Monday, 24 August 2009

Day 12, Trekking Day 11

Last night there was bad atmosphere in Camp Tenzing. A coupla guys didn't get picked for the team and the guys that were picked didn't feel that the whole thing was handled well. It's not an easy decision and it's not an easy job for anyone. The pressure has been on the Captains and vices to make a good choice. I guess the idea to film it gave the whole thing an unnecessary weight, taking it away from the camaraderie, the team spirit, the good feeling that everyone started this journey with. Shame really.

There was an announcement made from that there may be people trying to sabotage the match tomorrow and that we'd better watch out for people who would want to do that. It was suggested that someone be posted to watch over the pitch so no one steals it. James Peterson and a couple of others decide to take it up and roll it up and take it inside to protect it. It'd be easier to roll out now that it had already been set out from yesterday.

Joe was really noisy in his sleep. We chatted for a bit, about his disappointment, his theories about who was picked and why. I don't know if this is normal for Joe, but he does makes noise in his sleep like a baby bear being molested. Perhaps it's bad dreams, perhaps it's the altitude. Perhaps it's the disappointment of not making the 11.

The next morning Joe was up early, putting his uniform on, the pink Tenzing 20Twenty uniform, like pajamas. Undaunted by yesterdays decisions, he wanted to play cricket and be involved in what was going to be a good day.

Babywiping down, getting changed in that wooden khazi, getting all my equipment together - 2 cameras (need to check on George), sketchpads, water, purification tabs, chocolate, I set out to the other teahouse.

It's buzzing down there, Glen is about to make his selection. Apparently, they'd spoken to the people who hadn't made the cut earlier so this was no surprise to them. Yes, there was disappointment, but really, not as much as last night in our teahouse. After a rallying speech, the boys get ready for the match. I manage to get a set of batteries from George, he's feeling much much better, there's more colour in his face thank god.

Stepping out from their teahouse, the pitch had been set out already. There was an electricity in the air, the embankments around the oval were getting dotted with people who were there to watch the game. They'd heard about it from all they way up the track, from even before Lukla, the posters had been distributed all over the region. Some people had made it down from EBC to watch the match. Wow.

Team Captains Glen and Haydn

Yesterdays Avalanche

I'm not going to blog about the match itself as I really know not that much about the sport (a funny story that I was promised not to repeat by 3rd umpire Helen Curr was a few weeks before we left the UK, HC and Brooksie and I went round to Paola and Alex's house to have ice-cream and watch cricket so HC could explain things to us, from what she had learnt. Halfway through the DVD, I did have to ask 'So.... what's a run?' - I wasn't sure whether it was there and back or just there. But it did sound like I didn't know what a run was at all. The girls were in creases on the floor, until one of them sat up and looked at HC and said,'So, what is it?')

I set up my spot near one end of the wicket, not too far from George. There were lots of photo ops from the day. Lots of photos of the guys and gals and the locals watching the match. From the opening speeches by James Markby, the goodwill hugs from friends on the opposing teams to each other, this was the moment that possibilities are open. Who was going to win?

I'd make sketches of the mountains and the game while it was going on and every so often I'd make my rounds around the oval, to see if I can get a good angles of the match. At one point, I saw Joe Williams near the boundary and he called me over and asked me to take a picture of him, posing, walking away from the match towards me with Everest in the background. Something happened in the game and he turned away to run towards the match. I snapped one more photo of him starting to run. (I wouldn't know how much this photo would mean to me until I got back to England, but more of that later).

You can real Alan Curr's blog about the match here.

In the 2nd half of the match, I went for a higher view of the pitch and went up Kalapatthar.

Amazing. I came down and did more sketching. I also had to pose with the other Trektators while the the ITV guy took some shot of us cheering so they could edit into their programme.

James Butler and Graham The Mallard

Suddenly the game was over. People cheering, team captains were celebrated, losers commiserated, champagne was poured, cake was presented to everyone on the teams and trektators, made by the chef teams of Nepali who came up with us. It was all over. Photos, photos and more photos. Celebration drinks. I had one beer and 1 swig of champagne as I was watching the pennies. I couldn't afford much as I'd spent my dosh sending updates to twitter and facebook. I had my first cigarettes since day 4 of the trek. Feel a bit sick. Up earlyish tomorrow for the long trek down. The decision has been made todescend in 3 days to Lukla instead o f 4. Sounds like a good idea to get there earlier but might it take it out of us?

