much he decided to buy more and take them as snacks for the trip. His flavors of choice: Chocolate and Honey.

Layers

Fast drying, non-cotton T-shirts, a variety of base layer pants and shirts, fleece tops, hiking pants, rain jackets, and insulated vests were the majority of what we packed for clothing.

Lip Balm

Imperative for helping lips brave the cold and sun. Bill and I were first introduced to Eco Lips Sport SPF 30 on one of our trips to Grand Teton National Park. And it has been a favorite ever since.

Multi Plug Power Adaptor

Wanting to make the most of the limited power resources we knew would be available in the mountains, I searched for options that would help us keep our cameras, phones, and SteriPEN charged along the way. Lucky for us, we were watching videos to prepare for the trip and came across a video by Bearfoot Theory that included the Poweradd Travel Power Adapter Kit. Her recommendation seemed ideal – and it was! Having the ability to charge up to 5 things at one time was a life saver.

Patagonia Barely Bikini

Hiking 5-7 hours a day with uncomfortable underwear riding up all the time would have been miserable. Enter Patagonia Barely Bikini Briefs. Buy them now, thank me later.

pStyle

A true life saver! Reference “A girl’s best friend” for more details.

Solar Charger

In case we encountered extreme lack of electricity resources, we also purchase the BioLite SolarPanel 5+ to be sure we didn’t run out of battery power along the way.

SteriPEN

After trying iodine tablets in our water bladders during our 2010 attempted summit of Grand Teton in Wyoming, and hating the bitter taste they left behind, we knew we had to find an alternative water filtering system. The SteriPEN Ultra USB Rechargeable Portable, Handheld UV Water Purifier was absolutely perfect! And the USB charging was far more convenient than needing to replace batteries. Although it never did fully lose its charge.

Sunglasses

We expected the sun to be bright and were familiar with the term “snow blind”, but the reality of what that term means doesn’t set in until you experience it. The higher we went, the more intense it became. The brightness was so intense we couldn’t even lookout the windows of the tea houses without sunglasses on.
Mountain reflection in sunglasses

Sun Hats

To shade our faces and eyes from the intense sun.

Sunscreen

Being fair skinned I’m always mindful of wearing sunscreen when I know I will be outdoors for several hours. With the restriction of only being allowed to carry on liquid containers of 3 ounces or smaller, Bill and I opt to purchase larger bottles and fill travel sized containers to take with us.

Toilet Paper

We took two full rolls with us as well as two rolls of Packable Camp Toilet Tissue and came home with only a third of a travel roll remaining. We could have purchased toilet paper after we arrived, but preferred to have at least one comfort from home.

Towel

To ensure we had small, lightweight, quick drying towels, we ordered two medium-sized PackTowl Personal Towels. I now use mine at work as a hand towel to cut back on using paper towels every time I use the restroom.

Water Bladders

A necessity for long hikes. Especially hikes that span 12 days and take 5-7 hours per day. Drinking out of a tube is not ideal, but much more convenient and less messy while walking.

Water Bottles

We each brought a 32-Ounce Nalgene Wide Mouth BPA-Free Water Bottle for ease of filtering our water and filling our water bladders.

 

More posts from our trip coming soon!

 

Disclosure: Some of the links above are affiliate links, and at no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you make a purchase. If you enjoy my blog and would like to support this website in some way, using these links will help do exactly that. If you have any questions, please put them in the comments below. I’m happy to answer any questions you may have.

A girl’s best friend

Upon starting to plan for our Everest Base Camp trip, Bill kept insisting I needed a”female urinating device”.  I knew he was probably right and did some research on which one made the most sense for me.

Shewee

The shape and the need to attach an additional tube to extend its range made me uneasy and afraid of leaks. Not to mention the need to still wipe after going.

GoGirl

Too similar to the Shewee. Its funnel shape and design came off as awkward and hard to clean. With it being made out of a flexible material I can also imagine it might be difficult to keep in place.

pStyle

We have a winner! One solid piece, easy to clean, built in “wiping” mechanism – the perfect solution. And the reviews made it seem even better.  Now, having used it quite a bit, I can attest that the pStyle is great, and I would highly recommend it to all women searching for the perfect alternative to squatting. I also purchased a Planet Wise Travel Wet/Dry Bag in the Jewel Woods design to be extra discreet and fashionable at the same time. My only disappointment was that there were no foxes on my bag – the main reason I wanted that design.

My experience with the pStyle

I practiced a few times at home and while hiking in local parks before our trip. Through these practice runs I realized it is quite a bit harder to go standing up than one would expect. It’s as though your body is trained that you must be sitting for that to happen and it does its best not to cooperate.

Thankfully, after a couple days of trekking in the Himalayas, things started flowing more smoothly and it almost became second nature. The trick to staying dry is making sure you cover all the important parts and don’t leave gaps to avoid making a mess. I did have one mishap along the way and learned my lesson quickly!

Having to use an Asian style toilet for other things, and dealing with shaky legs that have done 25+ hours of hiking in 5 days, I am beyond ecstatic that I did not have to squat every time duty called!

Thank you, pStyle, you are truly one of this adventurous girl’s best friends.

 

Disclosure: Some of the links above are affiliate links, and at no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you make a purchase. If you enjoy my blog and would like to support this website in some way, using these links will help do exactly that. If you have any questions, please put them in the comments below. I’m happy to answer any questions you may have.

Black Visa card with world map background

Visa – not everywhere you want to be

Bill and I learned an important lesson while on our recent trip to Nepal – it’s time for us to open another debit account for traveling. After trying four different ATMs, and calling the bank to find out nothing appeared abnormal on their end, we came across an ATM that had a sign stating the machines were being upgraded to accept chip cards and Visa cards may not work at that time.

Nepal being a country that does not widely accept credit cards, and if they do accept a credit card they typically charge a 4% transaction fee, and the fact that we had already exchanged all of our cash, we were going to be in trouble if we did not find a way to withdraw funds. Thankfully we were able to find a machine that did work, but the mild panic we experienced has prompted us to consider having a backup. Now we just need to do the research and find the solution that is best for us.

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