“I’m on the top of the world looking down on creation and the only explanation I can find. Is the love that I’ve found ever since you’ve been around. Your love’s put me at the top of the world.” (The Carpenters).

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After a cold night in the lodge at Lobuje we arose relatively early and left just after 7am. A couple of hours earlier I awoke in the middle of the night to go to the toilet and saw the amazing sight, purely by accident, of a nearby mountain swathed in moonlight. It was, quite simply, a glorious thing to behold and it was a wonderful introduction to the day that had the Base Camp of Mt. Everest beckoning.

Before arriving at EBC, we had a trek to Gorek Shep which is situated at 5180m (16994ft). We began the trek in the dark for the first hour or so and I was glad to be thoroughly wrapped up as it was pretty cold. However, as I was walking, I reflected on the fact that whilst the temperature would have been pretty low, I came to the conclusion that it wasn’t the coldest temperature I had experienced. In fact, walking round Marine Drive back home in Scarborough in the winter months, with a north easterly gale blowing in from the coast, could possibly give this part of the world a run for it’s money:

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Initially the walk was pretty tough going until the sun rose and, when it did, the skies were azure blue once again and the scenery was simply stunning. We arrived at Gorek Shep just after 10am and had a short break before we set off once again, this time towards the goal of the entire trip.

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The lodge at Gorek Shep. It says it had “fast Internet service” but it was solar powered. The sun was down when I needed it!…

Despite a tough four hour or so walk in the morning, we began the trek in earnest to EBC where I found some extra energy from somewhere. The picture below was taken purely and simply for the fact that if you look carefully, you can see something that I hadn’t seen for nearly two weeks whilst walking in the Himalaya; clouds…

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The walk to EBC was pretty straight forward and as we made the steady incline we got occasional glimpses of Mt. Everest, sandwiched between the two mountains of Lhotse and Nuptse:

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Everest is the grey rock between the two mountains in the foreground…

As one approached EBC, what was noticeable is that nothing of any real significance is actually there. I thought that there would be, at least, a weather station but to no avail. The only thing that one could see from a distance as one approached the base camp itself was a collection of prayer flags and a number of cairns. Nonetheless, I had a real sense of exhilaration as we approached our destination after all this time. And, at just after 1.30pm we finally arrived. And to prove it, feast your eyes on this….

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To be honest, I was in a bit of a daze for a few moments and was quickly brought back to earth by watching an amazing avalanche that happened within minutes of arriving. Unfortunately I wasn't quick enough to take a photograph but it was a wonderful sight. Whilst there isn't anything of note at EBC itself, I did notice a lot of messages written on pieces of paper and on stone. Some people had the foresight to bring a permanent marker with them to write their messages, with some of them being quite poignant. So, following their lead, I decided to inscribe a short message of my own on a stone by using a small pebble to write my inscription. So, if you ever find yourself in these parts have a look around for a small stone with the following words….

Paul Clev, 2013. FTM

Not very profound or inspiring I know, but I was pretty knackered!…

Everyone from the group went around congratulating each other for successfully achieving the goal of arriving at Everest Base Camp. We were all of different fitness levels and it was to everyone's credit that we all got there safe and sound. However, credit must also go to our two wonderful guides who, by their expertise, got everyone there. I was particularly grateful to them both so couldn't resist having a photograph with them at our goal…

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Mingma, yours truly and Bee Bee…

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Me and the lads again….

We stayed at EBC for no more than half an hour. Other groups arrived and wanted time by themselves there so we decided that it time to begin our walk back to Gorek Shep. However, I decided to have one more photograph taken. So, apologies for the pose but I couldn’t resist. In fact, this photograph simply summarises my whole emotion and feeling about being in a place that I had dreamt about for literally years…

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We eventually began to decend from Everest Base Camp at 5364m (17598ft) back to Gorek Shep where we arrived back after a two hour walk. Back at the lodge I found that I had lost my appetite which is a sign of the altitude so struggled to eat the evening meal. However, that was the only sign of the effects of altitude so I did not experience any dizziness, sickness or any other symptoms associated with altitude. In fact, on the decent back I discovered, when we stayed in Namche Bazaar, that 4 people had died in the region whilst we were on the trek. 3 of heart failure and one had frozen to death in a tent….

So that is the final update on my trip to Everest Base Camp. I would like to thank Gary, the two Toms, Vicky from Mussie, Lindsey, Sue, and John and Bev for their company on the whole trek. I don’t know if Tom and Gary got to the top of Island Peak after EBC but I’m sure they did. We all successfully descended from the ‘Top of the World’ without any major incidents. Also, my thanks especially go the wonderful guides Mingma and Bee Bee for their help and assistance during the trek. I’ve been walking the hills for a few years now but I can honestly say that I learned how to ascend a hill properly by following Bee Bee. He really was a ‘guardian angel’ over the past couple of weeks.

The weather continued to be perfect the whole trip and it only clouded over, quite literally, during the final three hours as we walked back to Lukla and I enjoyed the forty five minute flight back to Kathmandu, even though it was a bit ‘up and down’ due to air turbulence. All good fun…

So that’s one thing ticked off the ‘bucket list’. I wonder what’s next on the agenda…..

“And if I go, before I am old, oh brother of mine, please don’t forget me if I go. And if I die before my time, oh sweet sister of mine, do not regret if I die.” (The Dave Matthews Band).

