Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Everest Panorama Trek ~ Day 6. Phakding to Namche Bazaar.


Day 6: Phakding to Namche Bazaar... Siong ah...

Adrian told us the night before:

"Ladies and Gentlemen, tomorrow is the toughest trek on the whole trail. Our trek would take us from 6 to 8 hours and we will be doing plenty of ascending an descending. Ultimately we will gain in altitude from where we are at 2600m here at Phakding to 3440m at Namche Bazaar. The last stretch of the trek before we hit Namche Bazaar will be the killer - it will be a non-stop zig zag climb all the way up to the end. So I want you all to sleep early tonight and rest well.
Fall in at the parade square at 6:30am for breakfast!"

Rest well we did. And an early rise we had.
SgTrekker would of course show their customers the beautiful, neat and attractive photos of the lodge rooms. Keke... Let me show our audiences how the REAL room looked like.
Simple. Basic. Cold.

This was that memorable room where the evening before, Acrux came running in to take his shower, because his room had no hot water.

We  walked out only to find that many of our fellow trekkers have been up since much earlier that morning and a few had even gone across the suspension bridge to take some sunrise shots!
Here, Wai Kit, Ah Leong, Patrick, Johnny and Goose Goi were already up bright and shiny!

Here was where we were at that moment from Google's Satellite view.
We could even see the suspension bridge stretching across.

Siao one lah me. People took sunrise shots, I also want to follow people take sunrise shots.
Just that I was too lazy to walk across the suspension bridge. Thus my sunrise shot only had a tiny portion of mountain.
Just for the fun of it...



We all had breakfast, with full anticipation of what was to come. But yet, not knowing exactly what was ahead of us. Only the two Trek Leaders Adrian and Melvin who had done this trek before knew what lies ahead.

Poor Ah Wind and Ah Hawk - such big size men, but their toast with egg and hot milk coffee might not fill their stomach sufficiently. No worries, we all had our endless supply of energy bars and what-nots along the way...

Warming up...

Wah lau eh... I am sure many of us haven't done warm ups since perhaps even during Army days... But here, hmmm... if Adrian and Melvin said do warm ups, we'd all better follow their instructions because what lies ahead may be a tough tough work out for our thighs...

Here, every one was just making sure the trekking pants and trekking shoes were stretched to their maximum comfort.

But for some, warming up stretching exercises were more for show off purpose than anything else...

Last minute instructions...

Here, some last minute instructions from the Trek Leaders.
He was asking for orders for lunch for this very day, a command that resulted in so many of us raising our hands.

Off we went!

And at 7:50am, we all started our trek...

Trekking Data and Information for Day 6 Phakding to Namche Bazaar

Here is some churned out information and analysis of our Day 6 trek.
Some of the data may not be exactly correct - for example, that 26 hours of trekking is certainly not accurate.
But the total horizontal distance trekked 14.49km, and from a lowest elevation of 2613m to a highest elevation of 3419m, with a total altitude lost of 654m and total altitude gain of 1450m - all these are accurate data.

As can be seen from the chart, the last 3km of trek was the most siong part when we ascended from 2800m to 3400m.


Day 6: From Phakding to Toktok...

Well, yes. It was a nice and cool morning when the whole team of 25 of us in SgTrekker set off from Phakding. Of course our main luggage porters were again way ahead of us racing ahead, only leaving the other private porters and our Nepali guides with us.

Right early in the trek, just after Phakding, we heard bells jingling ringling just behind us and turned to find a convoy of mules squeezing their way through...
I am quite sure all of you ladies and gentlemen remembered that scene.

Here is that part of our trek from Phakding to Toktok, then to Bengkar and then to Monjo. You know, it is really tough to keep trek of where we were and what we were doing and which village that little house or that little girl belonged to because as we walked over the period of that few days, everything because a whole messed-up piece of blur.
Thus I can understand why so many trekkers found that having some GPS equipment would be at least a little bit more useful. For the convenience, I must say that Kc Tng's EveryTrail for the iPhone would really be a very handy App. I ought to go and get it and try it out the next time round.

Up we went. And down we went again.

And when we finally saw some mani stones, we kinda knew that we were nearing Toktok already. My this private porter was pretty good in his initiative. Despite his apparent deficiency in communicating in English, he always made it a point to point out at the houses whenever we came to a particular village and reminded me of the name of that village. That was in a major way, how I was able to roughly remember my villages. Of course, after Geotagging my photos, I compared their exact location on Google Earth/Map/Eye to the Lukla relief map to give myself the final confirmation of our location.

