Everest Base Camp Trek day 4 – from Namche Bazar to the settlement of Mong-La
Day four of the trek to Everest Base Camp – the day we’re going to leave Namche Bazar and with that, also civilization, or at least that’s what I’ve been told. Our next destination is the tiny settlement of Mong-La, a small town about four hours hiking from Namche.
That morning, I start my course of Diamox. Although the prescription mentions I should take two pills daily, our guide Jangbu advises me to start with half a pill twice a day. He also tells me that some of the side affects can be tingling limbs. My doctor at home, who prescribed them to me, only told me about tingling hands but according to him, feet and ears are also common. Good to know…
We get an early start and once we leave Namche Bazaar behind, the sun rises above the mountain ridge and I realize it’s going to be an amazing day again. The first part of the day will be relatively flat and easy. In about an hour we will reach a point where an old man has done a lot of construction work making the trail safer and wider. The idea is that everyone who passes donates a small amount so he can hire young men to do the work for him. Soon after leaving Namche, Mount Everest is within our sight and once again, she is beautiful. I have a hard time keeping my eyes off her and keep on staring in the distance. I’m walking in my t-shirt as the weather is gorgeous, especially when the wind has settled down. Even though the first part is flat, I’m still out of breath like the days before and even the tiniest steps up make grasp for oxygen. We reach a beautiful stupa, yaks pass us and we pass the old man and his donation box. Together with his wife he sits on a chair he drags to this place each day and he smiles at us. Of course we make a small donation and after writing our name in his guest book, we continue hiking.
About 1.5 hours into our hike we arrive at small settlement where we sit down for some drinks. I order a Fanta, something I never have when I’m home. However, the Fanta here is the true orange stuff and I love it. I can use the sugar because after this stop, most of the trail will be up. Not steep, but gently up anyway. Given the fact I’ve been out of breath most of the time going up, I know it will be a bit of a challenge.
We reach the Gokyo Valley and the first part of the hike up is steep. ‘Slowly, slowly’ is once again my motto and step by step I gain altitude and self confidence. I can see the trail ahead of me, it slowly rises but is never very steep, yet still I’m exhausted. My heart is pounding with every step I take and I experience my first tingling hands, which is extremely weird yet somewhat fun as well.
After about four hours of walking, we reach the settlement of Mong-La, located on a ridge above the Dudh Koshi River. From here, the drop down to the river is about 450 meters and this is also the spot where the hikers thad head straight to Everest Base Camp leave the trail go right and those who are going to Gokyo, will head left. After today, it will be much more quiet on the trail. As we sit in the sunshine while having lunch, I slowly start to feel bad. My stomach is rumbling, my food tastes horrible and I feel out of energy. However I’m told by Lila, another guide who walks the same pace as us with his client, I have to join the acclimatization hike that afternoon, to get used to the altitude. We hike steeply up the hill on a vague trail that isn’t always really a trail and I struggle to keep up with the pace. We meet a German guy who wants to walk with us and along the way, he tells me that this is his third attempt to reach Gokyo. Twice before he didn’t get much further than here, because he got altitude sickness. This will be his last attempt. After hiking up for about 45 minutes, we reach 4.000 meters, where we sit down for a while and enjoy the last sunny moments of the day.
We hike down at our own convenience and I spend the rest of the afternoon on one of the benches in the guesthouse. I’m starting to feel worse and wonder if this is what altitude sickness feels like. That night I talk to the owner of the guest house and she tells me about the day the earth shook and they experienced the big earthquake that hit Nepal on April 25th. She tells me that she was inside and that suddenly she felt the earth shaking. She urged everyone to get outside but she had no idea what was happening, as earthquakes are not common here. As they waited for the quake to stop, a big part of the guesthouse collapsed and there was nothing they could do about it. Some guests that left that same morning returned and she offered them to sleep in her bedroom, as the guest rooms were entirely destroyed. The locals of the town offered tourists their beds in order to keep them warm. When another earthquake hit on May 12th, they realized this was serious and they put up a tent camp outside. Nobody wanted to sleep inside anymore as they were incredibly afraid of more shocks and fatalities. In total, they spent over one month sleeping outside and they only went in to go to the toilet or to cook their meals. In the summer they worked incredibly hard to rebuilt the guesthouse and have it ready for trekking season again.
While the lady tells her story, shivers run down my spine. She is so kind. And so brave! Those earthquakes must have been horrible. She looks at me with tears in her eyes and I apologize for asking about them. She tells me it’s OK though and that she is no longer afraid, but the happenings really got to her and she has no idea what the future holds for them. Tourism has dropped dramatically and one of the gueshouses in the village hasn’t reopened because of the earthquakes. After talking to her for about 15 minutes, she excuses herself to make dinner for the guests.
I eat dinner with a lot of pain in my belly. Not just because I’m getting sick but also because I feel so bad for those people. All these incredibly kind Nepalis who have lost all that they have worked for so hard and have no idea what the future will hold for them. As I take my second half of Diamox tablet and I go to bed, I realize that although you may not see it immediately, these people have suffered. I can’t sleep for the rest of the night and continuously have to think about what happened just six months earlier… I’m glad we decided to go through with our plans to travel to Nepal and that we made it here, so we can at least help those people out by spending our money at their place. That thought comforts me, at least for a little while.
Next time on ‘The Trail to EBC’: onwards to Dole, up and down and higher up! Want to read the previous days? Go here to read them all.
Want to read more stories about Nepal? You may like these blogs as well:
– Nepal: a head filled with emotions
– Everest Base Camp Trek: the movie!
– Our favorite places to eat in Kathmandu
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Thanks for sharing!