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With aching limbs but also with a deep seated sense of satisfaction for successfully achieving yesterday’s acclimatisation goal, I set off with the rest of the group from the lodge in Pheriche just after 8am with Lobije the day’s destination. At the walk’s outset, the terrain was fairly straight forward enough; very flat which was pleasing after the previous day’s exertions. However, it didn’t take long to discover that the initial observations were quite deceptive. Although the first hour or so of the trek was on the flat it was pretty dicey underfoot due to the icy conditions and the boulder and loose stone:

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We stopped for an early lunch after we began the ascent. The weather, once again as you can see from the photos was continuing to be very kind to us and complimented the scenery beautifully:

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Lunchtime….

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The height at this point of the trek is 15157ft. We are getting higher….

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It was after we continued the ascent that we eventually came into contact for the first time with the famous Khumbu Glacier which is situated at the foot of Mt. Everest. Here is a photo of our guide Mimba and I with the glacier in the background:

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Don’t let the bright sun fool you. It was pretty damn cold too! There’s cold and there’s damn cold…!

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The mountains are a wonderful place, wherever they are found and it is no surprise that artists and poets are beguiled and inspired by them. No wonder, for example, that William Wordsworth, one of England’s greatest ‘Romantic’ poets went to live in the mountains of England’s Lake District; returning home to the area where he was born and and raised as a child.

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William Wordsworth (1770-1850). Married Mary Hutchinson on October 4th 1802 in the the parish church in Brompton-by Sawdon, eight miles away from Scarborough:

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However, the mountains themselves are incredibly deceptive. Whilst undoubtedly they are beautiful upon the eye and glorious to walk amongst and have captured the hearts, minds and imaginations of all sorts of artists throughout the ages, it has to be noted that they are also extremely dangerous places and on this part of the trek, I encountered the stark reminder that mountains are indeed wild and inhospitable places on occasions.

Moving on from the beginnings of the Khumbu glacier we ascended a steep incline that took what appeared to be an age to get up and at the top we came upon a number of memorial cairns, put up in honour of mountaineers and Sherpas who had paid the ultimate price in this part of the world over the past fifty years or so. This was a special place, some may even say a ‘sacred’ place, if you will. Cairns were littered throughout this area with name plaques and descriptions of the time when the deceased came to their end. Some told tragic stories, other stories of heroism and one couldn’t feel anything but deep humility amongst those who had died, some whose bodies still remain somewhere on the mountains of the region.

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The entrance to the mountaineer and Sherpa memorial.

I found this place to be particularly special. It is an admonition to us all of the perils that are always present in the mountains. It is also a reminder of the dangers of commercialism that has come into the mountaineering community over the past thirty or forty years. No longer is mountaineering a past time for the ‘rich elite’ as it would have been from Mallory’s time in the 1920s. People like me who has hardly two pennies to rub together can come to these parts. No longer is mountaineering the past time of the technically gifted, the supremely fit and the vastly experienced climbers who, in the UK, would have started in the Lake District and the hills of the Cairngorms in Scotland before moving on to the Alps in Europe before heading off to the wilds of the Himalaya. Nowadays, anyone can climb a mountain in these parts, just as long as they can afford it…

The perils of commercialism in the mountains of the Himalaya was never more apparent than in 1996 when 8 people perished on Mt. Everest on May 10-11 of that year. The events that took place on the mountain during a 48 hour period is still of much contention but what isn’t disputable is the fact the vast majority of people on the hill during that time had no 8000m climbing experience. The pressure on the two independent mountain leaders; Rob Hall and Scott Fischer, to get their ‘clients’ onto the summit, was immense. All had paid tens of thousands of dollars to climb the mountain and were hell bent on achieving it, despite what the more experienced leaders were saying. Against their better judgement, both leaders continued to ascend the hill with their clients in deteriorating weather conditions. Precious time was used to fix ropes approaching the famous ‘Hillary Step’ which is the last obstacle before the summit itself, ropes that should have been fixed previously. Over thirty people were then waiting to use them before moving on to the summit itself, thus creating a bottle neck. It was a miracle that only eight people perished that night….

So as I stood in the memorial ground looking at the cairns, in beautiful weather, all these thoughts were going through my head. Reading all the plaques with names of people I had never heard of, never mind never met, were all testaments to people’s individual bravery, tenacity and I’m sure on some occasions, stupidity as well. I looked for Rob Hall’s memorial cairn and, despite asking people if they knew where it was , I could not find it. However, the memorial cairn to Scott Fischer was there for all to see…

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As I walked away from the memorial cairns, I felt a great sadness come upon me. These were cairns laid in memory of people’s sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, husbands and wives. It was difficult for me for a period of time to simply cut myself free from the emotions of the place. So, as I continued to walk with the rest of the group towards our final destination of Lobije (4930m / 16174ft) which we arrived at just over an hours walk from the memorial, I did what I sometimes do to find some solace. I put my iPod on. Within ten minutes, ‘Bartender’ by DMB came on with the opening line being very apt…..

“Climb every mountain, ford every stream, follow every rainbow, ’till you find your dream.” (Rogers and Hammerstein).

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Leaving Pengboche after breakfast we left to trek to our next destination which was Pheriche situated at 4240m (13910ft). Everest disappeared behind the Lhotse/Nupste ridge but the scenery, as always, was quite breathtaking. Speaking of which, it was becoming self evident that the scenery wasn’t the only thing that was ‘breathtaking’. The higher we got, the more difficult breathing became; particularly after some intense hill work. It was also becoming apparent to me that this trek was fundamentally different in comparison to my summer trek in Spain on the Camino de Santiago. That was 500 miles of varying terrain; from the mountains of the Pyrenees to the flat plains of the Spanish Meseta. This trek, on the other hand, is only 24 or 39 miles from Lukla to Everest Base camp (depending on which website you believe is a true measurement of the distance from the two places). So the issue isn’t distance at all but rather altitude. My friend John from the States said that the Camino is “Hard on the feet but soft on the heart” and what he says is very true. However, this trek is different and to paraphrase John slightly the relatively short distance from Lukla to EBC is “Soft on the feet but hard on the heart (and lungs!).

