Bowery Mural

Trek: The final act

Sunday, 28 June 2009

Right... this is the final post about my trek to Nepal. An end to the story i began when i came home. To tie up loose ends. I'll try to keep this one short as possible but you know me, this could take a while so settle in with a wee cuppa tea...

For those that are still interested I thank you for reading. To those that are new to me you can check earlier blog posts from April and May for the story beginning here. The Journey

The last posting ended with my night in the Gomba Lodge, Upper Pangboche.
I'd had a good sleep that night, thankful for the warmth when i was feeling crap. Peter had set off with Mingma and the Doc to Ama Dablam Base Camp (hell i wasn't even fit enough for that!). Me, Carol and Daljit headed down the valley to Tengboche with Lackman and our Sirdar, back to that wonderful monastery that had given me comfort earlier in the trek on the way up. This was going to be a short day for us and i was glad. Short day didn't necessarily mean an easy day. We trekked for about 3 hours in total finally, steadily making our way up the slope into Tengboche at around 11am. We headed to the campsite which the porters were busily building and then decided we'd go to the bakery for a cake. After much deliberation I opted for a chocolate doughnut and a cup of tea and we took up our places at a table next to the window with the most magnificent views of Everest, Nuptse, Lhotse and Ama Dablam. You must be fed up hearing that but literally wherever you were the views were sublime. The mountains are where it's at! We sat there for about an hour and a half and then went back to campsite for lunch. With only the three of us there it really was a quiet lunch. I was thinking about the others, where were they? was Peter at Ama Dablam base camp? when will they get back?

After lunch Carol and Daljit decided to go for a nap and I went for a wander around Tengboche. I covered that story in this blog post: A Difficult Day

Later on Peter, Mingma and the Doc came back from a successful ascent of Ama Dablam Base Camp. Peter bringing me a piece of rock from there which now has pride of place in my room. He really enjoyed it and had some great footage on his camcorder. We all pretty much hit the sack after dinner and i was out like a light. I enjoyed this sleep as i had the tent to myself!! Bliss. I like camping. Having never done it before in my life previous to the trek i think i took to it like a duck to water. My bag un-packing and packing routine was down to about 15 minutes total each evening and morning. Not bad for a 80l bag.

Next morning I was woken by the sound of the bonging giant cymbal and conch blowing from the monastery. It really was a great way to wake up. We had breakfast and then set off for our very long walk back to Namche Bazaar. This was going to be tough as my fever was still a bit high. I wasn't being sick but felt flu-like. So first it was down the hill, zig-zagging behind yaks and porters going up and down the trail. This was fine apart from the dust and wind, but going down to cross the river also meant climbing back up again and that was painful. I put the sunglasses on, had my buff over my face to keep out the dust and my sunhat on. No-one was getting a look in. I thought head down Ange keep counting the steps, get into a rhythm, this'll be fine. We had a couple of water breaks as the sun was really strong today. We eventually made it to Kyungjuma for lunch but I was so so tired. Doc took my temperature - fever still there. I just sat there with hat and sunglasses still on closed my eyes and had a sneaky 5 minutes snooze. Lunch today was chips, spicy beans and eggs. I ate as much as i could and Doc decided we'd wait here for an extra hour so i could rest - that was an order! I had about 40 minutes sleep and actually felt a bit better for it. Outside groups of trekkers heading home were passing by, our group of porters had caught up with us even with their heavy loads of 30kg each to carry. And there was me feeling rubbish carrying a daysack! I'm ashamed.

We made our way along the trail back to Namche and got there about 4pm. A little later than we'd thought but this wasn't a race. I headed around to the pool hall with Peter to check emails - 200 rupees for an hour - fab! He waited on me outside the Internet area. He probably knew what it would be like to send/receive the emails having been there on our way up. I sat there and cried reading messages from friends and family. An Australian girl was checking her emails too, she was on the way up to base camp. First thing she commented on was my cough, I was hacking away like an old man. Wiping snotters from my nose. Trying to stay composed. It wasn't working. It was time to tell folks my bad news. I didn't know what to say but somehow found the words. I hoped that they didn't feel I'd let them down. Anyway my hour came and went all too quickly and we headed round to the campsite. Peter giving me some comfort after what was a really emotional day. I'm such a chicken-hearted person.

About 10 minutes later Team X-treme returned to camp after a very exhausting 12 hour/20km walk back from Pherice to Namche Bazaar - hence the name Team X-treme. It might not sound much but at that altitude it was terrific. I was soooooo glad to see them. It was fab, the group was one again. I have to be honest here and say i was really glad they were back but i was also really disappointed and a little bit envious of their successful mission to get to Everest Base Camp. It had been my mission, my intention, my dream and now that was all nothing. Tough. I had to fight back the tears in the tent when we were having dinner which for me was 3 bowls of garlic vegetable soup. I don' even like garlic!! My coping method - just don't talk. I seem to do that to cope with a lot of things. Don't know how else to do it to be honest.

