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Krazy Kathmandu!

Mount Everest. Nepal.


Yesterday we visited the Swayambhunath Temple set high on a hill to the west of Kathmandu. Prayer flags fluttered in the breeze, pilgrims and tourists alike crawled up the steep stone steps to the shrines, and the resident population of monkeys terrorised innocent picnickers; stealing any unattended goodies and, working in perfect harmony to distract them, they even stole items that were closely guarded! Dave laughed out loud on a couple of occasions as he watched them stalking potential victims before pouncing with rapier like speed to plunder their bounty.

Wilco snapped happily away with his camera, taking pictures of anything that caught his eye. He has an eye for the interesting; it turns out.

And me? I just wandered; I like to wander.

Kathmandu is typically Asian. Manic, dusty, heavily polluted. But it has all the charm of Buddhist Asia. The people are as warm as they are enterprising. Every Asian city I have visited seems to have an angle; a trade that the underprivileged embrace. In Hanoi, for example, ladies walk the city streets calling out “Pineapple-Banana”; In Bangkok it always seems to be “Tuk-tuk sir? Ping-Pong?” referring to the ubiquitous transport and the seedy shows! Saigon was all cigarettes in large folding cases or cheap copies of well known travel books. Here in Kathmandu it seems that everyone is selling Tiger Balm, small musical instruments specially made for the tourist market, or prayer wheels in one form or another. And of course every shady looking fella sidles up and whispers “Hashish Sir?”

For all of its problems it is a charming place and I like it very much. But of course we have an oasis, our place of tranquillity away from the maelstrom. The Kathmandu Guesthouse in the heart of Thamel. Steeped in mountaineering history; and The Beatles-esque, hippie-trail, memories of the 60’s and 70’s. We can escape back here at any time and relax in the gardens or while away a quiet hour on the internet; or in Dave’s case take a regular afternoon siesta.
It’s a very far cry from the pristine beauty of the trails we have enjoyed and endured over the last three weeks.
Our trek on the Expedition route from Jiri to Gorak Shep was a myriad of sights, sounds and emotions. Hard, hard work, sometimes punishingly so; but equally rewarding in so many more ways.
The first few days were difficult as we adjusted to the time difference & the jet-lag, the changes in altitude and to each other’s different levels of stamina.
The steep technical trails had us strung out all along the way but we succeeded in our quest and eventually made it into Base Camp as one entity; below the mighty peaks of Everest, Lhotse, Nuptse and Pumori at precisely 11.01am on Thursday 16th February. The temperature was a teeth shattering 30 below, in the wind, and we stuck it out for about 30 minutes; savouring the moment for as long as we could endure. Our emotions got the better of us for a few moments and, after almost three weeks of toil, we embraced each other and shed a few tears. I’m glad that Dave and Wilco chose to accompany me; I can’t think of two finer characters I could choose to be with. When the sun shines on the Khumbu Glacier it turns to the most beautiful shade of blue you can possibly imagine; almost as bright as the hearts of my two friends.
We had a lot of fun too and it’s a shame that a lot of favourite moments may not translate on to this page in quite the way we experienced them! The day early on in the trek when Wilco didn’t quite make it to the toilet, for example. Or the time in Bupsa that Dave was feeling unwell due to consuming an unusual combination of Coke-Cola, Mars Bar, and Tinned Sardines for lunch; at our chosen lodge a Sherpa wedding was in full swing and an enthusiastic reveller constantly bashed together a very loud pair of symbols. Dave was trying to have a snooze, so Wilco and I slipped downstairs to encourage our new found friend to continue with his delightful thrashing; louder and louder. Dave was on to us in a flash!
I didn’t escape either; on our epic 9 ½ hour descent from Gorak Shep to Namche I came across a young Yak rushing down the trail and a comical game of cat & mouse ensued as neither of us was sure which way to run! In the end I made a dash for the safety of some steps and the young Yak shot through on his way to who knows where! Dave and Wilco saw the whole spectacle and laughed outrageously at my close encounter!
We also met some very lovely people too with whom to share a few moments of our adventure; Peter-Bas & Kristal from the Netherlands were constant companions for a few short days. Sarah-Jane Pearce from Australia always brightened our day whenever we spotted her; a truly lovely person. Gunnar Soras from Norway was a young guy with severe AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness) symptoms when we first met him at Gorak Shep; and we managed to convince him and his friend Andrew to descend quickly before he got in to serious trouble. In a strange twist to the tale he walked in to our lodge in Namche the evening of our return from Gorak Shep. He was looking for Sarah Jane but found us instead. We then became reacquainted, by chance, in Kathmandu and we have all had some fun evenings in the bars of Thamel! And our unforgettable Polish friends for a day or two; Ela and Yola, who made us laugh like drains!
Today Wilco and I took to the manic streets on mountain bikes, (a road bike wouldn’t survive on the barely surfaced roads here) and we visited the Boudhanath Stupa for the first day of the Tibetan Buddhist New Year. The Stupa is a stunning 43m high structure and quite rightly deserves its Unesco World Heritage Status. We had a lot of fun dodging in and out of the traffic and Wilco says he is going to hire a bike every day from now on!
We have also booked ourselves a two day White-water Kayaking trip on the Trisuli River and we are all excited about this because some of the rapids look awesome! Wish us luck!eritage staus.
Don’t forget that you still sponsor our quest using the JustGiving links to our charities at the side of the page.