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The lodge at Pengboche.

Again the weather was perfect for trekking as we walked through even more spectacular scenery that it is almost becoming a cliche now. We made good progress and arrived at our destination just within the four hour timescale we had given ourselves. It was at Pheriche where we were to stay for the next two nights with the next day given over to a acclimatisation walk that would see us climb above 5000m for the first time.

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The village of Pheriche with our wonderful guide Mingma in the foreground.

Our lodge at Pheriche, I learned, has had some rather distinguished guests in the past, none more so than the 39th President of the United States of America Jimmy Carter and his wife who stayed at the lodge on their way to EBC in 1986:

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President Jimmy Carter (1977-1981).

On a more somber note, the lodge also accommodated the two famous mountain leaders Rob Hall and Scott Fischer in the ill-fated expedition to Mount Everest in 1996. More about them in the next update.

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New Zealander Rob Hall MBE (1961-1996).

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Scott Fischer (1955-1996).

After a good night’s sleep I awoke refreshed and ready for the challenge that lay ahead. After breakfast we set off, once again, in brilliant blue skies and bright sun to tackle the obstacle that was before us: Nagerchang Ri. I must say it was a difficult trek and I must admit I struggled with it at times but the scenery was…well…you know…and, along with the fabulous music of DMB on my iPod, my mind was taken off the pain that I was experiencing…

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As ever, our guide Bee Bee was walking ahead of us at a pace that was both measured and languid. However, I did find it particularly tough and Bee Bee stopped suddenly and asked if I wanted him to carry my pack. My initial response was to decline his offer but as we continued to ascend the hill I then began to realise that perhaps Bee Bee, with all his experience and knowledge of leading treks in these parts, recognised something in me that I didn’t see myself and that I perhaps did need a little assistance. When I realised this I then asked Bee Bee if he would take my pack which he did and even though there was actually very little inside the rucksack itself, I immediately felt the difference. After a bit of a scramble to the top I finally got there and felt relieved and not a little happy to have got there successfully…

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At the top (5110m/16765ft). You can’t see it but immediately to my left was a sheer drop of a good few hundred feet if not more….

The way back down was a little tricky but we arrived safely back at the lodge after a six hour or so round ascent/descent where a hearty meal awaited us. Needless to say an early night was again in the offing…

“Everest is like an obese man in a room full of beautiful women.” (Ed Douglas).

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Ed Douglas is one of Britain’s leading writers and journalists on the ‘Great Outdoors’. He specialises in all outdoor pursuits and has a very strong bond with the Himalaya. So, it came as no surprise when I discovered the above quote from a ‘Lonely Planet’ guide to Nepal that I glanced at last night. At first, the quote made me laugh but the more I thought about it and then reflected upon my experiences thus far on my trek, I then began to realise the truth of the quote. Yes, Mount Everest dwarfs all the surrounding mountains in the Khumbu region but those said mountains are far more glamourous, far more stunning in their natural beauty. Everest stands proud in the knowledge that it is the biggest but the others, although less in stature, nonetheless display their beauty by flirting and then enticing you into their loveliness. And one in particular beguiles me big time! Ama Dablam:

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I fell in love with this hill as soon as I saw it! Ama Dablam means ‘Mother’s necklace’ and stands at 6856m (22,493ft). It is simply a magnificent sight to see on a crystal clear morning with the skies once again azure blue as we left Tengboche for a relatively short two hour hike to our next destination: Pangboche which is situated at 3900m (12795ft). Once again we left in stunning conditions but what needs to be mentioned here is the fact that the porridge we had for breakfast was simply amazing! Before leaving Tengboche we decided to visit the Buddhist monastery which is often visited by visiting mountaineer groups who seek a blessing from the Buddhist lama before they venture into the Khumbu:

The Tengbouche Monastery.

The Tengbouche Monastery.

The relatively short walk of just over two hours took us past the majestic Ama Dablam where I couldn’t resist having a photo taken. Apologies for me getting in the way of something so beautiful…

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After arriving at our destination we went for a short walk to the local school that recently celebrated it’s 50th anniversary since it’s opening. Sir Edmund Hillary was very much at the forefront of the school at its’ inception and in the school office was a poster of the great man. Unfortunately I left my IPad back at the lodge so couldn’t take any photographs of the children as they waited for school to start after lunch. A Canadian trekker was working in the school for the day and I managed to have a brief word with him. The children were delightful and spoke reasonably good English in response to the questions I asked them. It was amazing to be in a school so high up in the Himalaya which consisted of no computers, interactive whiteboards or any other ‘hi-tech’ facilities. The teachers went into work each day with boundless energy and enthusiasm; even after having to walk up the mountain to get to work in the first place! The school was a really inspiring place and is somewhere that I won’t forget in a hurry.

The walk back down to the lodge was quite leisurely in the afternoon sun. The lodge itself was fairly basic but the food was wholesome even if a little predictable. This became a feature of the trek as it progressed; food that was nutritious but somewhat bland. After the evening meal I trooped off to bed for an early night wondering what tomorrow had in store….

“Now she walks these hills, in a long dark veil. She visits my grave when the night winds wail. Nobody knows, nobody sees, nobody knows, but me.”

