As we now spend 36 hours getting back to Oz, please enjoy some of the finest landscape shots we captured on our adventure. One final shout out to Cure Cancer Australia Foundation and for the last time this trip, GO TEAM!
As we now spend 36 hours getting back to Oz, please enjoy some of the finest landscape shots we captured on our adventure. One final shout out to Cure Cancer Australia Foundation and for the last time this trip, GO TEAM!
After eight gut-wrenching days of walking up, up, up today it was FINALLY time to go down, down, down but not before we left a little piece of our team in Gorakshep. I happened to bring a Cure Cancer jersey along so the whole team signed it (with nicknames) and we pinned it to the ceiling. Now the Inspired Adventures Cure Cancer Team Everest will forever live on just a few kilometers from Base Camp!
As for the descent, in a word, it was magical. After 50 hours above 5,000 meters most of us were hurting. Big headaches, no appetites, and, as Chook said, an impending sense of doom. Such a sustained stay at high altitude in frigid temperatures (it was -18 degrees INSIDE OUR ROOMS last night) is incredibly hard on the body and the prospect of catching our breaths, finding our appetites, and getting over the headaches was, as I said before, magical.
My goodness did we race down, charging along with a newfound sense of purpose and relief (ie oxygen). It was full speed ahead to Pheriche via Labuche for lunch. At one point it actually felt like we were floating. As the oxygen flooded our lungs with power, a sensation of, as K2 put it, superhuman strength rushed over us. It was exhilarating!
We have shed tons of weight, battled gastro, nausea, and headaches, eating nothing but yellow food, and walked directly up into thin air for of a week! It was, without question, the physical, mental, and emotional challenge of a lifetime. Sitting at 4200 meters now, everything isn't completely back to normal but things are look up (as we go down). There is a little hop in everyone's step and for the first night in days are playing cards, chatting, and even getting excited about what is on offer for dinner.
I think the highlight of the day was passing people on their way up. The look of fear, trepidation, and excitement is so fresh and so familiar, being able to give tips and advice feels incredibly empowering since we have now done it! You offer them a nod, wish them luck, and insist they rug up. "After all," you say, " it is -30 degrees at Base Camp." Their jaws drop, their eyes open wide, and a cheeky smile inevitably appears on your face. Such sweet satisfaction!
Three more days downhill then it's back to Kathmandu and onward to Australia. GO TEAM!
At 3:37pm on the 16th of February The Inspired Adventures Cure Cancer Team Everest took their first steps on Everest Base Camp, reaching 5,350 meters. We actually descended into Base Camp, having passed 5,400 meters on our approach. In total, we will spend nearly 50 hours above 5,000 meters - a very serious undertaking. Eight days in with four to go, it is clear that this is truly the physical challenge of a lifetime.
We headed off this morning from Lobuche at just under 5000 meters, reaching Gorakshep after 3.5 gruesome hours through snow and wind. From Gorakshep it was another three hours to Base Camp. We walked across a completely frozen lake before the path ascended, descended, ascended, descended, and ascended again, following a very narrow ridge with sheer drops on both sides. By this point the wind had picked up, blowing constantly at 60kph with 100kph gusts. Little Boo (Emma) nearly blew away more than once (no joke!). The wind was blowing up snow flurries, mini tornadoes, and anything else that wasn't attached to the ground.
By the time we descended down the ridge and over a glacier to the official start of Base Camp the temperature was hovering around -25 degrees with wind chill. The gusts were now fairly solid at 100kph. We. Were. FREEZING. Our amazing Sherpas poured us celebratory mugs of cocoa that were cold before they hit our lips. We snapped some quick photos, downed our cocoa, threw on our packs, and headed right back the way we came. Just like that we had reached our incredible goal and before we could blink we were heading back down the mountain. This whirlwind feeling only added to the overall madness of our already overwhelming physical, mental, and emotional experience.
The walk back to our tea house was perhaps the most difficult two and a half hours some of us had ever experienced. The wind was still blowing, the snow was still falling, and now the sun was quickly setting. Once more it as up, across a ridge, down, up, down, across a frozen river, around a ridge and back to the toasty lodge that we will call home tonight. It sits at a whopping 5,135 meters; not the ideal altitude for sleeping but alas, it's one more tier to this already awesome challenge.
