Thursday, March 24, 2011

Everest Panorama Trek ~ Day 8: Monjo back to Lukla.. and receiving our trekking certificates!

T R A V E L O G U E

Day 8: The trek back to Lukla...


Monjo gave all of us a real good rest, er... except some who still found the muscle aching and the cold hard to bear, and thus suffer from some interrupted sleep.





Yours truly here had my second powder bath here in the Super Deluxe Room in Mount Kailash Lodge and a good enough sleep in the specially prepared weather-hardened mattress and blanket. And right early on the morning of the eighth day, we were all ready to give the track our last burst of pounding to Lukla.
From the corner of my eyes, I could vaguely make out Adrian's blood shot eyes and tousled hair... and I guess he probably was suffering from Low Altitude Sickness, much like many of us who were already missing the highlands of Namche. Still, he must be one of the Trek Leaders with the most initiative in personally counting the number of room keys and doing an Express Check Out for everyone.



A quick glance around the dining hall and every one seemed to be in high high spirit. Even the pimpled-one was in great mood. Hmmm.. must be the Vodka and Whisky combination last night that gave the much-needed kick! Hahaha...



Almost 9am. Melvin and Adrian got all the porters on their ways and got us on ours. A last view of the flowers before we finally moved along... Bye Bye Monjo and hope to see you again one day...



HUH! A climb again...?!
Hey, Serene... stop KB KB-ing lah.. Not that you have not been climbing? The past few days you have been doing exceedingly well... this is the last stretch to Lukla liao... Some more you have dropped all your camera gear and now are holding on to TWO trekking poles instead of one. Come on, come on... push on. PUSH ON, everybody!
  
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Day 8: GPS Data for the Trek from Monjo to Lukla


Kai Sing and all who were asking for some more GPS data of our distance and elevation loss and gain, here is the info.


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Day 8: Leaving Monjo and cheong-ing all the way...


This last day's trek was really the acid test. It was very interesting how the whole team had been differentiated to 4 sub-teams by the time we came to this stage of the trek. Those super fit Commandos (hmmm... we seemed to be missing one Commando on this trip) would have been way ahead and totally uncatchable in Team 1a. Those slightly just behind the front chaps were the Team 1b. Then of course, Team 2 was a dynamic, every-changing hoppity-hop of members which we would roughly categorize into Team 2a and Team 2b.
That's right. Again, as I was really among the Team 2, all that I had got left to shoot was the KB KB-ing lady in grey. So my shots were all focussed on one single subject. Sigh... to everyone, my apologies.



Didn't know how long it took, and didn't know how far. All we knew was to keep on walking... keep on walking... keep on keep on walking until we could hear the growling in our stomachs...



And then, out of nowhere, we stumbled upon the suspension bridge after Monjo. Yeah... this was the one (the only one) that the Engineers in our team detected had NO stabilising cables, thus very prone to swinging sideways... Still, it seemed to bother the Dzyopkos little as they sashayed their way across it...



A sight that was funny, not to the Sherpas, but to the Sua-kus among our team. Every body whipped out their cameras.. except, Oops... Serene hadn't got her camera with her. But true to the spirit of a hard-core photographer, she quickly whipped out her iPhone and did what she did best! Hmmm... I could see that of all these people, the smartest was Judith. She was using the best camera in the world to capture this scene - her own pair of eyes!



And again, who else but our every-warning, ever-protective Ah Tan who would be the tip top scout of the team giving out warnings to 'Siam'!


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Day 8: Passing through Bengkar...


It was funny how time appeared to simply breeze through when one went downhill, and when one trekked backwards to the starting point. It was a total blur of villages after villages, salla tree after salla tree, rhododendron after rhododendron, and before we knew it, we were at Bengkar already.


"Eh, Wee How... come come, I want you to see this..." Ah Tan motioned to me to his side of the track. "Eh, come come... you take a picture of this." He said.
"Si Mi Lai eh?" Curiously, I asked.

"Just shoot. Just shoot."

He urged. So I guai guai took a photo of the shed.



"Kam Sia you," he thanked me. "Now I am going to go inside this toilet and pass urine." He finally declared.



Terrible lah, this fellow. But then again, had it not been for him, I wouldn't have chance to shoot the most scenic and the most natural man-made, covered toilet around this parts. Bengkar was a small village, but every one of us would remember that Zig-Zag path that we took to walk down on our way up to Namche. Now it was the other way round, we got to climb this Zig Zag. But troublesome thing was, there was a long long long convoy of never-ending mules coming down the Zig-Zag this day. We waited a long long long time before they finally cleared the traffic jam, and we could walk up.