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As many if you will know I have quite an eclectic taste in music. At heart, I’m a bit of a ‘rocker’ but as I’ve got older I have learned to appreciate a lot of different musical genres. Johnny Cash is someone I have been very much aware of for many years but only over the last decade or so have I really began to appreciate his musical talent and his extraordinary song writing ability. The line I quote above was written by someone else but it sounded appropriate as I walked through the hills of the Himalaya on my way from Namche Bazaar (3446m / 11306ft) on my way to Tengboche (3875m / 12713ft). I was actually listening to DMB’s live version of the song on the trek and although it is excellent, Cash’s version is probably the definitive one.

Johnny Cash was quite a tormented soul for many years of his life. Brought up in a devoutly religious home, he lost a brother in an accident that was to torment him for years. He got himself into trouble on more than one occasion and spent time behind bars as a consequence. It was his time in prison that gave him a special kinship with felons throughout the United States and he often appeared in concert to perform to those behind bars. His two seminal albums ‘Johnny Cash from Folsom Prison’ and ‘Live at St. Quentin’ quickly gained legendary status and included a song that I think contains one of the most dark and chilling lyric of any contemporary song of the twentieth century. From the song ‘Folsom Prison Blues’ comes the immortal line:

When I was just a baby,
My Momma told me,
“Son, always be a good boy.
Don’t ever play with guns.”
But I shot a man in Reno,
Just to watch him die…..

It always sends a shiver down my spine when I hear that line. Imagine..someone picking up a gun and shooting someone, anyone, “just to watch them die”….

The group left Namche Bazaar just before 8am in glorious sunshine, once again. In fact, the weather is becoming a major feature of the whole trip. There has hardly been a cloud in the sky since we left Kathmandu and the temperature does rise quickly when walking in the sun. I have started to put sun cream on my face to protect it from the sun after looking like a polar bear the previous day. My face caught the sun quite a lot but my wrap round sunglasses stopped the rays from catching my face above and below my eyes. Unfortunately, I only have Factor 10 so I have to put it on pretty regularly .

The walk to Tengbouche took just under seven hours to complete after continuing a slow and steady pace throughout. We crossed one long bridge over the Dudh Kosi river and stopped for lunch at Phunkitenga. Along the way up to this point we walked through some stunning scenery which was a very pleasant respite from all the physical exertion. However, I am unable to upload any photos to show you at the moment as I’m having difficulty uploading my photos onto the WordPress platform for some reason.

The lodge where we stayed in Tengbouche is located in a beautiful meadow which also inhabits a Buddhist monastery. It was here that Sherpa Tenzing Norgay was trained to be a Buddhist monk before he heard another call from the hills and mountains that surround this beautiful place.

The food here was very good; garlic and potato soup for lunch and vegetable pasta with Nak cheese for tea. It was scrumptious! We shared the lodge with some Japanese Trekkers who brought with them their own cooks, cutlery and guides. They didn’t seem to leave anything to chance! After a long trek of just under seven hours I was pretty exhausted at the end of the day and although still feeling pretty good and not feeling any issues as yet with regard to altitude I went to bed feeling good after a decent days trek.

“Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pale of water. Jack fell down and broke his crown because he was messing with the preacher’s daughter.” (The Dave Matthews Band).

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Up until sixty years ago, Namche Bazaar was a very non-descript village deep in the heart of the Khumbu valley here in Nepal. However, after Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay’s successful ascent of Mount Everest in 1953, the dynamics of the village changed for ever.

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The rest of the 1950s saw mountaineers from all over the world coming to Namche Bazaar following in the footsteps of these two giants of the mountaineering world. However, it was in the 1960s and 1970s that saw Namche Bazaar come into its’ own as it served to meet the needs of thousands of intrepid explorers who came into the village on their way to the Everest region. Due its’ location, the village can’t really grow any more due to geographical restraints but it’s 60 dwellings provide food, shelter and all the gear that Trekkers and Mountaineers need in this particular area. Apparently, Namche Bazaar is the most prosperous region in the whole of Nepal with seven times the national income and twice that of the country’s capital Kathamandu.

So it was in Namche Bazaar where I stayed last night for acclimatisation purposes before we push on to our next destination; Tengboche which is situated at 3875m (12713ft). We will be setting off for there tomorrow morning but today we did a three hour walk in order to prepare us for the trek tomorrow.

Everyone in the group last night was in bed just before 9pm but I stayed up to watch the Sunderland versus Man.City game. I say “watch” but in reality I ended up ‘watching’ the BBC website update of the game’s progress. It was quite frustrating having to refresh the page every minute to keep myself abreast of the score but, thankfully, we won the game 1.0. Whilst I was ‘watching’ the game I ended up having a brief chat with one of the local Sherpas who was staying in the lodge as a guide for another trekking party. Dawa Gyalse Sherpa has climbed Everest eight times and it was wonderful to be in the midst of greatness!

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Sherpa Dawa Gyalse. A mountaineering ‘living legend’ if ever there was one…

Nepalese people tend to go to bed quite early and I was conscious of keeping a couple of the people who worked in the lodge out of their beds as I was following the football. However, they were incredibly good natured and very gracious about the whole thing as I was constantly telling them “only three minutes to go…only two minutes to go…”. At the end of the game they were happy enough for me to take their photos so let me introduce to you…

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Kapana Rel (Hotel Chef).

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Nima Yangni Sherpa (Big Boss).

Dawa wrote down both the names of the ladies and it made me laugh when he called Nima “Big Boss”! However, whilst she is very hospitable she does seem to rule the hotel with a bit of an iron fist! She certainly appears to have a bit of a ‘tongue’ on her!

