I think the highlight of today has been the reintroduction of the western toilet and a hot shower into our lives at this evening’s accommodation. This either reflects the relative mundanity of today’s descent or the fact that we’re starting to go slightly mad. It’s probably a combination.
Today, I woke in great pain from my sunburnt face and neck and having endured the worst night’s sleep possible. Therefore, when setting out today to continue westwards, not only did I wear long sleeves and trousers, but I also wore my buff over my entire head so it shielded much of my face as well as my neck. Oh and sunglasses. And suncream. Much of it. I took no chances and as such, the comments I received on my appearance varied from looking like a 19th century Russian peasant woman, to Gangsta Granny, via E.T. Judge for yourself, and please note I was neither the only or worst affected individual from the UV. I’m sure as parents, you will discover your own child’s burns and pains in the photos and descriptions to come.
Anyway, the morning was wholly uneventful from a group perspective, with the two biggest events being the leaking of my water bladder (quickly rectified) and the collection of Ben T and Monsieur Baynes from a lower tea house following the former’s recovery from heat stroke mixed with altitude sickness. Scenery wise, it was inevitable that the snow would leave us at some point and it was replaced shortly before lunch with rocky but not challenging terrain occasionally interspersed with tree roots. Riveting.
For lunch we were given the luxury of choice. Not that it mattered to me as they all featured the aforementioned devilish green leaved vegetable. Seizing the opportunity for something slightly different, I opted for the vegetable macaroni. It served its purpose as a fuel but was overshadowed by a certain ingredient I will not refer to by name.
This afternoon, the clouds came in and it slowly drizzled for much of our amble. Fortunately, we travelled through forest for much of the route and so, it largely escaped us. Conversation topics during this time included Sports Day, Parkrun, P.E lessons and the ownership of German football clubs. Once again, riveting.
Upon arrival, we were delighted to find such innovative modern facilities available to us, and despite queuing for 45 mins beside a thunderstorm for 1 mere minute of hot shower water, I can categorically say it was worth it.
This leads me to now, where after doing some revision of economic concepts and the thoughts of Rosa Luxemburg, I am sat on my bed (quilted!) listening to George Ezra and writing this. So since I have both time and effort today, allow me to use the next few paragraphs to introduce to you ,and thank, our Sherpas.
Every day, we have had either three or four guides trekking with us and they have been pleasant and insightful throughout. Their manners have been impeccable and their assistance to the group in times of weakness have been second to none, offering advice on the route, equipment usage and first aid. Their backgrounds are all varied and they work freelance during the trekking season for different activity companies before returning to their homes in the off-season. Two have been up Everest with one of them having done so as a cook for a group effort. They are experienced, knowledgeable and deserve much credit. But in my opinion, I think far greater credit should go to our porters.
All 8 (eight) of them, day in day out must also know the route and must also negotiate such high altitudes, snowy gulleys, near zero temperatures and anything else that Mother Nature feels like throwing down upon them. But with far more basic clothing (often wearing a t-shirt, shorts and just casual trainers) and with 2 bags weighing between 25-40kg and having a combined size of between 150-250 litres eating into their backs and with additional straps around their forehead. These people are also guides who on other treks may perform walks directly with a group as guides. Yet for us, they carry our duffel bags on ahead for us so that they are there waiting for us upon arrival. An unenviable task and one which I hope they can appreciate our gratefulness for .
So when we were asked over lunch by our leaders about giving tips at the end of the trek to them, it seemed only logical. This trip is dependent on their outstanding efforts to make our experience so memorable and enjoyable. I hope that the tips can be divided between both the gracious guides and the tireless porters whose entire body of work revolves around our own trip. It seems only equitable.
Having now looked back and given thanks, I want to look forward to the rest of our trip. It is currently a Thursday and a stormy one at the moment. Tomorrow sees our final day of descent from Gosainkunda, before on Saturday we have the long drive back to Kathmandu. Cautious estimates say it will be 7-8 hours on the unairconditioned coach but any amount of potholes, traffic or something else entirely may easily lengthen this. I imagine it will be a leg stiffener. We are therefore fortunate that Sunday will be a final leg stretch around Kathmandu. A chance for final observations on the capital and a chance to buy a Nepali desk flag and perhaps grab a photo of the Nepalese parliament if time, local geography and other people’s interest permits. Then on Monday we return, but so far away are we from you that by the time we do land back in Her Majesty’s Kingdom, we would have reluctantly bid farewell to Monday and sadly greeted Tuesday and it’s early hours. One hopes that the M25 out of Heathrow is clear, at least.
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