Everest: Part IV

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Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV (you’re on it!)

It’s the last chapter in this saga! This will return us back down to Lukla.

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We left Pheriche for Deboche and finally lost our lucky streak of good weather. As you can see above, it began as overcast and became cloudier as the day progressed. I had also developed a fun new problem– my coughing had quieted a bit but I had developed a bruised rib from all of the coughing.

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Above are our dzopkyo crossing a bridge. They were, for whatever reason, quite fussy that morning. Unlike our ascent, which followed a somewhat indirect scenic route, our descent lead us along the main Base Camp trail.

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The trekking was fairly easygoing and still very picturesque.

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We were still high enough to see plenty of yaks traversing the trail.

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But I was so bummed about the weather! The clouds made the mountains difficult to see.

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Cue the Benny Hill music. There were a lot of yaks on the trail.

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Here are the yaks that were crossing the bridge, up close and personal. I was always a little nervous being around such big animals, even if they do have colorful little floof balls on their heads.

After some river crossing, we made our way through a small forest.

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I really liked the old man’s beard on the trees (sort of visible in the picture to the left). I had never seen that before! Other than that, the forest again reminded me of the forests back home.

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After walking through the forest a bit and passing the mani wall above, we stopped to camp in Deboche, just as the rain started in earnest. We were pretty much in the middle of nowhere, so I spent most of my afternoon in my tent, listening to the rain fall.

That night, as I was brushing my teeth outside of my tent, I saw a horse on the other side of the field. I was not super pleased that there was a horse wandering the field our tents were in (I’m a little horsephobic) but figured he was far enough that it wouldn’t matter. Later that night, I woke up at about 2 AM and my foot brushed up against something outside of my tent. And that something moved. I FREAKED out and immediately pictured the stupid horse I had seen earlier sitting on the entrance of my tent. I was now wide awake and mustering the courage to go outside and have a fight in the dark with a fat horse intent on sitting on my tent. I slipped out the back exit, creeped to the front of my tent, and…there was nothing there. Feeling a little insane because I knew my foot had hit something, I zipped open the front flap and found a stray dog lying in the antechamber of the tent, clearly seeking shelter from the rain. He looked up at me imploringly, and I felt (1) relieved I didn’t have to fight a horse and (2) terrible for even disturbing the poor dog. And that was my 2 AM animal adventure in Dengboche.

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If this isn’t the shadiest horse you’ve ever seen, you need to stop hanging out with such shady horses.

The next day I saw this shady horse. I half expected him to offer me some drugs. He was lurking near a bathroom that belonged to the teahouse we had breakfast in (you can see it in the left of the picture– the green metal). The bathroom had the most complex lock I had ever seen. I half expected to find a stash of gold in there, instead of a hole in the ground. And I was nervous to be encased in a metal box with this shady character lurking nearby.

Anyway, we left the shady horse and Deboche behind and made our way up (in the mud and rain) to Tengboche Monastery.

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After a fairly brief visit, we continued on our way to Namche Bazaar.

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This was probably the most miserable day of trekking. It was rainy, cold, and muddy and the rapid-fire descending (we lost about 4000 feet in the span of an hour or two) killed my knees and made me regret not bringing trekking poles.

I felt like a whiner for complaining, however, when I saw all the porters on the trail. I’ve sort of alluded to porters throughout this little saga, so I’ll explain here. There are no cars at all on this trail. To get supplies up or down the mountain, they must be carried by either humans or animals. The physical abilities of these porters almost defies logic.

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Oh, you know, just carrying a door and a bag twice the size of my body up a mountain side. No big deal.

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Are they building a rocket ship at the top of this mountain? I really hope these guys are very well paid. I was told by our sherpa that they are paid the same regardless of the size of the load.

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The trail finally linked up with the trail we had originally taken out of Namche and things began looking more familiar. We finally found ourselves back in Namche Bazaar and staying in a lodge for the night.

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As it turns out, our timing could not have been better. Perhaps you heard on the news about that horrible avalanche disaster in the Annapurna area? The Everest Base Camp circuit was hit with the same storm system, albeit not nearly as badly. While those at a higher elevation received snow, we experienced horrible thunderstorms and vicious rain and wind. I watched it from the window of the lodge and felt so thankful to not be in a tent.

And the next day….

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…was flawless sunshine! I couldn’t believe our luck with the weather. We sadly left Namche behind.

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But were seen off by a bunch of young and friendly Namche residents who wanted fist pounds and high fives. We then followed the same trail back down to Phakding.

And I saw more impressive porters.

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He has to climb all those stairs with that heavy looking load.

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Taking a break and then starting on his way.

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Colorful porter baskets waiting for their owners outside of a restaurant. The porters just leave the baskets on a ledge and go inside to eat and drink.

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More colorful porter packs.

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There were a lot of donkeys on the trail. It may have actually been national donkey parade day.

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There were also very high bridges and waterfalls along the way, of course. No trail is complete without those.

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Everything felt like it was in stunning technicolor. When we arrived in Phakding, we finally finally FINALLY had the opportunity to take a shower. I won’t even mention how long I went without showering (it’s just not possible/practical at the higher villages along the trail). It was heavenly. We camped in Phakding for the night again (and promptly lost electricity during dinner) and then set out for Lukla the next day.

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Donkey is so beautiful.

We promptly encountered a serious donkey traffic jam and had to take shelter on a restaurant balcony. We were stuck there for about ten minutes but some of the donkeys were wearing flower crowns, so it was all good.

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When I said serious traffic jam, I meant it. This isn’t even the same group of donkeys as above (you can tell from what they are carrying). They just kept coming!

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More donkeys. Forever donkeys. I didn’t know this many donkeys existed.

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I saw quite a few women doing this. The seed or spice is put on a tarp to dry in the sun.

So the fun thing (read: not fun thing) about Lukla is that you actually need to ascend from Phakding to reach it. And as you can see from my pictures, it was very sunny and surprisingly warm. So that was an unpleasant last little jab that Everest got in.

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And we were back in Lukla! As a treat, we were staying in a lodge instead of a tent. The lodge, interestingly, was right next to the airport. And when I say next to the airport, I mean we were separated from the runway by a chainlink fence. I stood taking pictures of the incoming planes and helicopters.

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We sat and had tea in the yard of the lodge and I watched as the sun slowly went down.

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And finally the sun set in Lukla.

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The next day we were off to the airport…which, as mentioned, was right next door. I have not yet mentioned the sheer terror that is the Lukla airport.

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See the end of that very short runway? That’s just a sheer drop off the mountain side. It’s pretty sink or swim. The airport itself is also a little chaotic.

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It’s just a crush of people jostling for tickets and bag inspection. That’s how it works– you show up and hope you get a ticket. The tickets themselves just have a gate number and nothing else. Your departure time is whenever it happens.

After clearing security and getting into the little waiting area, I looked over to see many of the local young men transfixed by what was playing on television.

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What was playing? WWE wrestling! I kid you not. It’s incredibly popular there! One of our sherpas excitedly told us about his favorite wrestler. So my Everest journey concluded with me sitting in the airport with a snow-capped mountain visible from the open window, watching WWE wrestling for the first time.

And then I boarded my tiny plane and said goodbye to the Himalayas.

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