Our trek to Everest's base camp began in the Himalayan “foothills,” where we were already around 10,000 feet high at Deurali. Gombu, Chris, Sean and I headed out with two porters (the guys that carried our large bags) from Gombu's village named Rindsey and MahnBadur. Our guide and Gombu's uncle's name is Ang Dowa, but we just called him Ow (Ow means Uncle). The foothills proved to be the hardest hiking. We would be going straight up and down these foothills usually taking 6 to 10 hours of straight up hiking. A good example of this is one day we went from an elevation of around 5,300 ft up to 11,600 ft and then back down to around 8,800 ft.
The different environments we would pass through on the first part of the journey would vary extremely. In one day we would be going along a river at a lower elevation where it was a hot and humid jungle, then the next moment we would be passing through a high elevation pass where the mountain seemed bare and cold, then we would pass through a beautiful forest into some open planes. It really was a trip how much we would see in one day of hiking. I think it's obvious that when we got to our destination villages, and the lodges we would stay at, we were spent. We would basically sit around catching up on journals and the events of the day, eat diner, hang out for a little longer and then crash.
Our main food that we would eat 1 to 2 times a day was “Dal Bhat.” Dal = Lentil and Bhat = Rice. The meal is basically a lentil soup (the soups would differ on each place we went, and all were delicious), steamed white rice, and then depending on what was growing in that village, usually a good helping of local grown potatoes, vegetables and spices. Lunch or dinner could take up to an hour and a half to make because a lot of the time they would go out back, pick the vegetables from the yard and make everything from scratch. Mix it all up and it is a filling, healthy, tasty meal (tasty = metoe in Nepalese). Something that would always make us laugh was how when we where finished eating the first helping, the host would come out with seconds and basically force you to eat it. We could be saying “no thank you” with our hands over the dish and the host would basically say “che che che” (eat up) and drop the food in the direction of ours plate. It was our responsibility to catch the food and eat it. If we ate something other than Dal Baht, it was usually a fried rice, fried noodles, or fried potatoes, all usually severed with egg and vegetables.
All the trails connecting these villages are walking trails and the last vehicle we saw was the bus. The only traffic we saw in these foothills was the occasional caravan of mules going from village to village. Every village was full of roosters, chickens, pigs, cows and buffalo walking all over the place. It was also unique to us that we saw only a handful of other “Gweedays” (tourists) during this first half of the trek. Most people bypass this part of the trek by taking one of the small planes straight to Lukla, and miss the extraordinary countryside and a more intimate interaction with the locals. We are lucky that we were able to do the trek right. Other than Sean rolling his ankle in literally the first 10 minutes of hiking (he was able to tough through it with the help of some custom bamboo walking sticks) and some weird full-body rash Chris was getting, we had no problems.
The second part of the trek is when we passed by that previously mentioned airport and caught up with more “Gweedays”, got out of the green foothills, started to get into some colder temps and thinner air....