We walked and walked and I lost track of time. Really lost track of time until somewhere along some monotonous track, I turned back and saw Kc Tng standing upon some rocks shooting a very unique scene. He needed the angle and found it high up on the platform. Looking towards where he was shooting, I saw an interesting collection of stone slabs and rocks in a very special pattern, some more this dashing cowboy was on a Fish Eye! Wow!



It was coming to 1:30pm and we had been walking for about close to four and a half hours. Hmmm.. four and a half hours? Didn't feel like it though. Perhaps we were all getting used to the huff and puff of heavy breathing and our thigh muscles must have been more seasoned by now... With every step, we could sense that Lukla was closer...


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Day 8: Passing through Phakding...


My, how time and the distance flew by!
We seemed to be on wings (at least more wing than when we were climbing up a few days ago lah...), and we soon arrived at Phakding. Now two days back, when we passed this point, the signed pointed 'To Namche'. Now interestingly as we walked back, on this side of the sign board, it said 'To Lukla'. Marvellous people, these Sherpa. One would never get lost.



We came by Phakding's Sunrise Lodge in a few minutes' time.

"Eh, Wee How... you go ahead first. I'm going in to Sunrise Lodge," said Acrux.
"Huh? Why?" I asked, puzzoled.
"I left my expensive Seiko watch here that night when we stayed in this lodge," replied Acrux. "Now I am going in to see if they have kept it for me." There we were, the answer.
And so how? They did keep his Seiko watch for him, these wonderful wonderfully honest people!
"Heng ah,"muttered Acrux. "Now I don't have to spend extra money to buy myself a new trekking watch."
Hmmm... this incident left a very very good impression of the people of this parts in my mind. As I passed by a prayer wheel right after Sunrise Lodge, I instinctively turned it clockwise for good luck, for ourselves, for the Sherpa people and for everyone.



It was pretty much ups and downs again, just like when we came the other way the other day. But the general direction was downhill. We lost count of the number of mani stones we passed by. But somehow when we came to this stack of mani stone, something in our digestion system sent signals to our brains telling us that lunch was not far...



"Hello Wee How, this is Adrian. Report location." cracked Adrian through the Walkie Talkie.
"Ah Adrian, myself, Serene, Su Pin, Mario, Ah Leong we have just passed Ghat." answered this signaller obediently.
"Ok good. Keep walking. You will be reaching lunch at Thado Koshi soon. Melvin where are you all?"
replied Adrian over the Comm Set.
"Ah Adrian, this is Melvin. We are at Phakding now."

"Ok roger that, Melvin,"
replied Adrian. "Pick up pace, pick up pace. You are about one and a half hour behind us at lunch point at Thado Koshi." replied Adrian.
How lovely these small little Walkie Talkie were, I though to myself. Very reassuring, very handy and very trusty. When you needed that little bit more in communication, they were worth every single dollar you paid for them.

Day 8: Lunch at Thado Koshi...


Huh! Yes, lunch was round the corner at Thado Koshi.
When we in Team 2a arrived panting here, Team 1a was already gone for a while already. Who was in Team 1a? Who else, but Francis Chia lor... Kai Sing lor... Quek Zong Ye lor... Wong Chin Leong lor... Adrian lor... did I miss out anyone?



Team 1b had already finished their lunch and were getting ready to set off... when the Walkie Talkie crackled again.
"Hey Wee How, Hey Wee Ho, this is Adrian. Come in come in!" Hmmm... his tone sounded urgent.
"Yah, Adrian. Send."
I fumbled with my Walke Talkie.
"Please help me pass the message to those at lunch point and also relay this message to Melvin that it is raining here in front. And the way the sky looked, it's going to rain heavier..." warned Adrian. "Get everyone to water-proof all your bags and equipment and put on all your rain coats and outer jackets. And be very very careful of the track cos it is slippery now."



Shucks... so near to Lukla and started raining? What Mule-luck!
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Day 8: Home Run to Lukla!


As it turned out, the so called 'rain' was a little bit more.
It was hailstorm! And pieces and pieces of ice rained upon us, our outer jackets and our equipment.
Siao one lah... this kind of weather. Must've been too cold for even raindrops to form.
Haha... well, when you travel with SgTrekker, you'll never know what kind of surprises are in store for you!


"From here Thado Koshi to Lukla is about one and a half hour, if you walk fast," smiled Mahesh reassuringly. "And the last 45 minutes is going to be that steep uphill climb all the way."
Sigh... what was new?! Chay...!