Yupe... Toktok was finally in sight. I could remember this sign saying that we were in Toktok and were seeing some don't know what Hydro-power kind of things.

And finally, Toktok... the tiny little village.

From Phakding which was 2610m to Toktok at 2760m was quite an elevation gain. Thus in that short one hour I think we had quite some fun going up and down, more ups than down.
Thus it probably came as no surprise to all that by the time we arrived at Toktok, some of us were already winded. But what a surprise awaited us at Toktok! There was a cute little baby sitting together with his grandmother outside their house, and that presented a great photographic opportunity for some of us.

Here was a shot by Serene at Toktok:
SereneXMM #19
"When we reached Toktok we all breathe sigh of relief because we are really very 'chuan liao'.   Adrian is so cute, he saw this very very 'cuteto' baby with his grandmother sitting outside one house.   Wah... so nice. A few of us kept shooting at the baby."

Here were some of Serene's shots:
"We walked and walked till there's another inclining slope to climb up. So 'chuan liao' still got to climb some more.  But 'bo bian', we waited 4 days to fly to Lukla here. So no choice, even though we are so tired and breathless already still must climb..."

Serene XMM #17
These two fellows kept shooting. The walk was getting more tiring but they never stopped shooting...
They are like addicted to shooting and walking both at the same time. Crazy fellows!
Me and Acrux going at it.

SereneXMM #18
When we walked till here, we were all very breathless already. But wah... when we saw the mountains, we all very impressed because this kind of mountain, we never even once seen before in our whole life. Really fantastic!

SereneXMM #20
Wah.. I thought after Toktok can aga aga take a rest and walk on flat track, but the stupid track doesn't stop and it keep climbing higher and higher.
Wah lau! I ask myself: "What is happening to my life?" But bo bian lor... all these fellows kept walking up and up, so I have to follow lor.

SereneXMM #21
As I was climbing and climbing...some porters shouted, "The mules are coming..." Wah.. I started kpkb and said to myself: "Wah 真的不是人走的路, this trail/walk is not meant for human being... only fit for mules and Yaks and Dzopkyos to walk one!"

SereneXMM #22
Then suddenly, there are some more mules coming behind us. "Quickly siam ah!" said someone and we all quickly siam to the mountain side of the track because if we get hit by them on the cliff side of the track - sure gone case bye bye one.


Day 6: From Toktok to Bengkar...

The drop from Toktok village to the next village at Bengkar was another 140m descent. But though it appeared to be a general descent, the mountains never made life easy for us, for they made sure we would always do a steep ascent before we get a chance to bang our knees really stupidly painful while doing the descent.

I remembered this particular uphill climb very well. Because when I arrived at the foot of this steep ascent, I told myself:

"Wah lau eh... this is going to be another long, hard climb. Look at JohnnyLCP and Goose Goi who are right ahead of us - they are having a great time jumping from stone to stone and rock to rock..."

Yah. As much as JohnnyLCP and Goose Goi were enjoying themselves flying all over the rocks, SereneXMM, myself and Judith, being the last few in the team, were enjoying ourselves torturing our thigh muscles. Looking closely at SereneXMM in the photo, one could make out how difficult it was for her trying to look for a rock as a stepping platform before hauling herself further up to another rocky platform.
Of course all these hardships don't apply to the fit members of the team, like Acrux, who just happened to be accompanying us at the tail end of the team, so enjoy the nice leisurely stroll to him.

During one of the rest station, I remembered talking to Kai Sing who reassuringly said:
"It is really good to have two trekking poles because with these two both your arms can help push you strongly upwards and while you walk down, help cushion your impact. It makes trekking so much more easier."
Yah. Now I know. To anyone who is thinking of doing some trekking, either you buy an expensive trekking pole and transport that through all the trouble to Nepal, or buy a cheap S$5.40 (300 rupee) trekking pole in Kathmandu and bring it up. They are worth every rupee you spend!

As we neared the village of Bangkar, I remember seeing Kc Tng intently shooting at a far-away location. I peered towards that direction and saw this interesting scene - a rock that resembled a sitting Buddha high up in the mountains. Well, I am very sure many of us remembered this scene, or have the shot in their memory cards. Quite a view, I must say...

