Thursday, November 24, 2016

Nepal - The Land of the Mountains

Grand Summary:
  • A few days in Kathmandu in the tourist hub of Thamel getting sorted and rearranging our transport & route (so we could work in a job interview in a place with reception in 5 days time)
  • 10-11 hour jeep ride from Kathmandu to Phaplu
  • 28 Days trekking from Phaplu return on the 3 Passes Circuit in the Khumbu Valley beneath incredible peaks like Ama Dablam, Lhotse, Nhuptse, Cho Oyu and Everest
  • Currently relaxing in Tansen, (west of Kathmandu) staying with a friend working as a doctor in a hospital here.
  • Next: Back to Kathmandu, where Miriam will be with the Himalayan Foundation for a short time assisting with the Himalayan Trust/REED Nepal teacher training programme before we head back to NZ.

It's been a truly incredible 28 days amidst the Mighty Mountains of Nepal! 

28 days of near perfect weather, every day.
28 days of expensive Dahl Baht for lunch & egg veg noodles for dinner every day.
28 days of not showering or shaving.
28 days of pulling on the boots and stinky socks and packs every morning. 
28 days of attempting, but mostly failing, to avoid trains of yaks, mules and people.
28 days of experiencing and appreciating different levels of oxygen.
28 days of theoretically getting fitter, but seemingly feeling less and less fit with the increasing altitude.
28 days of trying to speak enough Nepali to be able to eat in the local teahouses (as opposed to tourist lodges), where food was better and much cheaper.
28 days of journeying through incredible beautiful, awe inspiring, places.

On our days off, as a break from walking, just for a change, we usually climbed 600m up a nearby peak for the view or to help acclimatise.  Ahh, but what a real privilege being able to spend this time here coming towards the end of our journey!  Hamro Nepal derri man parcha! (We really like Nepal!).

In a couple of weeks we'll aim to post another blog with some reflections on Nepal and our time here in general.  But, without further ado, we'd like to share some of these Mountain spots with you. The photos really don't even come close to doing it justice. For you, though, this is a WIN!  You'll save on the necessary slow days acclimatising to the high altitudes, the conscious effort required for the simple acts of breathing, and the painfully slow uphill walking with excessive amounts of stops required to do a distance that would normally be straight forward.  (Yes, we learnt that altitude is definitely a force to contend with).

Photographic Journey from Kathmandu to the Khumbu


Looking over the sea of rooftops from Thamel

Bustling streets

The Journey to the Khumbu

The journey in.

Despite looking low-key - 10 hours in this jeep was FAR too long for Miri!

A donkey train leaving Phaplu, loaded with supplies

Porters were always impressive...

The monastery at Junbesi village - a colourful place!

The approach to Nunthala - our second night from Phaplu

Looking back on Kharikhola

The terraced fields of Bupsa

Ancient Tibetan inscriptions along Mani walls

The old and the new - between Monjo and Namche

Namche Bazaar - a bustling hub of markets, cafes, shoe repair men, movies and many, many tourists!

The Khumbu Valley & Three Passes

"I look up to the mountains —    does my help come from there?
 My help comes from the Lord,
    who made heaven and earth!"
From a song sung by Jewish Pilgrims on the road  (Psalm 121)

Our route from Namche (bottom middle). We started walking three days below Lukla, instead of the usual which is flying in.
From Lukla it is a one or two day walk to Namche (depending on whether you walk or fly in for acclimatisation purposes).

Boom! Ama Dablam comes into view.

An acclimatisation walk up to visit Ama Dablam base camp, which was packed with expeditions
climbing! An incredible mountain, which
inspired us so much we returned at the end of the trip for further exploration!

Windy up there! Everest is on the left at the back and Lhotse on the right.

Wandering up a hill on a rest day - Cholatse behind

Above Dingboche, with Ama Dablam in the background, 5083m

On our way to Chhkung Ri, an acclimatisation day with the impressive Lhotse Face. Chhkung Ri is 5550m so
helpful for the following Kongma La Pass which was also 5550m.

