Saturday evening 7.00 pm
As the Airbus A330 lowers itself onto the runway of Istanbul Atatürk Airport, I stare out of the small window of the aircraft. Airport lights are flashing by and I realize that our Himalayan adventure has come to an end.
Monday evening 7.00 pm
Only 48 hours later I find myself with my laptop on the couch. After an involuntary overnight in Istanbul, we finally made it home after a 36 hour journey. Involuntary because there is no fuel available in Nepal at the moment and there for, the airplane first had to fly to Delhi in India to refuel before being able to fly back to Europe. Because of this, we missed our connection to Amsterdam and were forced to spend the night in Turkey. I have to yawn. Last night I was in bed by 7.00 pm as I was completely exhausted. I woke up at 03.17 am in the morning again and couldn’t sleep anymore. At 06.30 the alarm clock went off and it was time to get up and get ready to get back to work.
My head is full and bursting. It’s full of emotions, memories and ideas. “Eat, sleep, walk, repeat.” That was all that I was supposed to do over the past couple of weeks. I’d walk through the Himalayas, I’d enjoy nature, would sleep and fully relax, surrounded by the highest mountains on the planet. If only I’d have known things were not exactly going to be that way…
On our third day at the Everest Base Camp trek I got food poisoning. Upon arrival at the next teahouse, one of the guides asked me if I was OK because, apparently, I looked like hell. I mumbled something like “hmm, I’m not exactly OK but it’s probably the altitude.” I spent the rest of the day in bed, feeling miserable. During the next days I had to find myself a rock or tree to squat behind pretty much every hour, as my bowels were completely messed up. It exhausted me because I had no energy left inside. I had no more power to walk and did not recognize myself anymore. Each step I had to take was a whole new journey and my self confidence got lower and lower by the minute. I had to drag myself from one place to the next, powerless and breathless. I was just a ghost instead of the normal me, who flies across the hiking trails full of energy and life.
After a week I’d had enough. I had taken three courses of antibiotics and as I arrived in the next teahouse, I was utterly exhausted again. As I sat down on the bed, tears started streaming down my face. The tears I had been holding back for days because I didn’t want my fellow hikers to see them. Big Girls Don’t Cry. By then, I gave up caring what other people would think about my failure and I was done dragging myself from one place to the next. Earlier that week I had dragged myself across the unrelenting Cho La Pass, with the help of our guides. They took my hand and helped me climb from one rock to the next, as I couldn’t do it by myself. In the pictures I’m smiling, but on the inside I was broken.
On the day I collapsed I was just one day away from Everest Base Camp. Only one day away from accomplishing my dream. MY dream. Before the start of our trip, we made an agreement. If one of us would not make it, the other would turn around, too. One team, two people. Martijn easily said “if we won’t make it, we will have a great adventure anyway.” No matter how much I wanted to agree with him, I couldn’t. I wanted to reach Everest Base Camp, without that I would not be satisfied. It’s the never-ending battle with myself of not giving up before I reach my goal. I was just one day away from reaching my dream. But I was done. My body had no more energy and yet I still wasn’t ready to give up.
27 November – the big day!
As the sun rises above the Himalayas and slowly lights up the world again, we leave the settlement of Lobuche. First it’s a three hour trek to Gorak Shep at 5.164 meters and from there it would be another 2.5 hours to Everst Base Camp. We trek through a wide valley between the yaks and carefully cross a glacier. After just 2.5 hours we reach Gorak Shep, a town that deserves a spot in my top 5 of most depressing places on the planet. It’s cold and abandoned and there’s not a whole lot to see. I sit down in the teahouse and mentally prepare for my second breakfast of the day. I order a Chapati with peanut butter and although I haven’t eaten properly in almost a week, I need the energy more than ever and finish my food within seconds. I repack my bag and leave everything I won’t be needing for the final stretch behind. I’m so close!