Oh, and this was what Creative Minds, our promoter made of it: This Amazing Video

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Day 11, Trekking day 10

Last night it dawned on Joe and Simmo that there was a distinct possibility that the game might be this morning, and not tomorrow, as planned, as Kirt and Wes and the captains had decided to make best of the good weather in case it doesn't last. It has been sunny everyday since we got here and fairly warm in the daytime, apart from when that wind was blowing through out bones. Drisla had been trying to contact anyone on radio who was already up in Gorak Shep to see what the situation was but all night had no response and even this morning there was radio silence. It made breakfast a silent affair as the boys were thinking that they had missed their opportunity to make history. It was once in a lifetime for them. Though they were feeling much better healthwise, they were keen to get up the track to Gorak Shep to see if they could get on the game.

Earlier this morning, I was awoken by Drisla at about 5, it was low light outside but by the tone of the way she said, 'Zooby, you're snoring. Again.' I kinda knew that I must've had a) a good sleep b) a rather large snoring session. Yes, I guess, I shared with Drisla for one night as the boys shared a room and we were keeping costs low by sharing. Because everything was pre-paid accommodation and food-wise, every time a person has something from the menu, it cost The Everest Test some dough.

Filling water bottles we made our way up the rocky track over the glacier. Now, I was expecting, when someone said the word 'glacier' to be white and pure and somewhat beautiful. Not really anticipating that it was covered in scree (not very often I get to use the word 'scree', but I like it, it makes it feel very adventuresome) and was rocky and brown. Once we were high enough to see the Khumbu glacial valley, we did see high ice walls and icepools which gave away the fact we were following the glacier.

Joe was a star. Although my pack had gone ahead with the rest of the team yesterday, my equipment pack of 2 cameras, sleeping bag, toiletries, 4 litres of water was heavier than ever. At this altitude, breathing wasn't the best as the air was thinner. At some points we'd be higher than we were sleeping at later on tonight (which is a good thing for acclimatisation, but a bad thing when you're feeling a little weaker than ever). Ever so often, when I couldn't carry on, he'd offer to carry my pack for a while, just so we could get on. I took him up on the offer every so often but really, I couldn't let him do it the whole time.

Halfway up while we were on our many swap rests, these two Aussie dudes came clambering down the track and we'd got talking to them. Drisla asked them where they'd just come from (well, where else, but just in case they'd come straight from Base Camp) and the dreaded question, whether they knew if the game was today.

'Oe noe. The gayme's not teal tomorroe. Youe goies hev noe warries.' He couldn't have sounded more laid back. I shall italicise his words just to make them look like they're relaxing. The boys' relief was unmistakable.

After about 2 hours (I think), we'd crossed the glacier, gone even higher, scrambled over sharp rocks, rested countless times, we made our way over another hill and there below us, looking like matchboxes, were the teahouses of Gorak Shep. The rest was a relatively easier downhill.

When we got to the first teahouse, they said that we could eat as it was gone lunchtime. Joe and Simmo had to simulate entering the compound again as Wes wanted to film the last two players, lost heroes, re-joining the group. The guides were tucking in to a meal of dhalbatt which looked really tasty as we'd not really had any at this point, it was mainly fried potatoes and such the like. At least the dhall would have given us a source of protein which we were all missing... I said to Dharma, who was eating his lentils with gusto, 'that that looked really nice.' He said, 'No, you will have sandwiches,' smilingly, thinking I'd be pleased. My heart sank to think that I'll not have really tasted Nepali trekking cooking apart from potatoes.

I'd received message from FuddA that 'the eagle has landed' via radio and that my backpack was settled in her room awaiting my arrival. I'd be sharing with Joe, which was cool as he was funny and he chatted about stuff, and I think we were banished to each other's company as both of us were really loud in whatever noises we make while sleeping.

I went out onto the pitch after snacking on some dry cheese sarnies, feeling like a scolded child, for some reason. For some reason I get this image of my head of my friend Andrea Hall while eating these sandwiches. I have no idea why. I think it's just the way I was eating sandwiches. Reminded me of Andrea. Out on the pitch there was some sort of commotion going on. There were two groups of people dressed in what looked like uniforms of some sort, lined up in an orderly fashion, one group of Asian (probably Nepali) and the other were whites (I can't tell whether they're European or Oceanic or North American, so I'm gonna call them 'whites'. If you think that's me being racist, that's tough titty. They were white. Nuff said. Kirt was was in the middle of all of this hubbub, talking to some elderly chap with a cap on.

I walk around the site, the frozen lakebed. Like the rest of the 'glacier' I see no evidence of ice, or lake, or bed. A few people are at the far end of the oval, facing the other two teahouses where team Hillary are sleeping tonight. I check it out. Of course, it's slightly more welcoming, they seem to have got the better deal but at this late stage, who cares, you know. Who cares. I was excited to have reached Gorak Shep.