Looking towards Island Peak (left) and where the Amphu Lampsta crossing comes in on the right.

Chhkung Ri:  Despite being dwarfed by the Lhotse face we felt like we'd made a summit!

Up Chhkung Ri. From left: Lhotse Face, Island Peak, Ama Dablam (centre) and down the main Khumbu valley

From Kongma La (first pass) - 5550m. Stunning!

From Kongma La looking west towards Lobuche (the main valley leading to Everest).
Kala Pattar, 5550m. A sunset mission to see Everest and then a night adventure back to our lodge in Lobuche.

Everest with the Khumbu Glacier and the start of the Khumbu icefall. The route up to the South Col (the obvious saddle
to the right of Everest) cuts sharply back behind the ridge in the foreground, up the Western CWM. Base Camp is at
the bottom of the sweeping corner on  the icefall (left side of the glacier)

Ama Dablam and the locals

Towards Cho La (second pass), 5400m

We crossed two glaciers like this - the Khumbu and the Ngozumba en route to Gokyo. HUGE walls of gravel and ice.
It was both impressive and daunting.

From Gokyo Ri, 5550m with the afternoon fog rolling in. Looking down on Gokyo village.

Gokyo Ri - an amazing spot to watch the sun set

Everest and Nuptse.

From further up the Gokyo valley and the Ngozumbu glacier.  This is the longest glacier in the Himalaya's (36km long)

Video from a peak above the Ngozumbu glacier

On the way to Renjo La (3rd pass) looking back at Gokyo and Everest

Despite being fit, altitude got the better of me this day which made for some slow hill climbing!

Renjo La, 5300m

Carrying everything....INCLUDING the kitchen sink!!! Awesome. (leaving Ama Dablam base camp)

Sunrise on Ama Dablam - our favourite mountain

Looking towards High Camp 5100m (right side of scree) and Camp 1 5800m (top left of ridge) on our Ama Dablam
exploration day.  We came back here at the end of our trek once we'd become sufficiently acclimatised...

Woohoo! Camp 1, 5800m

Camp One and the summit!  There was a team of Austrians summiting when we were here, like a trail of tiny ants...
This was our highest point of the journey.

Camp Three is below the large hanging glacier....obviously prone to avalanches!

Video view from Ama Dablam Camp 1 at 5800m

We'd also like to thank Reagan & Rachel, friends from CHCH, who we gave our packs to 9 months ago back in NZ for them to bring to India for us! Legends!

We're now starting to really look forward to returning to NZ, seeing friends and whanau in person, catching up and getting stuck into life!

Arohanui & Namaste

Andy & Miriam


Poetry for the Hard Outs!!

The Wings of the Mountains   
Arthur Guiterman (1871-1943)
Before there were clouds in the heavens,
 Before there were summers and springs,
 Afar in the fathomless ages
 The mountains, the mountains had wings.
 For, first of the works of creation
 Are they of the towering crests,
 And great was their grandeur and glory,
 And greater the pride in their breasts.

 They soared to the starry pavilions;
 Prodigious in power and girth,
 They darkened the world with their shadows.
 Yea, truly, unstable was Earth!
 For madly they challenged each other,
 Till, rising in menacing flight,
 They sundered the peace of the ages;
 In battle they measured their might.

 Then, rolling together, the ranges
 In thunderous conflict were hurled;
 The crags of the helmeted summits
 Were scattered abroad through the world;
 Till He that created the mountains,
 Who stayeth the sea with His hand,
 Dissevered the wings from their shoulders
 And rooted the hills where they stand.

So, marshaled in order of battle
 The rolling sierras are seen;
 But calm are the helmeted summits,
 And calm are the valleys between.
 The snows of the æons have softened
 The pride of the towering crests,
 And sunk are the passionate fires
 That burned in the cavernous breasts.

And still in the quiet of the evening
 The clouds of the heavens enfold
 The bulk of the great, shraggy shoulders
 In ivory, crimson, and gold;
 For these are the wings of the mountains,
 Though clouds to the vision of men,
 And thus, by the mercy of Heaven,
 They come to the mountains again.

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