Hillary Approach

Hillary Approach

October 24, 2018

Trekking Day: 1 of 22
Start: Phaplu (Elev: 7,920')
End: Kharikola (Elev: 6,680')
Distance: 17 miles
Time: 0805-1640
Accommodation: Peaceful Lodge

When I woke up this morning, I could see some of the distant snow-covered Himalayan peaks, my first glimpse of what's to come. The first part of the walk was on a dirt road. I almost missed the turn onto the approach trail but a local farmer called out to me from his field to point it out. The road still would've gotten me where I was going, it just would've taken quite a long time. The trail climbed and climbed up to a high ridge before dropping way down into a valley. Everything is steep here. The terrain seems to go straight up and straight down. The trail is a mix between rock check staircases, rocked paths, and dirt/mud. Hard on the knees, but that's pretty much what I signed up for. I stopped for cheese momo in the small village of Nunthala. Momo is a local dish that's basically just a dumpling that can be filled with pretty much anything. One of the biggest advantages to this trek is that I don't need to carry food during the day. There are plenty of villages where I can stop for snacks, meals, water, and even bathroom breaks.

After Nunthala, the trail drops for about another kilometer all the way to the river, then climbs relentlessly for about five k's to reach Kharikola. It was slow going, and I think that's most, if not all, of tomorrow. Not looking forward to the return trip to Phaplu, because it's going to reverse today's elevation profile, which means way more up. All part of the fun, though!

In Kharikola I found a room for 100 rupees, and that again included WiFi and charging. It seems that the lodges up here are all just rooms with two single bunks, and you pay for the room. Hopefully I can find someone to split the cost with, otherwise I'll be paying full fare for the duration of my trip. Not the end of the world, though, since it's all pretty cheap anyways. I get the impression that providing rooms is just a way to get travelers to eat at the lodges. I'm told that there is an extra charge if you don't eat where you stay, sometimes as much as 1,000 rupees rather than 300-500. The food is more expensive than the lodging, which is an interesting switch from the states where we pay so much more just to have a bed to sleep in.

I'm the only person in the whole lodge tonight, and I didn't see any other travelers around the village, so I wonder whether I'm the only one. Apparently I'm toward the end of the trekking season, so maybe it's not so surprising. And again, I think most trekkers fly into Lukla rather than walk. My host tonight also told me that it's the tail end of the hiking season, and that it's going to be very cold for me up there. I wonder how it's going to go for Rob and Elizabeth who won't even land in Kathmandu for another three weeks.

Fourth day in Nepal, and I got my first bout of traveller's diarrhea despite carefully treating all water. It was shortly after lunch and came on like a hurricane, so I had to dig a cat hole. It has persisted the rest of the day despite three Imodium tabs. Had to super-clench for 8 k's - most of them uphill - because I was certain that a simple fart would spell tragedy. Too much info? Yeah, I know. Sorry. Just keeping it real. Guess we'll see how tomorrow goes. Might be using those antibiotics sooner than planned. I'm also just generally feeling sick and groggy, like I may be getting a cold. I can see that the sanitation standards aren't the same here as they are back home. And I'll be at the cooks' mercy, since I didn't bring my own food, and I wouldn't be willing to pay the surcharge for not eating at the lodges even if I had. Ah well, crossing my fingers for good weather, good health, and good company!

October 25, 2018

Trekking Day: 2 of 22
Start: Kharikola (Elev: 6,680')
End: Phakding (Elev: 8,565')
Distance: 16 miles
Time: 0815-1630
Accommodation: Himalayan Teahouse

It's my birthday, and how fortunate I am to be spending it in the Himalaya, though I can think of someone I wish I was sharing it with. Actually, someone I'd rather be sharing it with regardless of where or what that looked like. I love traveling and experiencing new things, but I wonder whether this nomadic life is as much a part of me as it once was. Still working that part out in my head, trying to figure out whether I've changed. Actually, I know I've changed. We all do. I just need to understand how.

It was another clear morning, not so much as a cloud in the sky as I set out toward Phakding. Of course, the clouds engulfed the high peaks within a few short hours, and by the afternoon it was raining intermittently as I continued to work my way up the folded valleys. I began to see many more Westerners as the approach trail merged with the Lukla-Namche Trail. I very quickly felt grateful for the quieter approach experience, and I'm already looking forward to the quieter walk out.

There were loads of mule trains coming and going, presumably from Namche. Too many to wait each time one was coming, and certainly too slow to just follow one going, so I found myself constantly negotiating a way through, sometimes on narrow paths but more often with plenty of room to slide by. And it didn't take long to learn that a quick flick of a trekking pole could direct them in order to make passing easier. Saw one early on that very obviously had a compound fracture on one of its front legs, which is both sad and not surprising given the steep, uneven terrain. I'm imagining that such an occurrence isn't terribly uncommon, but it was still hard to see an animal suffering.

Phakding was the biggest village I've seen so far. Couple of bars, loads of both locals and trekkers, and a number of little shops. Accommodation ranged from quite fancy to quite quaint. While the cost of lodging didn't really go up, it no longer included charging or WiFi, so the cost of what I'd been getting the past few nights is closer to 500-600 rupees rather than 200-300. Eh, I just skipped the WiFi and charging. I can wait at least five days between charges. WiFi is a little tougher to resist, but I'll probably get WiFi on the days that I charge. I think the locals know how much us Westerners love our internet, so I imagine they exploit that, not that I blame them. Near as I can tell, tourism is the main industry (porters, snack bars, teahouses), at least in this region of Nepal. Off the main trekking route, I would guess farming is king. It's pretty rural up here but for the influx of trekkers every year.

Tonight is the first since I've been here that I haven't been able to reach out to Mallory. I hate it. She feels so far away. I'm trying to embrace this experience, and I can't help but imagine how much more special this experience would be if she were here. I don't agree that "happiness only real when shared", but I do agree that it's better.

It's only 1930, and I'm already laying down in bed. I've been getting a lot of sleep the last few nights, and these two days are projected to be my longest. I'll be slowing down as I make my way higher in elevation. Tomorrow I arrive in Namche Bazaar, which is only at 11,285 feet. I've been over 14,000 feet dozens of times back in Colorado, so I don't think I need to zero there in order to acclimate, but I might anyways. Better safe than sorry, maybe. We'll see how I feel about it when I get there. I think it's the last "big" village on the trek, so I may want to chill there and enjoy the amenities before pressing on. Of course if I get there early enough, I may be able to get my fill tomorrow. I've got plenty of time and lots of optional side trips scheduled, so I really don't need to stress about any kind of timeline.