At this point, we were close enough to see Bengkar, another small little village just across the valley, across Dudh Koshi the mainstream river way below, and over the gorge. It was one thing about being able to see a destination from afar, it was a totally different thing about walking to that destination over the mountain tracks. From what the guides told us, if you could see your destination village, it would mean that you could be at least a good one hour walk away from that point. Sigh...
Anyway, we were walking along a narrow track with the cliff to our left side... quite a steep drop there, when a group of porters came walking in good pace in the opposite direction. I think quite a few of us quickly made way for them by moving to the right side which was on the mountain side. We dare not risk a wrong step downwards... hahaha...

This is a Google Eye picture of that exact spot we were shooting the porters high up in the track. As we could see, across the Dudh Koshi River one could already began to see the small town of Bengkar not far in horizontal distance.

... and here, I would like to draw everyone's attention to that tiny little spot of human being right on the right upper quadrant of the photo. Who was that? It was Melvin. By the time I sighted him, he was already way off the steep downward slope of the cliff and seemingly deeply engrossed in most likely viewing Bengkar from that angle and giving him the shot of a lifetime! What a brave man he was!!!

And Serene said: "Some more mountains. This place siao one. Full of mountains."
SereneXMM #23

SereneXMM #24
Another rocky downhill track. It is really hard to find the footings for some of the track because the rocks are not smooth and they are all over the place. Here Ivypin is walking down towards a bridge in the distance which will take us to the small village of Benkar.


Day 6: Finally arriving at Bengkar...

Finally we came to Bengkar. I didn't know what was troubling me more, the lack of oxygen (highly unlikely at this altitude) or the lack of fitness (more probable due to my highly unconditioned physical state). But when I came to Bengkar, the quaint little Bengkar Guest house that greeted us in the shades of some tall Salla trees was a truly welcoming sight.

I could remember this scene well for three things:
  • I was really quite quite shacked by the time we reached Bengkar, to be really ashamed to say,
  • There was a few Dzopkyos that came to the water point just beside this Guest House and made themselves at home, drinking water from the tap. That was quite an unforgettable sight for me...
  • But most unforgettable, was the sight of Goose Goi suddenly suffering from Acute Mountain Sickness and hallucinating himself to be the greatest Matador this side of the Himalayan and did a Bull fight with one of the Dzopkyos.. I was too tired to go and help him. So I just shot him.

Here at Bengkar, the openess of the highland gave us much excuse to slow down and shoot...

... and shoot... Here even after walking that Zig-Zag trail down from a higher ground, Campoes was already hard at work shooting.
Campoes, what were you shooting at that was so interesting, that the porters were all smiling away?

SereneXMM #25
Stupa in Benkar.

Here is a shot by Adrian Loh of SgTrekker - a group photo of the first train in front.
Photo: ADrian Loh, SgTrekker

SereneXMM #26
We hiked up further on the way to Monjo...

Day 6: Some more at Bengkar...

Here, as we were walking by some interesting structure, I asked my porter Sange again and again what it was.
He tried very very hard to answer my question. It was only after much gesturing and circumventing the actual word that I finally understood:

Rubbish Dump.
But a rubbish dump built more for burning the trash properly. Recently work had been underway with the local community in educating them the right way to dispose of and to incinerate rubbish, andto keep the Sagarmatha National Park as free from litter as possible. Some level of success had been achieved.

Day 6: Bengkar to Monjo...

Another walk up 200m from Bengkar to the other tiny village of Monjo was in order. At this point in time, Monjo had no significance to most of us for it was merely a village in passing. It was during the return trip that we finally enjoyed Monjo as a overnight stay.

Here, Goose was frantically searching for Johnny his lovely lovely soul-mate, as he crossed the long long suspension bridge before we hit Monjo.

SereneXMM #27
We walked to Monjo village crossing several more suspension bridges. We generally followed the river high up on the hill side.
Although we only gained about 200 meters in altitude today I found the going quite demanding,
especially the last 500 meters or so to the lodge. This section was quite steep. I am pleased that my legs are coping very well.
My major concern is my breathing; every breath I seem to be gasping for air. I keep reminding myself to go slowly.


Day 6: Coming to Monjo...

Honestly, it had been only two and a half hours of trekking through uphill and downhill tracks. But on this day, it REALLY seemed to us that the track was more punishing than the day before's. But certainly I was the least qualified person to make that comment, again due to my poor physical conditioning.
Remembering that the climb from Bengkar to Monjo required a 200m ascent in a short span of time, now in retrospect, I could finally understood why by the time we hit the top of the knoll at where the tiny village of Monjo was, as the last half of the team we were all pretty tired, even too tired to KB KB already.