We stayed at a lovely lodge in Namche that night and watched Everst IMAX movie on a 15" portable telly. Funny. The next morning i had a great shower and a fresh set of clothes. I'd been in the other ones for a few days and i don't think i smelled! :o)

Today was the last day of trekking - Namche Bazaar to Lukla. It started pretty cold and then we soon warmed up. It was lovely to have the group back together and i couldn't get enough of their stories of base camp. Along the trail we had several stops as Emma had turned her knee coming back from base camp. Late in the afternoon we stopped for Mars Bar and a Sprite in preparation for the final trek up the hill into Lukla. We passed back through the beautiful little villages, our first campsite at Tok Tok and over the many wire bridges. Lukla was reached. I'd forgotten this hill into Lukla was so steep, i couldn't remember coming down that far on our first day! Strange. Back in the Buddha Lodge now there was another conversation about helicopters out to Kathmandu as the weather wasn't looking great and we'd found out there had been delays over the 10 days that we'd been trekking. We were nervous. That night we had our leaving night with the sherpas and porters. We presented them all with tips and the cook had made us a cake! Then Team X-treme handed out Everest Base Camp rocks to those of us that hadn't made it. At the end Saran stood up and did a speech saying thanks to the sherpas, the Doc, the whole group and finally he said he wanted to present something to someone he'd enjoyed walking with who was determined and who he knew would make it to base camp one day. He said it was a rock he'd chosen specially for this person to take away and that it wasn't to keep... it was to be returned one day, and he knew that it would be. He gave it to me!!! I just stood up, cried and hugged him. I couldn't hold back any longer. It was such a lovely thing to do. I was grateful that he thought of me that way.

We all headed off to bed and hoped to fly back the next day. Of course the next day came and went and involved a short walk to the airport (which was located right next to our lodge), through the 'security', waiting in the departure 'lounge', then being told 2 hours later that it was closed, weather was too windy. Back to the lodge and some stress of discussions and packing of bags, trying to get rid of stuff I'd saved for months to buy incase we needed to jump on a helicopter and get he hell out of there. I decided the only thing I could dump was a black base layer, spare batteries and my toiletry/spares bag with all manner of things in it. I just wasn't prepared to dump my kit. I packed my rucksack with my Rab down jacket, my last set of clean clothes, some basic toiletries, water bottles and few other bits and pieces and prayed we would fly the next day. In the morning we were woken by the sound of twin otter planes flying in and out of Lukla airstrip - it was a huge relief. At breakfast we were all feeling nervous and hoping the weather would stay fine for us. It was looking hopeful, planes were coming in and out, we counted them. We timed them. There was at least one round trip to/from Kathmandu then they stopped. Would you credit it, Kathmandu had been closed now due to the fog!!! We couldn't believe it. Anyway after about another 2 hours planes started to come in again and we were off, headed back round to the airport. It really was an anxious wait. You could feel the tension in the air as it started to fill up - same faces we'd seen the day before. We were hopefully on phase 2 today. Lucky sea green tickets we had!! We played more games, ate lots of Pringles, told jokes, talked of what we'd done and then our call came. We were excited. But by the time we'd get to Kathmandu we'd only have 2 hours to sort our stuff, have a wash and head back to the airport for our international flight back to Heathrow.

We got on Agni airlines flight after they took an age to unload the cargo they'd just brought in. I'd counted the minutes. From the plane landing, unloading cargo, loading our bags, loading us it was about 15 minutes! If the cargo are people then I'd counted earlier in the day a 7 minute turnaround. These were the margins we were working on. The plane took off and i can honestly say I thought I was going to die. It was being hit by gusts of turbulence and was so scary. I never really looked out of the window as you could see it going up and down. It was the worst 27 minutes on a mode of transport in my life. I was never as glad to be back in hot, dusty, smoggy Kathmandu...

I won't detail our journey home. You'll have made your way through airports yourselves but I'll end the tale of my trek by saying it was the best thing I have ever done in my life. Yes... I am very very disappointed at not having made it to Everest Base Camp. It was my dream afterall. It means I have an excuse to go back! But there were many many highlights - too many to mention but some were seeing Mt Everest for the first time, that wonderful sanctuary that is the monastery in Tengboche, Ama Dablam - awesome mountain, meeting the great people on the way like Sir Chris Bonnington and Apa Sherpa, camping out was fab and I want to do more, waking up to wonderful views each morning, challenging myself on so many different levels and knowing that I can do things when I want to (but for illness) and finally meeting my fellow trekkers. They truly were a great group to trek with and it was a pleasure to meet them all. They helped give me one the most wonderful experiences I've ever had and for that i am truly thankful. A final mention goes to Saran, The Doc and Mingma - a better bunch you couldn't meet.

The trek has totally given me a new outlook on life. It's funny because you go off and do something like this and people ask you how it was. You reply great, awesome, wonderful, fantastic but somehow those words just don't capture the essence of it and you can't find the words to really exlpain it. The sights, sounds, smells, emotions, feelings. How do you explain it all to people that have no clue that to have a flushing toilet for 1 day was a pure luxury. I try but now some people seem to glaze over and, dare i say it, look bored when i talk about it. How very dare they!! I am still gutted at not having made it and I don't think people realise when I say how much it has affected me as I'm one of those 'just get on with it' people but i think it's manifesting itself in my constant urge to be outdoors now. To get up the hills. To be living life to the full more. To be 'doing' rather than not. Of course people tell me it was a great achievement what I did do and i know that but can't help having a little slight niggly feeling of failure like when your waterproof goretex boots start letting in water... utter disappointment.

To conclude: I raised £4000 for Marie Curie Cancer Care. I can now say I've trekked in the Himalayas. I've seen Mt Everest. I'm somehow a changed person (sorry that sounds corny I know). To everyone out there who has played a part in my journey over the past year, no matter how big or small through sponsoring me, advice, encouraging me, listening to me go on about it all I once again say a final hugI Thank You. I hope you've enjoyed the journey, I know I tend to go on a bit in these posts but I can't help it... there I go again.

Ange xx

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