I was awakened a few times in the middle of the night by the mice or rats rummaging in between the floor and the ceiling above where I was sleeping. I thought they were mice but my roommate Gary said if they were mice they “must have been wearing heavy boots”! Breakfast was consumed and at just before 9am, we set off on a three hour or so round trek to a Mount Everest viewing point up above Namche Bazaar.

The weather, once again, was simply glorious. Although there are no ‘Jack and Jill’s” in our group we nonetheless put all of our best feet forward and began the slow trek up the hill high above the village. Our wonderful guides set a steady pace as we all knew that the purpose of the walk was to help us to acclimatise to the altitude. So, with that in mind, Bee Bee at the front would stop periodically to help us not only to have a breather but also to re-group if necessary. These little ‘breaks’ gave us all the opportunity to drink in the glorious scenery that surrounded us…

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We made good, steady progress as we slowly but surely made the ascent up the hill. As I was walking up the incline I was reminded, once again, of the song “Go Wisely and Slow” sung by those three angelic sisters ‘The Staves’. Never a truer word was spoken under the circumstances. As we continued up the hill we were given more opportunities to take photos and also to help us appreciate the distance we were covering:

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Seems almost like a vertical drop to Namche Bazaar below us…

Again as we progressed the scenery continued to be stunning which certainly helped me take my mind off the incline I was walking up:

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Kwangde Peak.

Moving higher up the hill we came across some genuine Yak. Apparently the animals that I posted a photo of on an update a couple of days ago weren’t Yak but Nepalese mountain cows. However, I’m assured that the animals in the picture are the ‘real deal’…

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Further along the trail we came into contact with another spectacular mountain; this time Thamsarku…

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The weather continued to be kind to us as I’m sure you can tell from the photos. It was turning out to be a very special day for all of us but also for one of the party in particular. After we caught another glimpse of Mount Everest, my roommate Gary informed us that today is his birthday so I took a photo of him that he was pleased for me to upload on this update. Mount Everest is directly above Gary’s head…

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By 11am we arrived at our destination; the Everest viewing point at 3880m (12730ft). As you can see that this is slightly less than tomorrow’s walk but today’s trek has been wonderful preparation for tomorrow’s walk to Tengbouche.

We stayed for about an hour or so at the viewing point and I decided to take a cheeky photo of me with Everest behind me. Apologies for the picture quality and for me spoiling a wonderful view…

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Possibly in need of a shave but what the heck…oh..by the way..Mount Everest is to the left of me as you look at the photo…

We stayed at the lodge for some refreshments. I had a cup of lemon tea and a cheese omelette before I took the opportunity of taking a photo of our two wonderful guides Mingma and Bee Bee..

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Bee Bee (left) who heads up the group on the trek and Mingma (right) who takes up the tail. Directly in the middle between them both is ‘you know what’….

So just after midday we began our decent back to Namche Bazaar. I decided to put my iPod on and listen to some tunes on the way back down and the DMB song ‘Belly Belly Nice’ came on with the above reference to Jack and Jill, which put a smile on my face. After a delicious lunch of vegetable soup and a sandwich most people in the group went to do their own thing with the rest of the day whilst I spent some time reflecting on events that have taken place during the course of today. The going is good; the weather is perfect and I’m feeling great with the altitude and everything associated with it. However, I’m conscious that it is still early days. We have another six days until we finally arrive at base camp which is at an altitude of 5160m (16929ft). So we still have a fair climb to do and in the process of doing it the itinerary uses adjectives such as “steep” and “tough” to describe the trail that awaits us.

“Touching the Void”? I think we are still only scratching the surface….

Before I finish this update I have just had a brief chat with Mingma our guide and he informs me that I won’t come into any wifi connection until we reach Pheriche which is in three days time. When we get there we have another acclimatisation day with another short walk on Friday. So expect my next update on Thursday this week.

So dear Reader…

Until Thursday…

“I’m on your side, when times get rough. And friends just can’t be found, like a bridge over troubled water, I will lay me down…(Simon and Garfunkal).

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Today’s trek was due to last about four hours and, once again, the timescale given at the commencement of the walk was, more or less, spot on. I awoke after a wonderful night’s sleep and felt fit for the trek ahead and, once again, the weather was ideal for walking.

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The village of Monja (2835m).

Within ten minutes on the trail we came to the entrance of the Sagarmatha National Park which contains some of the most incredible scenery in the world:

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Once again the terrain underfoot was good and progress was made at a steady and even pace. One of the main features of this stretch of the trek to Everest Base Camp was not only the glorious weather that we were privileged to walk in but the number of suspension bridges we had to cross as we made our way to Namche Bazaar.

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A bridge over the Bhote Kosi River.

The trail took us along relatively flat ground along the banks of the river. As we ventured further north we began to ascend where I looked back from whence we came and saw the above bridge from a different angle:

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As we moved further we stopped occasionally for a bit of a breather as the ascent began to have an impact upon the lungs. I still managed to raise a smile mainly due to feeling so fortunate to be in such an amazing place:

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As we continued to follow the bank of the Bhote Kosi river we came across a couple of other bridges crossing the expanse of the water. It was at this point where the Bhote Kosi and Dudh Kosi rivers merged. The sight that beheld us was quite an awesome one as the bridges over the two merging rivers came into view.

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Guess which of the two bridges we had to cross? Yes…you are right. The one at the top!

At this point most of us shed a layer of clothes as the sun was quite high and was radiating some quite intense heat. We also had a bit of a climb to get to the bridge. It was here that I decided to do what I always did on the Camino when the going got pretty tough. I put my iPod on. It didn’t take me long to decide what album out of the 500 I have to choose from on my device to help me with this particular challenge..good old Georgie!