Here, we were at the top of a ridge overlooking to the other ridge where Monjo was. But before we came to Monjo, we had to down a long way down...

... and here, we were finally going down again. But the track was not so easy to walk, simply because many of us were having thigh pain and cramp. Only our 7-8 fit guys ahead had absolutely no forms of muscle fatigue what so ever. Haha...

The Waterfall at the entrance to Monjo

Here it was. That famous waterfall.
Who could forget this place? A small rigid bridge linked the banks together, under which the tributary to the Dudh Koshi flowed. By the time the slower second half of the team (that's us, incidentally) arrived here, the faster first half had been there, enjoyed the scene, shot some waterfalls and were ready to move out already.
But still, I arrived in time to see Adrian taking a 美人浴 Beauty Bath on a rocky out-pouching. Had it not been for Nepali-Sherpa customs to frown upon nudity, I was sure he would have stripped to his underwear... Hehehe...

[Sorry for poor lighting. The Dynamic Range here was tooooo high liao... hahaha..]

Acrux said to me:

"How? Want to take out the tripod and shoot the waterfall?"

"Of course must take out lah,"

I replied. "We cannot carry that $200 per leg tripod all the way here and made our porter suffer the weight and not use it mah, right? You'll never know, maybe after this no more chance to use the tripod liao leh... right? Come let's shoot lah!"
So off we went gingerly descending to just beside the bridge to see what angle we could get out of the waterfall.
From where we were, I could already see Sherwin at the far end of the bridge on his tripod and on long exposure already. Campoes and Cnleong also followed to the near side of the bank.

That $200 per tripod leg joke - haha.. that was Acrux's personal joke. He rightfully calculated his tripod to be worth S$200 per leg]

We spent about 15 minutes setting up the tripod, the remote and the filters and finally, shooting the waterfall. During this time, the Faster, Fitter First Half Team One had already gone ahead and climbed towards the highest point of Monjo.
Through the Walkie Talkie, I could hear Adrian speaking to Melvin:
"Hello Melvin, report location please." asked Adrian through the interference of radio signals.

"Ah.. we have just left the waterfall. The last man has just left the waterfall.
replied Melvin.

"Ok, you are about half an hour behind us. We will pass all our TIMS trekking permits to the Guard House at Monjo and let them inspect the cards, then the First Team will move ahead and cross over the suspension bridge to Jorsalle where we will have lunch first while waiting for you all."
Yah. So much for encouragement, Adrian.
Struggling up to the top of Monjo...

Mevlin called out to Team 2:

"Hey guys, I think we'd better pick up the pace. We don't want to lag too far behind Team 1. Otherwise they get to have lunch while we don't."

Yah yah yah... I got Bakkwa, the HamSum boys have Mars bar, Acrux has Snicker bars, and Jack and wife has lots of Vodka. No lunch no problem. We still have our glucose booster to kick some butts... hahaha...

So off we went, another zig zag uphill climb to Monjo.
Now this one is no joke. Despite resting for 15-20 minutes down at the waterfall valley, we found ourselves winded (again!) half way through simply because there was no flattening of the road. It was uphill all the way. We really had to literally take 30-40 steps to ascend that 15 metres, then rest for a few minutes to breathe deeply, before plucking our courage and start walking again.
What kind of hardship travel is this?! I was sure that was in every one of the Team 2 members' mind.

Even the mules and Dzopkyos walked faster than us. Here, a concerned spouse sounded out the partner...

... and this record photographer here had to be brave and tried to be the first few in Team 2 to arrive at the top of the ridge so as to be able to shoot photos of his team mates 'summit-ing' this highest point of Monjo mah...
And Campoes did it with flying colours - green, blue, purple, black... HAHAHA...

And Serene KB KB-ing, AGAIN!

I remembered this part very well. It was nice and breezy up here. When I arrived, Ah Leong, Acrux and some of the private porters they were all distributing their water and chocolate and energy bars all around. I did not catch sight of those Team 1 fellows for they have gone all the way down from here.
Here, for all your memories - a memorable bench and sight.

Here at Monjo...