Just one and a half hour later, we finally reach Everest Base Camp. Martijn is walking behind me with his GoPro, I’ve already stepped onto the infamous Khumbu Glacier with our guide and sherpa. From far away I could already see the Tibetan prayer flags. That’s where it is! As I hike the last bit of the trek with caution, I finally get to Everest Base Camp. I get a lump in my throat and my head is spinning with emotions. I want to scream and cry of happiness at the same time. I made it!
We spent about 45 minutes around the spot that is called Everest Base Camp. We drank hot tea and ate chocolate we brought all the way from Holland and carried along the track. We took pictures and congratulated each other with making it all the way to this amazing place. A place that is really nothing more than a dot on the map and a bunch of prayer flags. After the devastating earthquake of last April, the Basecamp spot is not there anymore. Yet I’m still amazed by the landscape and can’t stop looking at the mountains. At the Khumbu Icefall that streams down from Mount Everest and eventually leads to the Western Cwm. I stare at the Nuptse and Lho La, the mountains that block the view on Everest. The liberating feeling that I’ve reached the end of the world nestles inside of me. Long ago the legendary Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norquay were in this same spot, before eventually reaching the top of Mount Everest on May 29th 1953, as the first ones ever.
Before my trip I asked myself if I would be satisfied reaching Base Camp or if I’d want more. If the desire of eventually climbing Mount Everest would appear once I’d be standing at the base of it. I feared it would, but am relieved that I never felt the urge to go beyond the point I reached. I don’t feel the need to risk my life to climb the highest mountain in the world. Hiking on this altitude taught me that my body is not made to hike at high altitudes. At 5.000 meters my body was exhausted with every single step I took. Reaching Everest Base Camp was a dream come true but that’s where I draw the line.
We needed twelve days to walk up and only three to get down. During those fifteen days I have talked a lot. To our guides, fellow trekkers, locals and sherpas. My head is filled with stories that I want to tell and share with the rest of the world. Once we came back in Kathmandu, we planned to spend our last three days relaxing and doing nothing. Unfortunately, that’s not exactly what happened. We ended up in a local hospital and having sleepless nights. We only made it to the Monkey Temple and the Garden of Dreams, the rest of our time we were forced to spend in our hotel room. By then, all I wanted was to go home. Back to the comfort of my own bed and my own environment. We weren’t exactly looking forward to our 36 hour journey home but once we started it, it was over before we knew.
Today the first questions came. And I told everyone who wanted to hear it, that it was a pretty exhausting trip. That I’m still exhausted and that my body has a hard time dealing with the antibiotics. That I can’t memorize my trip across Cho La Pass and that it was probably not the smartest idea to continue walking at all after I got sick. That the docter I visited in Machhermo actually said that it would be better not to do Cho La, meaning that I would not reach EBC. But that our guide had enough confidence so that we still continued. While I’m telling my stories to those who asked about my trip, the disappointment in myself slowly transforms into pride. I end my stories by saying “it was a very special happening and I wouldn’t want to have missed it.”
Nepal stole my heart. Not just the mountains, but also the people. The roof of the world has made an incredible impression on me. The breathtaking altitudes we reached, still make my heart beat faster when I think of them. The pink squatting toilets I befriended will always be in my mind. Kathmandu is horrible yet amazing at the same time. And the Nepalese, they just keep smiling, even despite all the misery they have gone and are still going through. We could all learn from them how to stay positive and keep on smiling!
There are numerous stories I want to tell. About the sleepless nights of the locals, about the girl playing with tiny cars while she never saw one in real life before and about the things nobody tells you before you start trekking through the Himalayas. There is a time for everything, but for me the time has come to take it easy and let my body recover from this great adventure…
Want to read more? You will like the following blogs, too!
– Nepal is safe!
– Off to Nepal and Everest Base Camp
– Nepal Now: 5 Things that I’m worried about when trekking
– Travel without social media: this is how you do it!
Thank you for sharing!