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To the strains of ‘Long Gone’ I began the ascent up to the bridge with a smile instantaneously on my face with memories of the Camino coming flooding back to my mind. The music of George Thorogood and the Destroyers got me up many a hill and I have a sneaky feeling I will be tuning in to the music of Georgie in the days ahead as the altitude REALLY begins to kick in. With his music booming in my ears it wasn’t long until we came to the bridge itself:

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I can’t remember what song I was listening to as I crossed but it certainly did the trick and, actually, I enjoyed the whole experience. Just as long as I didn’t look down….

When I got across to the other side I decided to ask Mingma the Guide to take a photo of me on the bridge itself:

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After a breather we continued on the trail where we eventual came to the point I had been waiting years to see….

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There she is….I’ve seen her in photos, documentaries and films. I’ve read countless books about her but now I see her with my own eyes…Mount Everest. It was quite a moving moment….

After another steep ascent we eventually arrived at Namche Bazaar. As we came into its’ outskirts I came across this rather sober sign:

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Just some judicious words of advice for any of you out there who might be passing this way any time soon…

Following on from here we had our first glimpse of Namche Bazaar which was a very welcome sight…

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Namche Bazaar with the local ‘stupa’ in the foreground.

It was so good to finally arrive here. However, their was a slight ‘sting in the tail’ as our accommodation was right at the top of the village which meant MORE steps to go up….

We eventually arrived at our digs for the next couple of days. The Khumbu Resort is at the top of the village with wonderful views of the mountains:

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The view from the bedroom window. Not bad eh?

So tomorrow is a ‘rest’ day but we will have a two hour walk up and down to help with the acclimatisation process. I will have a wander around in the morning to get a ‘feel’ for the place before we go for our trek. I will, of course, write an account of tomorrow’s proceedings but at the moment I’m enjoying some really nice pizza and chips (home made and very scrummy). Later on I’m hoping to see if I can get a ‘live stream’ of the Sunderland Man City game that kicks of here just after 8pm. That’s something to look forward to…

So dear Reader…

Until tomorrow….

“See the steeple pine, the hills as old as time. Soon to be put to the test, to be whipped by the winds of the west. She’ll carry on through it all, she’s a waterfall. She’ll carry on through it all, she’s a waterfall.” (The Stones Roses).

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The Stone Roses.

Hello and welcome once again, dear Reader, to a rather belated update due to lack of wifi connection at the place where I stayed yesterday on this rather epic trek to Everest Base Camp. What I propose to do is to reflect firstly upon events that took place yesterday and then write another, separate update, about the wonderful experiences I have had on today’s hike through the mountains of the Himalya. So, here goes…

The group left Phakding just after 8am. The weather was good as we left the small village situated at 2652m (8701ft) and headed for Monjo which was our destination of the day. Again the walk was relatively short due to the necessity for us to acclimatise and we duly arrived at Monjo within three hours.

One of the main features of the walk that was noticeable to me was the number of waterfalls that came into view. As one would expect the scenery was quite stunning but the noise coming from the water as it cascaded down the mountains was amazing:

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Moving at a relatively slow pace, deliberately set by our wonderful guides Bee Bee and Mingma, we made steady progress through the beautiful pine forests that reminded me of the eucalyptus forests I walked through on the Camino last summer, without of course, the minty smell. The terrain was good underfoot and the glorious sunshine made the whole trekking experience one to remember. The scenery though can simply speak for itself…

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The peak called Kasum Kanguru rising to 6369m (20896ft).

We crossed the River Dudh Kosi over a suspension bridge that was rather fun to cross. Mind you, I’m not sure if I would find it quite as enjoyable if it was being blown by a gale…

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We walked for another twenty minutes or before I came across another waterfall which reminded me of time when I read an edition of Q Magazine a few years ago that had a main feature on the ‘100 Greatest Albums of All Time’. I thought I would start at the beginning and try and guess which album would have been voted Number One. ‘Sergeant Pepper’ perhaps? Or ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ which would be my favourite. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that the album voted ‘Number One of All Time’ was the first album by ‘The Stone Roses’. I had never even heard it! A year or so later I did actually buy it and I have to confess it is extraordinarily good. But number one? Nah….I don’t think so…Anyway, one of the tracks on the album is called ‘Waterfall’ which I hummed to myself as I walked past the another stream of waters flowing down the mountainside…

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After a brief refreshment stop we continued for a half hour before we reached Monjo which is at 2835m (9301ft). It was to my disappointment that the lodgings didn’t have any wifi connection so I had to put aside my writing till another time. After a few cups of tea and an hour or so’s rest we departed for a brief trek above the village in order to prepare us the ascent the following day. The two hour or so trek took us up about another 500 metres before the descent back to the village. Again, the scenery was stunning but I didn’t take my IPad with me to take photos. I’m sure there will be more wonderful scenery to see…..

We had a delicious meal of macaroni cheese with grated yak cheese on top washed down with the obligatory cups of tea. At the rate I’m going I can see myself drinking tea without milk permanently from now on. Everyone in the group spent the evening relaxing; some played cards whilst others, like me spent some time reading. I decided at 7.45pm that an early night was in order so I bade my goodnight and retired to my room where my duck down sleeping bag awaited me…..

So tomorrow we will be going to Namche Bazaar which is at 3446m (11306ft). We are steadily making progress under the wonderful guidance of Mingma and Bee Bee. Namche is the place where the majority of Sherpas come from who accompany and support many mountaineers and others like myself who enter the Himalaya to trek and climb. The itinerary that I am following says that tomorrow is a “little tougher and includes the steep ascent to Namche Bazaar.” That sounds interesting! But the thing that sent tingles down my spine when I read it was that we are due to have our first glimpse of the Mount Everest. I can’t wait….