Feel free to use the links to our Facebook and Twitter pages for more of our adventures.

I will be writing a few posts detailing the highlights of the trek as soon as I have the opportunity but in the meantime please enjoy a few of the images below for a taste of what we experienced.

The view from Jiri on our first morning.

First steps on a very long trail. Dave, Wilco, and Neil about to begin.

The first 6 or 7 days involved a lot of technical trails.

Dave, Wilco and Neil on one of the many suspension bridges along the route.

Suspension bridge near Shivalaya.

The beautiful valley at Shivalaya.

We were teased occasionally by glimpses of snow capped giants.

Wilco, Dave and Neil at the top of yet another long ascent!

Some of the “facilities” were a bit basic in the hills!

Our first taste of being above the snow-line.

Neil, Wilco and Dave at the top of the Lamjura La (Pass).

The descent down the opposite side wasn’t any easier.

Attacked by a stuffed Red Panda in Junbesi!

The high Himalaya tearing from the earth. Our first real view of what was to come.

Climbing towards another high pass at Trakshindo. Stunning.

The Trakshindo La. Gateway to the Solu-Khumbu. The landscape changed dramatically.

Dawn at Trakshindo.

Toilets designed for Daleks at Bupsa!

One of my highlights, we stumbled upon this view quite by chance.

It was beginning to get serious by now.

Collateral damage from the worst storm in living memory. The path to Namche.

More chaos on the climb from Jorsale to Namche.

A snow covered Namche Bazar. And no electricity meant no internet!

I could have used this service a few times!

Relaxing in Namche with Yola & Ela, our Polish friends.

My first real view of my dream. Mt Everest from Namche Bazar.

Acclimatising in the sunshine at Namche, we enjoyed this day a lot!

Ama Dablam. One of the worlds great peaks.

Our stunning view of Everest (left) and Lhotse (centre) one evening in Tengboche.

Wilco, Neil and Dave enjoying a break during the walk in to Lobuche.

Gorak Shep. The last staging post before Everest Base Camp. Over 5100m is no place for normal people!

Base Camp and The Khumbu Glacier from the Pumori Ridge. We were about to touch the rainbow!

A lifetime’s ambition achieved. Neil, Dave & Wilco at Mt Everest Base Camp.

Completely wasted at Namche after descending from Gorak Shep in 9 1/2 hours!

And finally… the last steps in to Lukla completed our journey.

Neil back in smoggy Kathmandu!

Candles burning in the monastery at Swayambhunath, Kathmandu.
 Thank you for looking.



About The Author

Neil Cottam

Neil is the founder of Chase The Rainbow. He has spent a lifetime exploring the outdoors, from a childhood climbing trees and scrambling his bike around old pit heads to hiking in the Himalaya and backpacking around Europe and Asia.

1 Comment

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