Everest Base Camp and back
Trip Start Jun 05, 2006
14Trip End Jul 25, 2006
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Our driver told us we needed to be ready to leave Lhatse by 8:00am so we were. We got on the road and made it about 5 minutes to another road block. We waited there for a while as our driver got the news - we were to wait there until 11:00am. Apparently he made "an arrangement" to get us through the road block at 8:00 when the road closes at 7:30 (this information seemed to be very known as there is a very official long standing sign that is posted at the road block saying the hours of closure 7:30am - 7:30pm) - not sure why he didn't tell us we needed to get on the road before 7 to make sure we beat the road block but that is how our trip is going. We go back to Lhatse and wander around till 10:45 and then wait at the road block - and once again, to our question how long?, he says "almost" and we wait for an hour....WE HAD IT! After much arguing with our driver to take another route he finally agreed (only because his friend, driving another car, was convinced by his passangers). At any rate we take a very rough detour literally just down the road from the road block and we are moving!
Halfway through the day we ran into a sleet storm. It came down very hard and very fast but when you are in a car all day, it doesn't stop you from taking care of your basic needs, as we all needed to go pee very badly. With no bathrooms in sight, we took privacy behind the truck, and to say the least we froze our behinds! When in Tibet, do like the locals do!
We stopped for dinner and paid our entrance fees to the base camp but we still have about 2 hours to go until we get to Rongbuk (the town just below the base camp - another 2 hours to the base camp if you hike/30 minutes on an animal ride). After taking very steep switchback roads with little to gaurd us from falling off, we arrive in Rongbuk and decide to take the animal ride to the top (it's 7:30pm, very rainy and we havn't seen a glimpse of Everest yet).
The drivers for the animal carriage pretended at first not to understand Mandarin but later they were talking just fine with our Mandarin speaking friend. They hiked up the price, we didn't care so much, and they said "let's go". After about 6 kilometers our carriage drivers say "we need to take a break for an hour - we are only 1 kilometer away - and we want more money". I am very upset at this moment, as I am almost soaked and freezing, and I turn to one of the drivers and say "you know some English, NO WAY, and LET'S GO". They get back in and we finish our ride to the base camp, I'm sure understanding completely what I said.
Now it's finding a place to stay. Still raining and no sight of Everest. We settle on a tent with a sign "Hotel California". Our host is 18 and she sings us the song and brings us hot tea to warm us up. We had dinner (fried rice with egg, fried rice with yak meat, fried rice with veggies, and a beer and a pancake to celebrate a fellow backpacker's birthday) and then we bundled up and went to bed.
Day 4: Everest then back to Lhasa June 24, 2006
Headaches grew stronger throughout the night and then in the morning (7:30) the clouds broke and we saw Everest very clearly! Beautiful and crazy to imagine that we were there. We didn't consider going at all until we heard others talking about hiring a driver and how easy it was to get there. Thought it would be much more rustic, vigorous climbing with lots of hiking and climbing gear but not at all! The mountain is amazing and it is very hard to believe that people would want to hike that thing! The pictures definitely don't capture the magnitude of the mountain but I have to say that I imagined it much bigger. We were blessed to have made it to the base camp and I think that's as intimate as we'll get with Everest. We mailed a few postcards from the highest post center in the world. The headaches were definitely worth it!
We stayed up at the base camp until about 10:30am and headed down. 2 hour hike down vs. 30 minutes of a very bumpy ride making the headache worse - we chose to go hard and fast (I thought there was a little man holding a hammer inside my head just pounding nails through my skull). We waited two hours at the bottom in the car, waiting for our two other travel companions who chose to hike down. Then we crammed in the truck again and descended (very steep and scary switchbacks for two hours with sporadic concrete blocks few and far between to prevent anyone from going off the mountain). Our driver was driving like a bat out of hell too - he wanted to leave much earlier in the morning so we think he was a little angry - although we had a few scary slides we didn't fall off the mountain. We pretty much drove until 8pm and found a place to stay for the night and have a nice dinner.
Day 5: Lhasa June 25, 2006
Filled with driving again! We had breakfast and were on the road by 10am. Still lots of roadwork and inhaling of dust but NO roadblocks thankfully. We didn't make any stops really except to free our bladders and then we arrived back in Lhasa around 3pm. Todd and I used the rest of our day to bargain with the locals again and then had a nice dinner with our two travel companions and exchanged backpacker helpful tips and information about future destinations. The dinner goal for everyone (but me) was Yak steak. I had pizza with Yak cheese though - it definitely wasn't Ruffino's or Depot quality but it was good.