So, dear Reader…

Until tomorrow…

“I get excited don’t you understand? I get excited ’cause it’s part of the plan.” (The Doobie Brothers).

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I guess during the time of my life I’ve been called lots of things; some good and some not so good. However, the last thing that anyone can call me is an ‘Adrenaline Junkie’. I guess in many ways I’ve tended to play ‘safe’ and not taken too many risks apart from the recent ‘madcap’ scheme to finish work, move away from all that I know and travel and explore the world….at 51 years old! Even when I was a child and moving into adulthood, I didn’t like big dippers at fair grounds etc. I liked to keep my feet on solid ground! Therefore, the thought of flying from KMU airport to Lukla this morning did not exactly fill me a sense of unbridled joy. Rather, there was slight sense of foreboding not only felt by me may I add, as we went to the airport. The reason for this sense of uncertainty was the fact that we were about to fly to what ‘The History Channel’ called In 2010 “The World’s Most Dangerous Airport’!

We had an early start getting up at 5am before setting off for the airport about fifty minutes later. After checking in and then the obligatory wait for what seemed like hours, we were taken to the runway where we got on board the twin propeller plane..

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There were fifteen passengers and crew aboard the flight that took about fifty minutes to get to our destination. There was a profound hush as we waited patiently for takeoff. During this time we had a few moments to take pictures whilst we were aboard the aircraft before departure……

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Don’t let the smile fool you. I was, shall we say, “slightly nervous” when this photo was taken…

After taxiing for a few minutes, the plane eventually accelerated along the runway leading to a surprisingly smooth take off. The aircraft ascended steadily, leaving the city of Kathmandu behind as well as the the mountains that surround it. And it was at this point that I saw a sight that literally took my breath away….the mountains ABOVE the mountains…

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It was totally unexpected. I was stunned for a few moments as the reality was beginning to sink in that I was going to the Himalaya because, for the first, I had seen it with my own eyes! The rest of the flight then turned into an incredibly exciting experience. The views particularly to the north were staggering and all the anxiety and fear somehow left me. Maybe SOMEONE was looking after me after all! After about forty minutes into the flight it was self evident that the aircraft was now in descent so I looked ahead into the aircraft’s cockpit and I could clearly see the thin strip of land ahead that was to be where the plane was to land. If I thought about it too much I would have panicked possibly but the only emotion I was feeling was nothing but pure unadulterated excitement. The aircraft landed very soon after to a spontaneous round of applause for the pilot by all and sundry!

After disembarking the plane I looked to my left and saw this wonderful sight…

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After collecting our bags were then off on my trek of a lifetime and we were led into the Himalaya gently. A three hour walk to the village of Phakding was what face us and before we began in earnest we walked past the back of the airstrip to take this photo:

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Yes..you are right. It IS a sheer drop at the end if the runway…

The airport at Lukla is officially called the ‘Tenzing-Hillary’ Airport named after the men who first climbed Mount Everest in 1953 (or did they? I will return to this question in a future update). Sir Edmund Hillary built it in the 1960s to enable easier access to the mountains from Kathmandu. So it was from Lukla where we walked on a relatively easy path, going down more descents than up ascents although, somehow, we did arrive at Phakding which is approximately four hundred metres above Lukla.

Although the route on my first day was pretty straight forward (unlike the first day of the Camino which was an absolute beast!) there was quite a lot of ‘traffic’ about. There were a number of trekking groups on the trail but also a few of these…

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Yakety yak..(don’t talk back)…

We stopped for a drink of tea in this restaurant in Lukla which is going to be a daily staple in the hills as it keeps one hydrated along with the water that is drunk…

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As we began the trek we were wondering if the Irish had put a bar up in these parts seeing that they have bars more or less everywhere else when we discovered that someone got here before they did….

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Mum would have been pleased….

As we departed, the group was led by two guides; one positioned at the front and a ‘Tailgate Charlie’ at the back, ensuring that no one would get left behind and that no one could race ahead. We stopped every now and again, principally I believe to lift our eyes up from the terrain we were walking on to look up and appreciate the views. And what amazing views they were…

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Further along the trail we came across more symbols of a country that is deeply Buddhist…

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The weather was simply glorious. Most of the group were in teeshirts but I kept good old ‘Rab’ on. I also hired a walking stick which was very useful but wasn’t a patch on my tried and trusted ‘Erik’. It was quite warm but still comfortable to walk in. Further along the trail I had another ‘adrenaline’ moment when we came across the first of a number of ‘bridges’. Ordinarily I would be quite nervous walking across one of these but I loved it! Just as long as I didn’t look down….

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And the vistas got more and more wonderful….

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So we arrived at Phakding at just before 2pm local time; three hours and five minutes precisely after leaving Lukla. We are currently billeted in a bunkhouse come hostel where we were greeted with piping hot tea and a wonderful meal of vegetables. My first thought after eating was then to get wifi to get this blog updated and, although the wifi isn’t ‘free’, the connection has been good enough to get this update done. It is noticeably colder now as the sun has set behind the mountain situated behind where I am writing this.

I have seen some amazing things today and experienced a level of excitement with the flight and the bridge crossing that I never thought possible. The vistas are incredible and I know that there are more to come on a daily basis whilst I’m here. However, I have not seen yet nor do I think I will see anything more beautiful and wonderful than this…

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Eowyn Autumn Faith McDonald ….”Oh you beautiful doll you great big beautiful doll…”

So dear Reader. Until tomorrow….(fingers crossed wifi permitting).

