Hanging bridges of the Khumbu Valley
We are crossing one of the five steel hanging bridges over the Dudh Kosi river en route from Namche to Lukla. It’s about ten metres above the raging glacial waters below and swaying haphazardly in the wind. I take my time crossing, conscious that the steel meshing that encloses the sides is in desperate need of repair. Instead of being safely attached to the steel hand rail, it billows in the wind and perilous gaps have opened in the mesh. Should I stumble there is a good chance that the meshing will not hold. Indeed, even if it does there is a strong possibility that I’m going to cut my hands and knees to shreds. I don’t recall being concerned by the bridges on the way up, but on our Everest Base Camp trek day eleven, they seem so much more fragile.
Sightseeing in the Khumbu Valley
These bridges are just some of the fascinating sights along the Everest Base Camp trail in the lower Khumbu valley. There’s plenty of other sights to prevent the boredom setting in however including porters and yaks. Both are laden down with produce but the porters are truly a sight to behold. They carry everything from drinks and fresh food to fridges, beds and tables. It’s incredible, although I find myself feeling increasingly sorry for them over the course of the week, especially given they only earn $8 a day. How their backs are not knackered by the time they are thirty I do not know!!
The temperature increases as we drop lower into the valley. Villages and shops become more frequent and children play on stone terraces overlooking the trail. Occasionally, gibbering kids run out onto the trail to deliver forceful high fives to anyone with the energy to indulge.
We try to take everything in as we plod on intent on reaching our destination and praying that our flight will depart on time tomorrow.
After lunch in Pakding we have just three hours of walking to go. The exertion of the last 11 days suddenly starts to catch up with me and this last leg becomes a weary trudge. Every footstep feels like a Herculean effort. My shoulders ache, my legs hurt, my feet are sore and the adrenaline is seeping out of my pores. Goldie, Carla, Ian and Robert catch me after a particularly arduous section and cheer me on.
That said, you will never walk alone for long on an Everest Base Camp trek with Action Challenge. Sherpa’s mysteriously appear when you find yourself alone and I spend a good part of the afternoon walking quietly with Passang beside me. He tells stories about his sisters and family and points out his village on the other hillside. I ask how long it will take him to return home and he cheekily replies two hours at his pace (and four at western pace!!)
God bless the Sherpas and their incredible sense of humours. They lift us when we are tired and ill and fade into the background when we need quiet reflection time.
Before I came to Nepal I thought I worked hard (and certainly do by Western standards), however that effort pales into comparison in contrast with the work ethic of our Sherpas. It is hard to convey what an incredible job they do waiting on us hand and feet, purifying our water, hauling us over rocks, carrying our bags in our time of need and making us laugh at every opportunity.
The end of our Everest Base Camp trek
Our little gang of four trudges on with Goldie providing encouragement all the way. Ian seems to sense I’m somewhat spent and encourages me to rest. This small gesture makes me want to burst into tears. It seems ridiculous considering all we have achieved this week but now I am so close to the end, the emotion threatens a violent release.
The last mile into Lukla is an uphill stretch that meanders around the mountain under a canopy of trees. My legs and arms are screaming at me and I just want it to be over. Then we spot the archway that marks the entrance to the village. A renewed sense of purpose takes over me (along with Goldie encouraging me to beat Ian – sorry Ian!) and we try to run the final stretch (not quite making it).
Celebrating the end of the Everest Base Camp trek
Jason waits for me by the gate and encourages me up the last few steps. I clamber awkwardly up the steps and through the archway, arms raised in triumph, overcome with emotion. A huge cheer goes up from the group as the rest of our little gang step through. It’s hugs all round and more tears from me. What a journey!
Together we amble through Lukla eager to get to our digs for the night for some well earned rest. It’s in an ideal for the airport but less convenient for town. My plan to party in Lukla quickly evaporated as I realise I simply don’t have the energy to explore.
Final musings on our Everest Base Camp trek
We made it to Everest base camp but just as importantly we made it back to Lukla safe and sound and uninjured. I am unsure whether I can ever fully explain the intensity of emotions that consumed me during this trip. How sometimes I needed to retreat into myself simply to find the strength to keep moving. It was astonishing how my life became a simple cycle of eat, walk, eat, walk, eat, and rest.
People have sounded incredulous when I explain this to them – ‘well that doesn’t sound like much of an holiday!’ Damn right, this wasn’t a holiday. This was an expedition – a chance to push myself to the limit and in doing so something has shifted within me. I always knew travel was within my DNA but I feel like I have opened a Narnia like door to another world – of challenge, excitement and adventure. Will I ever settle for a routine holiday on a beach again?
Namche Bazaar (3,343m) to Lukla (2,850)
Lukla Numbur hotel with en-suite western-style toilets and a hot shower. This hotel is just a few minutes walk from the airport so you can watch those planes land and take off to your heart’s content.
Day eleven route
Here are the other updates in the Everest Base Camp series.
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Why Everest Base camp?
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