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Trip Report The Journey to the Everest Base Camp with Nepal Hiking Team

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After a much tiring day of strolling through ornate courtyards at Kathmandu Durbar Square, I am told by Balaram that this is the least exhausting part of the trip.
“You go from here to there (he points to the tea shop nearby) on car. Your offices and homes have lift and AC but here, it’s different”, he remarks with pride over the simple lives that his countrymen lead.
He adds that in the highlands, the experience is divergent. Although I had enquired about minor details with Ganga Raj Thapa, owner of the Nepal Hiking Team ( http://www.nepalhikingteam.com )getting raw information on the culture and people, is more intriguing.
Before I had finally decided about a month ago, that I wanted to join this expedition, an uncertainty was influencing my thoughts. With correspondence that stretched over weeks, I was sold on the idea of “being virtually on top of the world”. The fact that my moderate physical capability took me to that altitude astonished me. In my mind, it was a glorious moment. Otherwise, hiking up to a small hill for a picnic would have been my adventure trip.
Following a tour of the ancient complexes in Kathmandu, the actual trek begins after landing at the Lukla airport.
Honestly, it is quite thrilling to be at an airport of such dangerous repute.
From here on, my fitness was put to test starting with the trek to Phakding, which I now recall as the easier part of the journey. Day 4 began with a hike up to Namche Bazaar, the trading hub of the district. The 6 hour trek to the highlands includes rocky paths, petrifying bridges and soothing green landscapes. What’s remarkable about the highlands is that for every peculiar and strenuous situation, breathtaking views compensate for it equally.
Walking and taking small breaks, we reach the pulsating trade center. This historic trading post is where Nepalese and Tibetan traders exchange salt, dried meat and textiles. Little shops, lodges and internet cafés are clustered together that form the tourist hub.
During our two days stay at Namche for acclimatization, we move around scanning through traditional arts and crafts. After a hearty meal, we visit the Khumjung monastery that is famed for its yeti scalp.
It’s quite a fascinating sight, with there being a great amount of speculation around it. With apparently only one credible incident ever reported, Yeti is an enigmatic figure to say the least.
As ridiculous as the idea of a fabled character’s scalp being preserved, I’ll admit I was largely enthusiastic about it.
What added to the excitement was our guide, Balaram’s narration of the saga in the most dramatic of tones.
“This, right here - is the scalp of Yeti. The snowman had caused terror here in the olden times. For children, those were stories that would make them go to bed early”, he says with élan. “Even I have heard many”.
These two days proved to be a convenient break, because the climate was unpredictable with the increasing altitude. Headaches and nausea had set in and quite a few members of our team felt uneasy.
The next day, we hike up to Syangboche airport and then, to the Everest view hotel. Appropriately named, the hotel offers great panoramic views of Everest, Lhotse, Amadablam and Tawache. Moments like these are where you forget that you walked for hours and perhaps, would have nearly collapsed. When you see the serenity and beauty of the mountains, that’s the only place your attention is at.
It is only during the cold, silent nights that your joints succumb to the comfort of the bed and the body feels torn. And just when you feel cozy enough, it’s another day - full of long, tiring walks.
On day 6, we trek to Tengboche. The uniform trail leads us towards the view of Mount Everest, descending deep into the Dudh Koshi Valley.
“Not much left, we are nearly there!” I hear Balaram screaming. But that “nearly” came hours later. All this walking for an individual of average physical fitness was gruesome. I noticed that some of my fellow-trekkers breezed through it. The level of fitness made a world of difference.
Fortunate enough to have gotten there on a clear day, the views of Amadablam, Everest and various other peaks blended perfectly with the bleeding blue hue of the skies.
The hot meal served for dinner made up for the exhausting day, where the team members came together to chat about their experience and share photos.
The next day was a complete visual delight. I am one to always be amazed by nature so, it was hardly surprising that I was in awe of the picturesque locale we crossed. The lush forest, Imja River and the village nearby left me amazed.
The hike also seemed to be relatively easier than the days before and the ones that would follow, mostly due to consistency in altitude. I felt fine, de-stressed and content - with the progress that I felt was taking place. For me to walk all these days for hours at a stretch was quite unexpected.
Day 8 tested my resistance and ability in full form. The little confidence I gained the other day, faded into oblivion because this particular hike was both steep and strenuous. An hour into it, and I felt like giving up already.

