We started out knowing we that we had about 50km to walk over 7 days, 7-8 hour days ahead of us to Lukla where I will leave the group. This does not sound much to the average hiker but the high altitude makes a huge difference.
We were to follow in the footsteps of Sir Edmond Hillary and Tenzing Norgate: the first people to summit Mt Everest. Sir Ed decided that this 7 day walk was a bit much to endure before a summit attempt so he eventually built an airport at Lukla. Therefore this trek has had little use by tourists so has remained very much as it has been for centuries. I was to enjoy it much more that the Annapurna Circuit for those reasons.
We would be walking up and down between 2,000 to 3,500 metres above sea level each day. Huge ascents and huge descents as there is no such thing as flat in this area. I have had over two weeks to get acclimatised so faired better than the rest of the crew. Roy had a cold so was feeling a bit rough and Jo was still a bit hung over from his nights on the town. So I was the only one finding the going okay. Pemba was really good and stayed in front walking at the necessary slow pace. I could see that young Joe had probably never walked this slow in his life but was probably glad for the pace.
The first day we walked to Deurali (2,700m) rained most of the day and I started out with my new lilac poncho. Purchased in Kathmandu, I found that it leaked and I was soon getting cold as we walked downhill all the way to a tea stop. At these altitudes going downhill is also a slow pace.
We stopped for a hot cup of tea at a small tea house so I pulled out my new umbrella hat which proved good for the downhill and flat parts of the trail. It reduced my vision too much going uphill. At our lunch break most of the crew bought umbrellas and then, of course, it stopped raining. I think young Jo would have trouble admitting to his hunting mates that he tramped with an umbrella!
Part way through our first day I got up close and personal with Kathy. She had blood pouring from up under her shorts. The poor porters, guides and the blokes really did not know where to look when they came across Kathy and I on the track. Kathy, had her pants down and I had my head up between her legs, under her long poncho. I was trying to get my bad eyes to focus on the wound so I could work out where the blood was coming from. Kathy had assured me that, at 66 years old, she was not having her period! I couldn’t see too well at that angle but managed to put on a dressing and stem the bleeding. After we arrived that evening I was able to get a better look with my torch and found that it was a leech bite. Naughty little fella getting way up there!
This region is very steep so up and down we went. Sometimes on recently built roads, but mostly on the centuries old tracks. There was very little traffic on the roads as most people had not bought vehicles yet.
We had a nice evening around the pot belly stove and then I coughed all night, getting only about 2 hours sleep. Luckily my room mate, Kathy, snored her way through the night and was not annoyed by me. We are getting on well.
The day started with a huge decent, taking us through a very picturesque valley dotted with houses surrounded by their little farms. Most people here survive on what they grow along with their goats and cows. Then a 1100 metre ascent to Sete. Again, Pemba, went in the front and kept at a really nice steady slow pace.
We made good time arriving at 4.30. Kathy and I washed some clothes. The boys were more interested the teahouse owner, who had some pine trees on his property. He was using his chainsaw, no chaps, no earmuffs, no goggles and wearing jandals. They were very impressed with his final product: perfectly straight boards and all limbs intact.