“The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, nor to worry about the future, but to live the present moment wisely and earnestly.” (Gautama Buddha).

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So the big day is beckoning. Tomorrow I go to Kathmandu Airport and take the short, but potentially hazardous forty five minute flight to the small town of Lukla, north of Kathmandu and it is there where the trek to Everest Base Camp (EBC) will begin in earnest. I will be travelling with a group of eight other Trekkers all from all over the UK accompanied by our guide Mingma and other helpers. The reason why I didn’t update yesterday was due to the fact the others arrived at the hotel when I was due to write my blog so I felt it prudent to get to know them a little.

Yesterday was actually quite a frustrating day for one reason or another. I went into the centre of KMU to purchase a new phone due to losing my other one last weekend in BKK. I eventually got a new one but spent quite a large proportion of the afternoon seeking a particular type of SIM card that I had discovered worked very well in mountainous regions. Evidently it is used by all the Sherpas and trekking guides. Anyway, after going from one place to another via taxi, my search was fruitless primarily due to the fact the SIM card can only be used in a particular type of phone, one which I didn’t have. So I bought a couple of ‘normal’ SIM cards, one for my new phone and the other for my IPad and they will be fine to a certain extent, but may lack coverage in the more remote regions of the trek.

The day actually started off very well. I went downstairs for breakfast as usual around about 9.30am and I met a gentleman called Don from the United States, from Washington State on the west coast to be exact. We spent a good proportion of our time together just chatting about travel in general. Don wasn’t due to trek to EBC but rather to another remote region in the north east of Nepal where he was going to look for snow cheetahs which are in danger of becoming extinct.

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He told me about some of the trips he had taken since he retired from work 18 years ago. As well going to EBC he also went to Mongolia, travelled across Australia by train but what really impressed me was the story he told me when he spent time following in the footsteps of the great Irish explorer Earnest Shackleton who, in 1914, set off to cross the Antarctic via the South Pole on board the ship ‘Endurance’. Unfortunately for Shackleton and his crew, the ‘Endurance’ became trapped in ice and eventually broke up and sunk. The men, thousands of miles from home, eventually got to Elephant Island where Shackleton left with five of the crew to find help for the others. The six men then crossed 1300 km of ocean in a small boat in 16 days, eventually arriving at the island of South Georgia which they trekked before coming across a whaling station. They then returned to Elephant Island where the rest of the crew of the ‘Endurance’ were rescued in August 1916. Not one of the crew died. Listening to Dan recount his adventures in the South Atlantic and other places made me realise that retirement doesn’t have to be a time for playing a couple of rounds of golf a week as some do, but rather it can be time of new beginnings and adventures! If one can afford it I hasten to add though…

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Earnest Shackleton (1874-1922) second from the left.

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The ‘Endurance’ before it sank into the South Atlantic.

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Dan from The States. Just about to go looking for some snow cheetahs…

Last night I met for the first time the others on the trekking group. Most are around about my age surprisingly enough, with only three ‘young’ blokes. First of all we have two chaps called Tom. One is sharing a room with me and he is from Gloucestershire and the other one is from Bristol. The other ‘younger’ person of the group is Gary from Liverpool. The rest comprise of three Scottish ladies, two from Irvine and another from just outside Edinburgh. The remaining group members are a married couple from Cleckeheaton, West Yorkshire which is nice as they are only about half an hour’s drive from my sister Rosie and her husband Chris’ place in Emley.

After chatting for a while we decided to go for a bite to eat in a restaurant just around the corner from the hotel. The food was cheap but not particularly nice but it was a good opportunity to get to know each other seeing that we will be living in ‘each other’s pockets’ for the next couple of weeks or so.

This morning we all had breakfast and then met our tour guide who took us to Swayambhu Monastery by bus. The bus journey was eventful, to say the least. Let’s just say that roads in KMU aren’t what one would find in the ‘western’ world. We arrived at the monastery after a twenty minute drive and then proceeded to climb up the 365 steps towards it.

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This photo was taken about half way up..

The monastery is famous for its natural wildlife that roam throughout it, as well as being one of the most sacred sites in the Buddhist world. It’s also known as the “Monkey Temple” as seen below..

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Who’s a cheeky little monkey then…

The views from the monastery itself were wonderful and, for the first time, I saw the mountain range that surrounds the Kathmandu valley…

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The Monastery is a big tourist attraction but, essentially, it is a place of religious observance so it isn’t surprising therefore to discover religious artefacts and symbols within the place itself…

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Buddhist prayer wheels

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Another cheeky monkey…

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It was nice having a peaceful walk around the monastery in what was, very pleasant warm sunshine. The tour only lasted a couple of hours but it was enough for me. We returned back to the hotel and experienced yet another rather ‘hair raising’ minibus ride and upon arrival, the others decided to go and explore the delights of KMU. I, on the other hand, decided to return to my hotel room in order to spend some time trying to figure out how to get my new mobile phone working…

So, tomorrow is the ‘BIG’ day! The day when I brace myself for the flight to Lukla and then the 18 day trek of a lifetime to the ‘Top of the World’. It seemed rather fitting then that I got the news yesterday via email that my beautiful middle daughter Lauren and her wonderful husband Nat both produced a baby girl, Eowyn Autumn Grace McDonald who came into the world a little bit early and weighing in at 4lbs and 3ozs. I’m pleased to say that Mum, Dad and baby are doing well. ‘Top of the World’? I’m on ‘Cloud 9’!

So dear Reader…

Until tomorrow…