A lot of breaks, complains and wailing later, we reach Nagerjun. The hill is surrounded by icy pinnacles and it would be of grave injustice to them if a good amount of time is not spent here taking photographs. The beauty and tranquility is incredible, it makes you want to be a calm individual. A little trip to the hills reminded me of ease, quiet and serenity or the lack of it in everyday life, perhaps.
The view is grand. "We are surrounded by Lobuche East, Lobuche West, Taboche Peak, Thamserku, Kangtega, Ama Dablam and Makalu. Doesn't all of this look amazing?", says Balaram, with a sense of achievement. He is bound to feel that way. His nation is fused with such dramatic elements.
After a good amount of time is spent, we begin the descent back to Dingboche, which takes about 2 hours.
Later, we have lunch at a local tea house, taking a well deserved rest. All this while, I am occupied by thoughts of what has changed in me since I had been here. As artificial as it sounds, these are the kind of deep things you think about, while munching on your food slowly, in the Himalayas. I am happy about what has changed, though. The luxury of travelling in a car and using tablets and phones all day has been given a break and what should be done - living simple pleasures, had manifested into reality.
Day 9 is all about walks, acclimatization and pain - mostly. I am still not used to the increasing altitudes and decreasing air. Shortness of breath, fatigue, nausea and the steep trail had proved to be a lethal combination. What still kept us all going was the fact that we had come so close to our destination and this was nothing compared to what was ahead of us. The next day would be our final assessment and we just had to try to not fail. It made no sense to give up all those days of wear and tear that our bones had been through.
As we ultimately descend to the yak pastures of Lobuche, the eagerness of tomorrow had crept in, along with dusk. Dinner time was filled with chatter of how far we had come and the essentials of covering the next day with utmost precaution and well-timed stops.
The morning of Day 10 began with preparation, exhilaration and fear, alike. Personally, I felt like my stomach would turn upside down, after the lump I had in my throat. What seemed to be exciting the other night was turning out to be a nightmare already. Nevertheless, we set out on the quest to own this day - despite the uncertainty of actually making it there.
Those 8 hours felt like it would never end. Halfway through it, I had a dizzying headache along with many others that felt nauseous. But with some medication, breaks and assistance from Balaram, I continued. However, a few members weren't well enough to go further.
They were asked to stay back, while the rest of us proceeded towards the highlight of the trek. With exhaustion and altitude trying to beat us to the ground, we just couldn't think right. But before we were completely drained of all energy, we were at Gorekshep. Dubbed as "the steps to heaven" by Dalai Lama, most of us did feel like this was heaven. Not just because it is a beautifully frozen lakebed, the comfort of getting there - was heavenly. Nuptse was before us, seated above the sand.
Moving on from here after a filling meal, we trek to the Everest base camp.
While I was screaming inside like an ecstatic little child, I tried to compose myself. With the Khumbu glacier and icefall laid beneath colossal mountains like a milky carpet, I am in complete awe of what I have seen. What I see right in front of me is - Mount Everest. From the Everest base camp - the location that some of the greatest mountaineers have made their breeding ground, on the path to achieving victory.
It was a moment of triumph for me, as well. What started out as a adventure trek for an average individual like me, went on to become a pressure test to attain a dream that is distant - for so many.
I felt impatient, euphoric and worn out - all at once.
Back at the guest house, I was shivering and smiling in pain. Regaining my scattered self and waiting for the next day for the trek to Kala Patthar - the best vantage point to view Everest. I hadn't had enough of it and tomorrow was another addition to the excuse.
On Day 10, we were drawn towards an important purpose of the trip. The trek to Kala Patthar was paramount for me. Nominated as the premier location to view Everest, it was also one of the main reasons for me to join this program. 7 more hours of pain and struggle would prove to be a rewarding experience.

We had walked so much, for so many days, that this had now become "usual". Apart from a slight head and joint ache, I was ready to go.
Intoxicated by the spirit of the Himalayas since the day before, all I wanted was to view the massif - in all its glory, from the best place possible.
After a series of aches and pains, several small breaks and breathlessness, we were there. I do not have many words to explain the feeling, then or now. With mountains all around us, we were bound to be stunned by the highest of them all.
For me, this was path breaking. I just stood there, as time stood still for the moment. Sharing the same ground as the renowned massifs was a bit astonishing for me. All those days of physical and mental torment, was worth it. For a split-second, I couldn't recall it. It felt like I was transported there, right from my dreams.

There was I and there was Everest. Nothing else mattered.
And now, after I am back to where I belong, I recollect these events with immense pride, every time that I do. It is rare, that holiday that proved to be an occasion for me. An occasion that is imprinted on my heart and memory – for eternity.

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