People would ask: "What is so special about Monjo?"
Well, Monjo is that little village where the Guard House to the Entrance of Sagarmatha National Park was. Sagarmatha National Park included the whole of the Everest Region and is the region where all trekkers would need register their trekking permits for.
Here, Judith was taking her relax-paced walk down to the Guard House.

And inside this Guard House, was an old and dirty model of the whole Sagarmatha National Park. We could make out from the severely-scratched and blurry plastic covering over the model, where we were and where Mount Chomolangma (Everest) was.

SereneXMM #28
Sagarmatha National Park is the highest national park in world, located above 3000 meters i.e. 9700 feet. The park comprises the upper catchment areas of Dudh Koshi and Bhote Koshi Rivers. Most part of the landscape is rugged terrain and gorges of the high Himalayas.

The Park is located amidst the peaks which are counted among the tallest in the world. Mount Sagarmatha is none other than Mt. Everest itself. Other well known peaks such as Lhotse, Thamerku, Pumori, Ama Dablam, Cho Oyu, Kwangde, Kangtaiga and Gyachyung Kang are also located nearby. More than 118 species of birds and 26 species of butterflies reside in the park.

SereneXMM #29
Our easy going guy who love photography! A picture can say thousand words. What say you, Acrux?


Day 6: Struggling towards Jorsalle...

The thought of lunch, and the thought of a good leg-rest pushed us all on. Right after the Sagarmatha National Park Guard House at Monjo, it was a steep descent aaaaalllll the way down to the Dudh Koshi River where we would again cross it on yet another suspension bridge.

There we were. None of us will forget this huge side of the mountain along which we trekked downward steep steps. Some of us, e.g. Acrux, would run and fly down instead of employing the more conventional fashion of walking.

Walked all the way down, only to start climbing up again. Here, the poor almost delirious Serene was followed closely behind by our guide Ramesh to make sure she didn't go crazy and jumped down the mountainside... hahaha...

Well, we did cross that suspension bridge. And while wind tore through our straps and belts and threatened to rip our outer shell jackets away, we saw a glimpse of Jorsalle - there! Lunch was there!

Of course, what else was new? When there was up, there would also be down. And here was Serene, Judith and Mario employing the FULL Power of their trekking poles in supporting their already tired and weakened knees on the last home stretch to Jorsalle.

And Johnny was so ecstatic in arriving at lunch point that he gave out a yelp! Goose Goi, forever the gentleman he was, very steadily held on to Cheryl's hand while the husband Jack covered her back to make sure she didn't fall backward. Lucky lady - she's got her front and back all covered!

Day 6: Lunch at Jorsalle

So there we were. Our well-earned rewards - lunch. And what was for lunch? Well, you guessed it: Chow Mein, Fried Rice, Dhal Bhat, Mixed Thukpa for main course, and Hot Lemon, Hot Chocolate, Hot Ginger Tea, Hot Milk Coffee for beverages. The first half of the team already had their stomachs filled to the brims with lunch and was all strapped and ready to move out, at that point when we stepped into the restaurant.
Here, Goose Goi, Adrian, Kai Sing, KC Tng, Wong Chin Leong, Goh Su Pin, Patrick... (where's An Tan, Steve Wong, Wai Kit and Ah Leong ah? Oh... maybe they were taking a last minute leak in the bulbless-toilet before the last siong siong stretch to Namche Bazaar) having a nice post-lunch chit chat before setting out.

..while the rest of us gobbled up our lunch inside. Some of us were already having blocked nose and aching thighs, some feeling giddy, some having some shoulder pain... and many were having Namche-Bazaaritis (An extreme form of anxiety symptom for the steep climb up to Namche Bazaar)!

Here is a shot by Patrick Papin of a beautiful Sherpa pony.
The pony.  Photo: Patrick Papin Lim


Day 6: Onwards to Namche Bazaar - All the way!

Lunch was truly our last break before the final push towards Namche Bazaar.
By the time Team 2 had lunch, re-hydrated ourselves and eased ourselves, Team 1 had been quite a distance higher up already.

Adrian said the day before:

"On the last stretch up to Namche Bazaar, most of you would either have kept your cameras, or some of you would most likely pass your cameras to your porter, and you all will probably not be taking any pictures but instead be focussing on walking and regulating your breaths."

Well, certainly Adrian was correct. In fact, he was almost correct for the vast majority of us simply just dumped our cameras and concentrated on taking that arduous climb up. But several hard-core photographers were STILL hard at work. Including me. (hahaha...) but just that my own shots had become worse and worse and more and more slack!

