Everest Base Camp Trek
I've neglected the blog for a few weeks, but for good reasons! My main excuse is that we've barely had time to just sit down and breathe the past few weeks. Sometimes travelling can be pretty full-on and exhausting as you're constantly on the move to new places, experiencing new cultures and meeting new people. One of the biggest reasons the blog has remained silent is because we were in the Himalayas completing the Everest Base Camp trek. I chose not to use any wifi during this trip (I was surprised by how much wifi is actually available) and it was a great digital detox for ten days or so. And what better place to go off grid than the majestic Himalayas?
When we were picking places to go on this journey we wanted to have times of slow travel coupled with some adventures, getting out of our comfort zone and trying new things. So far on this trip I've learnt to surf, became a certified Scuba diver (I'll write a post on learning to dive soon) and trekked to Everest Base Camp. These more extreme things need to be balanced by some quieter, less active times which is why I'm writing this post from the relaxed Island of Koh Lanta in Thailand. We arrived yesterday after some city time in Bangkok & Christmas in Chiang Mai, I'm hoping to write about these two experiences at some point too. Now I have a bit of time I'll hopefully get back into the swing of writing.
Back to the Himalayas...
When we decided to go to Nepal, a country we've both wanted to visit for a while, we wanted to do a trek and there's no trek more iconic than Everest Base Camp, so that's what we did. We booked through Intrepid (we really like the social responsibility business model) and decided on December when it's a bit colder in the Himalayas but there are less people on the trails.
The trek itself is a once in a lifetime experience, everyone in our group experienced the extreme highs (ha) and lows of trekking at such high altitude. I experienced some severe headaches and nausea but was luckily spared some of the worse symptoms. You almost forget about the symptoms when you're surrounded by such dizzying beauty everyday, almost, but not quite. We flew from Kathmandu to Lukla (the world's most dangerous airport) and experienced some turbulence along the way which was quite frankly, terrifying! I'm not a particularly nervous flyer but this flight and landing brought out nerves from everyone in our group!
After surviving the flight we began our 12 day trek. The trek began easily enough as the first day is just a few hours walking and we were blessed with good weather. The whole time the sun shone brightly for us, and we were rewarded with the best views of the mountains. The second day was when the walking really began and when we all began to notice the effect of altitude on your general pace and well being. The local guides were great and set the pace, slow and steady with a couple of acclimatisation days to get used to the gains in altitude.
I'll be honest, this trek is not for the faint-hearted, the pace may be slow, but day after day of climbing up and up can be gruelling on the system. Many people had sleepless nights due to the cold and altitude and by the end of the trek most of the group had come down with a sickness bug due to the fact the hygiene levels drop the higher you go. You stay in Teahouses on this trek and the ones nearer Base camp have no running water, I think we all went without showering for about 6 days at a time.
Having said that, the trek was one of the best decisions I've ever made, it definitely pushed me out of my comfort zone and I really enjoyed being so far away from any kind of traffic and city noise. We shared our trekking paths with yaks, donkeys and locals. It's the perfect way to get out of your mind and into your body. You almost go into survival mode as you are moving constantly, drinking lots of water to beat altitude sickness and battling the freezing cold temperatures at night. If you're thinking about doing this trek be prepared to get sick, no-one was healthy the whole time and our group was full of young, healthy folk.
If you adore the outdoors, mountains and hiking then this trek is perfect for you. The food in the teahouses is perfectly adequate, it can get repetitive but you're not really there for the food!
Reaching Everest Base Camp is obviously the goal of this trip, but as you climb higher and higher and leave the trees behind you embrace a more moon-like landscape where barely anything grows. This lunar scape has its own forlorn kind of beauty but I much more appreciated the lush valleys and green mountains we passed lower down on the trek. By the time you reach Gorak Shep (the teahouse stop to get to base camp) you are ready to return to a lower altitude where you can breathe easily and feel more human again.
You can't really see Everest from Base Camp, the best views are along the way or if (like me) you watch the sun set from Kala Pathar then you get wonderful views of Everest illuminated in the evening sunlight.
On our way down from Base Camp we stayed near a Buddhist Monastery one night which was pretty special. These monks have chosen a good spot for a life of contemplation, on the roof of the world with a view of Everest too!
The trek was one of the most challenging and rewarding things I've ever done and would recommend it to anyone. Just make sure you're fit and healthy before you begin the trek so any illness doesn't knock you out too much!
I hope you enjoyed reading about my experience trekking in the Himalayas and maybe it inspired you to consider it one day. Any questions about the trek, feel free to ask in the comments below.