Some people go off to Everest Base Camp (or EBC, or even BC, as it's called by regulars) to check it out and check out the bakery. Yah. Bakery. I make an attempt to send some tweets and even check out facebook (why?) while here as there seems to be an internet connection here (I check my Blackberry just in case there is a signal. No) but at 25 rupes a minute, best left to do very little on it. Money is running out. That's why I thought I'd twitter. If you want to check out my tweets it's here.

Dinner around a noisy table. AlexFuddA says that she's running out of water. I say that we can go to the far side of the oval to check out the spring water there. I have 'muslims' which we can use to filter our water, referring to the two muslin filters that I brought with me for use with springwater. And muslims became the word du jour that made us laugh. No one is going to have a memory of this, or find it inoffensive apart from Alex and me. Any chance I got to take my helpful little muslims out, they got used. It was getting dark when we started to take water from the spring. There were some locals who were there too, so we waited for one of them to be free. Ice cold! Oh my god! I'd never felt anything that cold.

We head to our teahouse and the atmosphere is thick with something. The boys are sitting quietly and it is solemn. Ah. The team selection by captain Haydn and VC Goonit. Not an easy choice. Not sure where to look. Wes is documenting it on film with all the difficulties that entails, batteries running low, tape running out, not enough sound. The boys have to go into a room with Goonit, Haydn and Wes to be told whether they'd made the cut or not. Everyone thinks it's shitty and is a bit miserable about the whole thing. The chaps outside speculate on who is in and why they are in. It's not great. I can't really do anything to alleviate the tension so I go and check out what the other team is doing. They're not making their selection until the morning so the atmos might be a bit more relaxed.

When I get there, I see that George Powell, the lead photographer, is stretched out on the sofabench with VixNix tending to him and Drisla not far. I think he's got a line in him. He had to have been assisted the rest of the way from BC as he was severely dehydrated, his eyes were listless when I was trying to engage with him. Apparently he'd been up to Kalapatthar earlier that day, then gone on to BC, without any rest, with Kirt and VixNix.

I'd joked with him 'Get well Georgie, I don't know your camera!', which garnered a little smile, which made me feel a bit better. In all seriousness, I didn't know his camera, which was waaay better than mine (and besides, since my adapter went 'missing' on day 5, I'd never been able to successfully recharge my batteries for my digital, I was flying on slide film for the rest of the trip. I'm glad that I had 3 rolls left).

It turns out that the 'elderly chap' from earlier today is Russell Brice, one of the best known expedition leaders around and the others were part of the HimEx team - his clients and guides. A few months ago, when Russell Brice got wind of what Kirt was attempting to achieve, for a laugh, he got it in his head that he was going to challenge Kirt to a game even higher than the one that we were going to play tomorrow.

Tomorrow. Shittyfuckfuck. It's happening. This is where it's gonna be. After a year of my involvement, it's just hit me. It finishes tomorrow.

Sunday, 2 August 2009

Day 10, Trekking Day 9 - Holed up in Lobuche

I woke up this morning after not feeling very well last night.

After we got to the teahouse in Lobuche yesterday evening, I found a room and for the first time I was in a room by myself which was unusual. Everyone seemed to have organised who they were sharing with along the trek. When does this happen? I had a headache along the trek and who I would be sharing with wasn't really a concern, not that it was anyway, everyone's a good sort, but it would've been good to see if there was anyone I particulalrly got on with that wsa sans roommate. Not sure why I was bothered tonight of all nights. Though to be honest, it was a relief. Not that 'relief' was going to be any of my activities this evening.

After dumping my stuff on the bed, I made my way to the tearoom and had a milky tea with some paracetamol and ibuprofen. Not feeling well at all. After resting a bit listening to the chat from other people, I wasn't sure what was going on and I thought I might need a sleep. I got up and almost immediately needed to sit down again, dizzy, the room blurring like a photograph.

I asked for another tea and sat nursing it for a few more minutes to see if it was just temporary. I let Dr Nick know and he asked if I had taken anything, there was chat in the room and it was kinda comforting, not that I knew what it was about. I decided that I should try and sleep at least for a little bit.

Someone passed me on the stairs and said something but I'm not sure who it was or what he'd asked (from a conversation I had recently with Curry, it was him. Apparently I wasn't taking anything in, who he was, what he had asked me and dubbed me 'Zombie Zoob' a this point in the book that he is writing about our adventures. I hope it gets published, I'd like to read it). I slept, I think, for a while, Dr. Nick came up to check on me as I'd told him that I wasn't sharing with anyone. When it came to dinnertime I made my way downstairs for something to eat, feeling a little more myself. (No, still, not a 'relief' reference).

