Sunday, 31 May 2009

Day 4, Trekking Day 3. Namchee Bazaar to Khumjung.

I wake up a little later than agreed, just in time to take pictures of the race from the window of our temple room. I hope they’re really careful. It’s David Kirtley (Richard ‘Kirt’ Kirtley-Wright’s cousin (I can see what it means to be a Kirtley. It’s in the nose shape)) and Mike Preston, (who’s smile can swallow darkness).

It looks like it’s Preston that’s won from where I’m stood. Why are the Hillarians cheering? God knows. Confused. The whole thing is farcical anyway and I hope that it doesn’t get shown. If Jordan wanted the thing to be less like ‘The Sound of Music’ then he should speak to the people at the rear of the train. There are enough of us there to get dramas out of.

My god. Namche is probably on a 65º angle and heading up the steps of this hill towards Khumjung, we could see the layout of the town which basically on one leg of the mountain and curves down round the other, hugging the crotch, as it were. After stopping to regain my breath, I heard Dr Nick on the walkie-talkie who had stopped a few metres ahead of me radioing through instructions to the group behind us. Tom Sharland, who was nearby, stopped to listen intently, his ears focused and eyes trying to read Dr. Nick’s face. Someone wasn’t feeling well, someone who wasn’t feeling great last night was dizzy and light-headed. It was his younger brother Neil who was hit with AMS and was going to stay behind in Namchee with Dr. Ian to let his body catch up with the altitude. Tom with no more than a blink’s thought had disappeared down the mountain again to be with his brother. I was glad for that, I would like to think that I'd would have done the same for my brother. The Sharland’s are probably the fittest on the teams and had taken us through our training during the last 8 months and for one of them to be struck down with AMS just goes to show that it could be anyone. Perhaps Neil wasn’t taking it easy. Perhaps he was storming ahead. I was a little more than shaken to think that someone could get it at only, what, 3300 metres. I continue at an even slower pace up to the top of the stepped streets.

Eventually, the near vertical streets turn into a path that zig-zagged the rest of the way up the mountain. The trees seem to be more sparse on the hillside. I saw a helipad and a building on a mini plateau and then at the top of the mountain, the path turned into a tree-studded plateau. It was a lot more comfortable to walk there as it was flat, flatter than ‘Nepali flat’ which to us means a constant up and down but mainly staying at the same altitude over several miles. No, this was visibly flat. I found myself walking a little way behind Waters and Dr. Nick until they were no longer apparent as the trees grew ticker and closer together around the path. Still hilly, the terrain reminded me of a golf-course with bunkers (yes, bunkers) every so often. I got followed by someone who turned out to be one of our guides who eventually told me his name was Jitar and reminded me that it was okay to go slow with a reassuring 'bisari, bistari...'

Dr. Nick was up ahead and pointed to a bank of cloud and a mountain peering out from the right of it. ‘That lump of clouds next to the mountain is Everest, apparently.’ The one that you can see is Lhotse. (Jitar wasn’t entirely sure).

I really thought I was going to see Everest. Unexpected as it was, I was disappointed, but I thought I was going to see it. I was ready for it. Right at the top of the mountain is The Everest View Hotel. Famously this was the hotel that was built by a millionaire for other millionaires and was a fully pressured, fully oxygenated hotel with large windows facing Everest. On it’s opening day they helicoptered in some Japanese tourists who promptly collapsed on the trek from the helipad to the top as they weren’t acclimatised to the altitude. Jitar pointed out the hotel which looked like a Frank Lloyd-Wright building and I was heading up the steps to it when he motioned that we were carrying on ahead to Khumjung. Oh well.

The rest of the descent was easy enough. Through the trees I could see the low stone walls and the wooden buildings with their joblot green roofs which made a complete contrast to Namche’s joblot blue.

Waters and I decided to room together again as it was easier, we seemed to be the first bunch of people to get there. Really? I’m sure I was lagging behind.

The others have got here and at tea it’s announced that tonight was the Everest Factor rehearsal night and that we should be performing after dinner tomorrow. I’m glad that we’ve got 2 nights here. It just means that the Sharlands can catch up with us without losing a day’s travel and that the rest of us can acclimatise further. Hopefully they can get back to us in time for stuff.

After dinner we pile into respective groups’ rooms and rehearse. Before we left we chose to sing ‘Summer Lovin’ from Grease, ‘500 Miles’ and a toss up between a Queen song and something else, which I can't remember. A fun time rehearsing the songs and huddling up to get warm

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