“When the horse saw Gabor….”Kathmandu, November 25th, 2011

I have no idea what pictures come to your mind when you hear Nepal, maybe nothing or simply far far away country. My cliché of Nepal is this……………

As I made this video and as I made it in Nepal this “squeezed between the giants” (China and India) country of 30 million lived up to my expectations. However, it takes some effort before your eyes glaze around snow caped mountains, your ears only hear wind or the bells of Yaks passing by in their ever relaxed mood and your mind fades away about the meaning of life, the beauty of this world and the wondering which day and why God created mountains that high.

Arriving in Kathmandu makes you want to go back home the very same moment. As you don’t do that you face reality with all your senses. The air gets you coughing (Kathmandu is one of the most polluted cities in the world), the endless horning of small cars pushing themselves through streets not made for them gets you aggressive and the poverty of nature (single trees fighting to survive), humans (usually ignored by everybody if not driven over) and animals (with so many street dogs and no cats it should be renamed to Dogmandu) gets you sad.

So what do you do? Of course what almost everybody does. Only stay as long as needed to by the cheap fakes of the forgotten gloves and trekking paints, to visit the most famous Budda temple, to  eat in good restaurants of the “Thamel” tourist area and meet the guide of the trekking agency you booked online with to find out what will not go as planed………..

But then it is time for the stuff you will talk about at home. Those who don’t do the Phokara region, a famous trekking area with good Himalaya views, do the Everest region, a even more famous area with even better views. 95 Percent of those doing the second one will use a flight for the start. That has simply 2 reasons, first you save about 7 days of trekking enabling you to do you Nepal adventure in 2 weeks holidays and second, you can say you have landed at the most dangerous airport in the world. Take a minute and look at this……………..the landing at Lukla airport.

“You have one try, that is it!” say the once responsible and take on the 200m runway with the mountain rising up high right behind it.  This 30 minutes flight was truly thrilling and we both agreed that it also changed the perception of Nepal tremendously, from iihhh to wow.

But who is “we”? Why am I here? His name is Gabor, a young (well, my age) German who I met in 1999 in Argentina. Back then I talked about a world trip, he talked about climbing the 7 summits (the highest mountain on each continent) and we both delivered. I am on the road over a year now and he has done 4 of the 7 already, getting excited looking at the biggest challenge the first time in reality……..

Only friends can manage to make happen what was talked about 12 years ago, joining the 2 adventures. Only friends can laugh as much as we did in 3 weeks Nepal and can discuss as intense as we did when walking the treks up. Man, he has opinions…………………smile.

Back to Nepal. Here in the mountains without streets, the goods can not be carried by stinky trucks. Here they are carried by stinky (only if you step in their droppings) yaks and even more impressive by amazing porters. Up to 100kg they put on their back, walk it for days and into altitudes of 5000m and more. Impressive enough to dedicate some pictures to them, the guy smiling being our porter.

As we got closer and closer to the big boys of the Himalaya mountain the views also got more impressive. Again and again I asked Gabor to explain them to me, to tell me the stories of the big expeditions, the great tragedies and the great performances made on top of these giants. One of them is the climbing of Lothse south face which Gabor thought had not been done yet. He asked me to mention, correct this here…………………

Trekking in Nepal works for all tourists the same. Usually 3 to 5 hours of trekking per day gaining around 400m of altitude. Every second or third day you put in a rest day meaning that you do climb that day but go down again, sleeping in lower altitude than what you climbed that day. This reduces the risk of altitude sickness and helps the body to adapt. Altitude sickness is serious especially as more average fit people take on the challenge. They fight by taking preventive medicine (Diamox is the big name here). Gabor and I do not believe it that stuff (except for emergencies) and preferred the slow pace walking combined with good garlic food.

As you go higher the food and drink prices go up while the temperatures go down, the hostel rooms become smaller but other things become bigger………………………….Taking a walk in Tengboche (famous for its monastery) at chilling conditions we found that horse. It really got excited when seeing Gabor and believe me, no joke, it followed Gabor around for a bit………………

Interesting and fun are also the people you meet here. All are in a way special, doing extreme things or have out of the ordinary backgrounds. One of the Lebanese guys, 36 years old, told me without any sign of joking “Oh, I retired 2 years ago, I have the two best running restaurants in Beirut.” Ok, fair enough.

All fun and jokes turned into concentration after about a week. At our second rest day we climbed Nagagun at 5030m, then we met our “summit” guide who has done Everest already 9 times at age 26 and finally we turned right towards our “Island Peak” while most tourist take a left doing the Everest Base Camp tour. Gabor chose this mountain because it was supposed to be doable and includes some technical climbing on ice. Arriving at base camp we started to get really nervous.

It was so cold in that tent that it froze from inside. Three sleeping bags had no chance of keeping me warm. We did not close an eye that night and were happy to finally start our summit approach at 1:30am on Wednesday, November 16th. No sleep or rest, freezing cold and little food with just 2 liters of tea for 15 trekking ours are circumstances you have to cope with. The unexpected difficulty in the climb as well but the combination of all of this was to much. After 4 hours at an altitude of 5700m Gabor felt bad and I felt really terrible. No issues with altitude sickness, just pure weakness and the knowledge of at least 5 more hours up and then another 6 hours down was a killer. We gave up, were really frustrated but with every step down, with every look at the worsening weather we confirmed ourselves it was the right decision. We saw a spectacular night view of the Himalaya and we also took our learning’s.  Both of us believe under different conditions we can do it, also without Diamox.

Fast we walked down what we slowly but full of hope climbed up.  Our respect for the porters increased again as well as for the Marathon runners who’s event happened to be during these days. Crazy men and women.

A day early in Lukla we hoped to get a flight out but our guide said (after intense discussion from his side)  in his wonderful English “not possible, that one!”. So we had time to perceive some more of what’s going on here. The hostel owners calculating their profits after making you eat at their place, the café shop owners advertising with fake Starbucks coffee and of course the in and out of Lukla airport. You need to know that weather sometimes stops flight up to 7 days. It happened just recently and 2500 tourist were stuck in Lukla. So we were happy to get back to civilisation on time.

Four days in Kathmandu is a big NO NO. So after visiting the famous temple Gabor and I went to Daman, famous for its great Himalaya view which we enjoyed as well as the evening tradition of watching a movie. It was a great ending for 3 spectacular weeks. While Gabor goes back to nice German bred I go on travelling in Nepal, eating Daal Bhaat, Samosas and Momos………………….

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  • gabor says:

    Chapeau! what a fantastic report. Excellent usage of words and a perfect style of writing – very well done.

    Only the so called mountain expert with the Finnish hat has to improve his knowledge about difficult climbing routes in the Himalaya.

    Have a nice time and see you …

    • frank4444 says:

      Hi Gabor, let me use this opportunity to thank you again for the idea, the organisation and the great time we had. If it was for me, it was not the last time. FRANK

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