Here, right after the lunch, we started walking... with apprehension of what was to come, but not exactly knowing what to expect. It was very interesting that as we trekked, we found the ground going into a transition - we walked into a terrain of big rocks and gravels, and we could hear the roar of the Dudh Koshi on our left. Before we knew it, we were walking just right next to the great river at the water level!
This was the very first time, ever since we started trekking two days ago, that we had come so close to the meandering great river - just at its bank!

Most of Team 2's members and all of Team 1's members were ahead of both myself and Serene were really among the last to arrive here. By the time we reached this beautiful rocky beach, many of our team mates were already shooting themselves crazy. We could see JohnnyLCP, Jack (the Jack part of Jack n Cheryl) and Goose Goi happily firing away at the background, while Acrux has bravely set up tripod on one of the big flat rocks taking long exposures of the Dudh Koshi river!

Mahesh the main guide pointed to a small cluster of houses in the far-away hill, made sure we all saw them, and said:
"There! You see some of our Team mates already walking along that sloping curvy path? Yes, there is where we are going to head towards. It is NOT Namche Bazaar yet, don't jump into that conclusion wrongly. But for us to walk from here to that high point, a fast trekker will take one and a half hours. For you all.... I think maybe two hours..."Mahesh placed it very diplomatically.
Two hours! I faint!!!
Come on! Let's keep walking... I don't want to reach Namche Bazaar after sun-down!


Coming to the last suspension bridge, the Larja bridge before we started the REAL non-stop climb to Namche Bazaar. Here, Mario (he is one of the hardcore SARP members. I am VERY proud of him. Well done, Mario!) kept going even from such an awkward angle trying to capture that best view of the bridge. The altitude at 2905m hasn't even touched him yet!

Right after the bridge, that was where the tracks became narrower, the wind blowing in our hairs became sharper and the roar from the Dudh Koshi in the valley below became louder. But one thing didn't change - and that was the Dzopkyos. Oblivious to the dangerous, precarious nature of the trail, they still walked non-chalantly down at their own sweet pace, leaving the SgTrekkers to siam them like crazy, precisely like what Serene was doing here.

With every few tens of a steps, our elevation got higher by a few metres. We were coming close to 3000m. Here, only a few shooters were still left shooting... not surprising to see who it was... hahaha..

Now comes the hard part...

By the time we reached this last, toughest section, the team was split into three distinct groups - those who were the ablest were already high up and happily jumping around like Yaks on steroids, a middle-behind group who was having a slightly less enjoyable time but was still trudging along like the mules on drowsy cough medicine, and of course, those who were way at the back, like me and Serene, who were certainly like dzyopkyos on sleeping pills.

We were walking with a group of two Ang Moh men from USA and an Indian man from, India. Very shamefully, I compared myself to one of the Ang Moh men who was older, but who was carrying a full, heavy load of backpack himself. Smilingly, he looked at us and said:

"Slowly.. slowly... one baby step at a time, one baby step at a time..."
And indeed that was precisely what we were doing. But I think for myself and Serene (and I half suspect, Judith as well) we were taking not baby steps, but Neonate steps instead.

But whatever steps we were taking, die die you'd also make it up at the end of the day - several metres at a time, several centimetres at a time.. like what Serene had done here.

Sorry, my pictures were all of SereneXMM and the team members still behind. I couldn't take photos of any of the forward members. That will have to depend on those in Team 1 who were still shooting... hahaha..!

Finally, we reached an altitude of 3000m.
I remembered very well at this point as we rounded a turn, and arrived at 3000m, Mahesh issued an instruction and passed it down to everyone:
"Ok, here we are, 3000m. Now all of you please, please walk very slowly and breathe very slowly. Take it really easy."
Huh?! Not only were we breathing and walking slowly, we were also talking slowly, laughing slowly, everything also slowly... hahaha.. No, no... laugh slowly - Ha... Ha... Ha... Ha.... like that then can...


Still... we fought on. When you were up to this level, age didn't matter. Gender didn't matter. The strength of your Quadricep thigh muscles didn't matter. Your lung capacity didn't matter.
What really mattered was: the presence of a single, one-track minded thought of perseverance in keeping on going... keeping on going... just keep walking...
Here at this point, Acrux was complaining to me that Serene seemed to be on fire as she suddenly like siao one, picked up speed and trekked very very quickly upwards...
Oh yes, now I remember. The main purpose of my taking this shot hastily while gasping for air was also to show our good audience how fun and how CLOSE we were trekking to the edge of the trail, an edge that led to no where other than a steep drop down the cliff of the mountain, much like how our good team mate Quek Zong Ye's 1DsMkII decided to take a jump down and test the slope of the Himalaya for itself...

