And on we trekked from Everest Base Camp (EBC to us seasoned trekkers!!) Retracing our route back to Gorak Shep & on to Pheriche, an estimated 25km.
The biting wind, like the memory of a first kiss, never left us.
Thankfully it was at our backs.
After two hours of shuffling through rocky passes and broken trail, we emerged onto a flat sandy basin.
Just as we thought it was getting easier, the wind gods turned their fury on the sandy soil and we were enveloped in a sandstorm. It was reminiscent of a scene from Mad Max.
As the sand whipped around us, I lost sight of Passang who stood just 3 feet from me.
We all stood still and waited for it to pass lest our blindness lead us into hazard.
As suddenly as it began, it subsided. There was Passang and just ahead Dylan and Brendan and as the air continued to clear –
Gorak Shep appeared out of the gloom.
Home to the Snowland B&B.
Probably the greatest sh1thole on the planet. Sorry, that’s unfair to every b&b. DEFINITELY the greatest sh1thole on the planet.
Sherpa has recommended that should “the Donald” and “Kim Young Un” wish to have a pissing contest with their Nukes, here would be a good venue.
However, perspective is a funny thing.
Yesterday filled with the enthusiasm of getting to base camp, we were delighted to slam the door behind us as we left.
Today, beaten down by exhaustion and cold, we knock gently and hope to be welcomed back in.
The food room is still freezing but we don’t complain. The overwhelming feeling here is of being ripped off (bottled water down the trail is 100r but here charges 400r and they fill them behind the hotel out of the tap – I saw it) but we find it less objectionable this time.
The toilets are still horrendous but….they’re still horrendous.
This is to be our breakfast stop. The lumpy porridge is flavored with cinnamon and topped with apple. I doubt if the nightly special at a top rated Michelin restaurant could have tasted any better.
A couple of cups of watery instant coffee and we’re ready for off again.
Leaving the Snowland at Gorak Shep, we turn right, head south – past the garbage in the streets, the stray dogs, the wandering mule and the polluted river.
Stay Classy Gorak Shep.
On we trekked, downwards.
Through Thukla and Labouche heading for Phariche. The altitude that had taken us 4 days to gain had been lost in a day, about 1000m of it.
As we descended along the Khumbu Valley, the rising sun finally gained the advantage over the biting wind and the temperatures began to rise. The absent blood returned to my fingers and toes like school children rushing out at break time.
With every descending step, the air became richer in oxygen. Gulping it down, we became intoxicated on O2 and the spring returned to our step.
The valley opens out into a huge riverbed, practically dry. Miles off a small collection of buildings with green galvanized roofs are perched on the riverbank – this is Pheriche, our home for the night.
This hamlet is cold. Surrounded by incredibly high mountains on both sides, the morning sun doesn’t arrive until late and the evening sun vanishes early.
On arrival, the B&B is similar to most. A large room for dining heated by a solid fuel stove in the middle of the room and tables and chairs spread throughout.
The standout here is the live tv on a countertop. (I can’t remember when I last saw a tv other than the Liquid bar in Namche which was just a method to show the Everest movie – no live channels).
As we crowd around the just lit fire to warm up, our Sherpas are gathered around the tv – engrossed in a US women’s wrestling show. It occurred to me that of all the things we in the West could send the Nepalese to enrich their lives, this ain’t one of them.
Scanning the faces of these beautiful, gentle, honest people as they watch the show, I wonder how they view us. Probably best not to dwell on that one.
Our room is again a model of efficiency and basicness (if that’s a word). But, it is ensuite complete with hole in the ground crapper, sink with bucket of icy water and (surprisingly) a shower tray………..albeit no shower!
Sherpa goes bananas and buys a bucket of hot water for 5 dollars and we go crazy. Having only had a lick of a baby wipe for a week, the sensation of chucking a jug of hot water over your naked body in a bathroom at about zero degrees celcius is amazing. Then freezing. Then amazing again and on it goes. As it turned out, the $5 bucket managed to wash three of us, so was good value.
In such a harsh journey, it is incredible the things that have come to matter so much. Being clean is one of them, and last night for the first time in a week, we weren’t rank. And it was great. It really lifted our spirits and we strutted down for dinner among the great unwashed feeling like the Rockefeller twins.
The usual card tournament broke out after dinner but Sherpa and I declined – choosing instead to pull up by the fire with the Sherpas. We had an amazing evening learning about them and their experiences.
Ang Kami our lead guide spoke of his summits of Everest, his 150 summits of Island Peak and of the many friends that he had lost to the Mountains.
The funny thing about today (the day we conquered EBC) is how little we’ve spoken about it as a group. The day involved no sleep, freezing conditions and hours trekking, so the early part of the day was about surviving and focusing every joule of energy on moving forward.
In the B&B the atmosphere is one of quiet contentment but the conversation has turned to flights and helicopters and transfer arrangements.
It is almost as if there is no time to celebrate our achievement.
Such is the way of the Western world.