It was actually after dinner when I came down but they'd saved some for me and I sat with Paola and Alex and Brooksie. Apparently I looked like death. But I needed to eat and I was greatful for the feed. Not that I ate much of it. Another plateful of fried spiced potatoes really didn't appeal at this point. Kirt came along from the other teahouse and sat with us for a bit. Paola asked me about the poem that I read out last night. I coudn't say much about it, well, nothing intelligent and witty apart from the fact that it wasn't autobiographical, apart from the line 'We were on holiday in Scarborough'. The rest is just fiction with a little of what goes through my head daily. Kirt said that it was the strangest thing that he'd heard. I dunno. It's not so strange is it? It's comedic. Alex recently told me that on the night people were a little wierded out by it, but she was proud that I'd read it out and that she was secretly thought to herself, 'Yeah, he's MY friend, I love it'. Hearing this recently made me smile inside.

So today I wake up and feel a hundred times better. Dr. Nick came to check on me at midnight (I think, or did I just imagine it). After my wipedown with my babywipes, I go downstairs to get breakfasted up and join the teams for the final push. Yes, today we reach Gorak Shep, the end point of our trek up to Mt Everest.Wow.

Joe Williams, it turns out was also taken ill last night and was given the option to stay on another night to fully recover. I asked Dr Nick if I could do the same and she said that it was probably the best idea. We would be joined by Drisla and Simmo as they were on their way up from Duggla. I went to the other teahouse as all our stuff had been collected by the porters, ready to be taken up. I took my sleeping bag and washing stuff out, my diary and writing things, to stay the night. On way way to the other house, I saw the route upto Gorak Shep. It didn't look particularly inviting. I've made the right choice.

Joe emerged looking tired and had some tea and breakfast, we were able to order food off the menu, something I was looking forward to.

More tea and I sat out in the sunshine writing this blog. I'm in the middle of a conversation with some people from Seattle who were on their way up to Base Camp (or B.C. as it's known) and an Aussie bunch (one of whom "isn't on cipro, yet". Tasteful.)

Then another two joined me at the table from up the track. They'd just come down. For some reason, my Malaydar was going off like mad. The chap speaking was an Indian guy from South Africa (I think they call them 'coloureds'). The Seattlites didn't really take to him as he seemed to know too much. "Nobody likes know it alls".

I had to ask. Yes, the other guy was Imran and was surprised as I was to find another Malaysian (yes, though I am semi-Asian, I'm still Malay. We sat chatting for a bit). He's on a 'spiritual quest' which piqued my interest as Malays aren't known for their spirituality. Belief in God, Islam and such the like, yes. But spirituality? Interesting. Not your typical songkok-wearing, tourism-friendly smile Malay here. Imran and the South African finished their feed and made their way down the track to Dingboche but as they were leaving I gave my card to Imran and he looked at it 'Wah, ACTOR!' he exclaimed, smiling, 'It's not every day that I get a card that says "actor" on it. I forget what it was that he does. This wasn't the last time Imran and I saw each other on the trip. I wanted to ask more about his spiritual quest. Perhaps he'll email me. Readers will be interested to know that Imran has since been a keen reader of my blogs and comments once or twice.

Then I met two English guys, Colin and Nick who had met the other team yesterday in the teahouse in Duggla. They'd left Drisla and Simmo who were apparently 20 minutes behind them so I could expect them soon. They did arrive, but perhaps 2 hours after Nick and Colin got there. Colin used to work for the RSC and did LX for them before moving to Leamington Spa to do computer programming.

When Drisla and Simmo got there, they settled and we got some lunch together with Joe. I was hyper-aware that this was probably the first time I'd spoken to Simmo and the first time he'd asked me anything. Bizarre, after 9 days of travelling together. But hey, I hadn't really spoken to anyone mid-trek, everyone's keen to compete with each other on some front or another. I don't go in for that, I find competitive chat tiring, very few of the chaps actually have conversations with each other, I've noticed. Must be a sportsman thing. I'm far too collaborative and silly. Perhaps not quite when I'm so far removed from comfort zones. If you join in I'll play along. Besides, I haven't got a cultural reference for 'Point Break'. It's never been on my list of 'must sees'.

Simmo is a hard-landscaper and quite the humourist, but you have to listen really hard. I have since met his sister who apparently looks like him. She doesn't. Thankfully.

Joy of joys. We all have yaksteak. Feeling the colour coming back into my cheeks already.

The Walker in The Hills