... and knowing when to stop and take a seat for a few minutes, when your brain and body decided that it was too tired to take another step or suck in another breath... like what Serene was doing far ahead in the background here. At this altitude, whatever record shots were lousy, hastily-taken and totally CMI ones. So pardon the lousy shots...

And slow, but surely.. our tired legs led us to a row of houses, and all that our already-numbed brain cells could comprehend was that this looked like some signs of life that was probably consistent with something or somewhere not far from Namche... Our excited porter kept pointing in front and muttering something in Tibetan-Sherpa language...

Yah... it made little difference at 3337m. The mind was willing. But the flesh was not that willing... Here, Seren and Acrux took a small rest while standing up... well, Acrux seemed to have picked up his pace again already...


"NAMCHE BAZAAR, Here we come...!"

Those of us in Team 2 could already sense that the end was near. And right at this stage of our trek, it was a sheer race of who had the higher amount of adrenaline left in his/her system to kick into a turbo-drive mode. From the look in this photo, it seemed to me that Acrux still had loads of that driving hormone in him...

Me? I could only look back at where we came from and stop and take photos, using this as an excuse to suck in a few more breaths of air...

... and look in front again to find our private porter Sange standing at the turn of a corner waiting for me. Apparently acrux had changed into a high gear and was cheonging all the way in front liao.


Day 6: Safely in the Arms of Namche Bazaar...

When Acruxl and I arrived at the winding road leading up to the entrance of Namche Bazaar, aside from seeing Adrian from afar, we came upon Wai Kit who was here earlier and was already out shooting pictures of the sunset at Namche Bazaar.

"I didn't reach here much earlier than you guys," replied Wai Kit when asked when he arrived. "I was only here about 20 minutes ago. Anyway, walk straight ahead... you guys see that pink guesthouse right in front of every one of the buildings? Yupe, that's our guesthouse. That's the one. It's 'The Nest'."
Here is Wai Kit the great shooting, the reason why I called him the great was despite banging one of his knees badly on the first day of the trek, and suffering a severely strained shoulder from the backpack strap, he was one of the first few to have made it up to Namche. My respect goes to every one of my team who had in every one of their own ways, overcame certain physical discomfort to arrive safely at Namche Bazaar. It was a victory in no small ways, for every single trekker in this team.

And how could one arrive at Namche Bazaar without showing a record shot of the famous Stupa right in front of it, the one that every trekker will set eyes on, the moment he or she arrived at Namche. Well, mine is a simple record snap shot of no artistic value what so ever. Just a record shot...

Some asides...
Because of the delay, we were not able to ascent to Tengboche as we originally planned for the next day.  But Sherwin and Amelia, the two younger and fitter members of the team actually took a trek up to Syangboche with one of our guides.  Well done.
Amelia ascending to Syangboche. Photo: Sherwin Ting

Meanwhile, this was a memorable shot by Sherwin Ting. It was a shot of Cheryl.  She was kinda tired at one point and Babu actually portered her up.
Photo: Sherwin Ting

Day 6: That Evening at Namche Bazaar...

It was a long day. For some, it was a 9 hours of walking, not including lunch time. For others, it was a slightly easier seven and a half hour of stroll in the park. But for all, it was a day best remembered for its unique sights and a climb best remembered for the unbeatable company.
Some of our members had already threw in their 250 rupee for the hot shower. A few of us had bought 130-rupees-per-bottle of ?boiled/?mineral water just so that we could hydrate ourselves after this long-haul day-trek. But most of us were simply happy to be sitting in the warmth of the dining hall waiting for our dinner... even a two hour wait was heavenly...

Hmmm... a quick glance around the hall quickly picked up some new symptoms...

... some joy and some sorrow...

... but preparation for the next morning's programme was already in progress. My hat's off to Kai Sing for the unfailing determination! Acrux was his usual self. Kc Tng was his usual self. But the one who was most deserving of a champion medal was none other than the champion himself - Francis Chia!

Day 7: Sunrise of Everest at Namche Bazaar and trek back ...