So we just continued walking. And we walked and it rained and it rained and we walked. And we put on our jacket when it rained, and we took off our jacket when it stopped and we got stuffy. And we finally came to this small little cluster of houses. I looked up and pointed to Serene, Mario and Goh Su Pin.



"This is it!" I exclaimed. "This is that last stretch of 45minutes of non-stop climb back up to Lukla!"
And naughtily, I noted from the corner of my eyes, the look of exasperation on Mario's and Su Pin's faces, which quickly turned into resignation to their fates.

"This is it?"

rhetorically asked Mario under his breath, as he shook his head.

Well, Mahesh was dead correct.
The last stretch of uphill did take exactly 45 minutes. And 45 minutes later, upon rounding a final turn, our tired legs and breathless lungs brought us stumbling past the Pasang Lhamu memorial gate... and we were back in Lukla!!!!!




"Adrian, Adrian. This is Wee How here. Come in, Adrian, come in."

I bo-chap already. Just Walkie Talkie him and see where they were....

  
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Day 8: STARBUCKS COFFEE at where? At Lukla?!



"Haha... Wee How," replied Adrian over the Comm Set. "We are at Starbucks Coffee in Lukla. Come join us!"
Huh?! Siao ah! Starbucks Coffee in Lukla? What nonsense?!! I thought to myself.

"Where?"

"Ah, Wee How, you just keep walking straight ahead about 100m to 150m you will see the Starbucks sign on the right side of the street." directed Adrian.
Haha... So what these guys were saying about Starbucks in Lukla was for real. There really WAS a Starbucks in Lukla. Unbelievable.
Well, here was the victory roll. All happily relaxing at Starbucks and enjoying Free Wi-Fi, catching up on Facebook lah, email lah, ClubSNAP lah... hahaha...



And all the shacked faces showing through... hahaha...



...AND Adrian HAD to choose this time to collect tips from everybody for the porters. HAHAHAHA...!



As it turned out later, someone did a check and found that this Starbucks was a FAKE Starbucks. Hahahaha!!

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Day 8: Dinner at Namaste Lodge, Lukla...


Well, so much for a Starbucks Coffee at Lukla of dubious origin. We dragged our tired limbs and bodies (not to mention hailstorm-numbed minds) into the dining hall of Namaste Lodge. Very quickly, Sherwin Ting, Amelia, speekay, Kai Sing, Kc Tng, Mario and Wong Chin Leong discovered the source of the heat - from a typical Tibeto-Sherpa coal heater/warmer in the middle of the hall. Gladly, all the frozen bodies closed the distance between themselves and the coal warmer for all the heat they could get...



The sunset very quickly in this season. And soon, everything around us was shrouded in darkness, but a darkness with a tinge of blue high up where the clouds are.



As we sat down in the warm dining hall awaiting dinner, our spirits were once again lifted, as the realisation that our trekking has come to an end dawns upon us. Scenes of the past days galloped through our minds, but at this moment, it was the thought of food that made headlines in each of our forebrains.



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Day 8: Johnny: "Huh?! Got Trekking Certificate some more one meh..!?"


Yes, that was precisely the thought in my mind when Adrian and Melvin came walking in with Trekking certificates in their hands. Now I finally understood why they asked for our passport size photos. So that every single one of us get a card to certify that we have done what the Sherpas had been doing for thousands of years. And it came as no surprise to hear cheers of elation from the right side table, as Johnny stood to attention to receive his medal from the Commander himself...


Eh... guys and girls sitting on that table - what was the joke that Adrian and Johnny cracked that made all of you crack up huh?

Yupe. A more serious and significant moment of truth for table right.


Apologies - my lens on f/2.8. Thus shallow DOF. Pai seh pai seh...

The same moment at Table Centre. Why ah? Quek Zong Ye 没脸见人 ah? Hahaha...



And of course, our Table Left where our Champion Francis Chia took the lead.


Apologies - again my lens on f/2.8. Thus another shallow DOF. Pai seh pai seh...

And what happened to our trekking certificates that made Goh Su Pin and Acrux went berserk...?



And Adrian and Melvin ceremoniously presented the gratuities to all the guides and porters. What a moment. If you all look very very closely, you all could even see tears in Binot's eyes as he received the sum of gratitude from Adrian! Seriously ladies and gentlemen. Peep closer and look carefully - he was tearing profusely!




We finally fell asleep after dinner, because the next morning we needed to catch an early flight out of Lukla.


CLICK ON THE LINK BELOW TO CONTINUE TO THE NEXT CHAPTER:
Day 9: Lukla back to Kathmandu