A final note on our day. We began with a vey touching letter from the CEO of Cure Cancer followed by sharing the day's theme: an invitation to declare who it is each of us was trekking for. This brought a few tears as we recollected on family members passed and friends still fighting. K2 was doing it for Granny Lu, J-Rod for his mate Gareth, and Chook for his Mum, who passed away in 2009. I was doing it for Aunty Barbara and Mama Rohr, for whom I was "Rohring" to Base Camp. This added element of meaning is what separates an Inspired Adventure from just a "holiday." It is travel with a purpose at every level and I am so proud to be part of a team that has raised tens of thousands of dollars for cancer research AND achieved a physical feat unlike any other. From here it's down down down we go!
After 7 days of consistent 6-8 hour trekking days, we had our first "rest" day yesterday. What does a rest day entail? To start, a 3-hour walk straight up the side of a mountain to acclimatize from 4400 meters to 4900 meters. That's our "rest." Thankfully, the afternoon was completely free and this group couldn't remember the last time we had this big a chunk of time to read. The books were finished, passed, and read again around a roaring dung fire. Actually, the poop fire wasn't so roaring and required near constant attention as we foreigners were attempting to micromanage the dung process with Sherpas who have literally been doing this for hundreds of years. Alas, our afternoon could be adequately described as lukewarm, though we weren't complaining with actual FREE time on offer.
We awoke today and greeted a temperature of -2 degrees in our rooms. Once again, it was the early-morning shuffle as we packed our bags, geared up, and ate yet another serving of yellow carbohydrates. A word on food. We are over the high-altitude base-camp diet. As I write, Jazz is attempting to stuff down NINE boiled potatoes. Yes, NINE. This is her entire dinner. Our whole menu of eating options consists entirely of cooking the same flour into a seemingly infinite numb of different forms. Pancakes, Tibetan bread, Nepali bread, etc. While we still have five more days of trekking, after reaching base camp tomorrow our menu will open up slightly. My goodness that was a boring paragraph but hey, that's literally the biggest issue on our minds. That and trekking uphill for hours on end.
Once bundled up, we hit the road just as snow flurries began to fall from the ominous clouds above. Our morning walk was a little up, a little down, and a whole lot of undulating. This is the developing world's catch-all term for "whatever the heck lies ahead." Using it means they are never inaccurate in describing our walk. We arrived at lunch just as the snow began to stick, diving inside for a delicious meal of yellow food accompanied by yellow tea (lemon and ginger).
By the time we left lunch there were 5 centimeters of snow on the ground and the intensity was increasing. We dove in head first, knowing full well that this was all part of the challenge! The first hour was directly uphill as we scaled the side of a mountain, rising to 4953 meters before trailing straight ahead. At this stage, the snowfall was in full swing and we were trudging through 15 centimeters. Our trail made its way into the root of a valley. I swiped the snow aside to discover we were actually trekking on the fringes of a frozen river! What a surreal feeling it was to be nearly 5000 meters high with peaks towering even higher above in every direction, trudging through snow on top of a river that had turned to solid ice!
We arrived tired but energized. From here it is only six hours of trekking until we reach Everest Base Camp! It's early to bed tonight and early to rises tomorrow but not after devouring what the Sherpas call a "Mars Roll." What, exactly, is a Mars Roll? Well, it's a king size Mars bar wrapped in pastry and deep fried until it forms a delicious caramel chocolate croissant. Good for you? No. Absolutely delicious? Yes!
The team are feeling strong, determined, and absolutely driven. Some are on their way in memory of or in support of someone who has faced cancer. Others are here to prove naysayers wrong. Regardless, we're going to get to Base Camp as a solid team: The Inspired Adventures Cure Cancer Team Everest. Ain't no stoppin' us now!
Waking up at 3800 meters in -10 degrees is cold. Let me correct myself. It is COLD. We have quickly learned the ins and out of bag packing, dressing, and washing to minimize exposure to the frigid conditions. Once we are up and moving, however, no one can stop us! We are a lean, mean, cancer-curing machine.
It has been just nine days since we all joined forces in Bangkok and continued on to Kathmandu. Understandably, it feels like a great deal more time has passed in (almost) all good ways (except J -Rod and K2, who we are somehow managing to deal with). Five of us have now survived gastro, we have toured temples, eaten lunch outside in a thunderstorm, helicoptered into the Himalayas after spending three days together at the airport ("Yeti airlines. Yeti airlines. Flight 613. 615. 617."), trekked through complete darkness in the rain, eaten an unbelievable amount of yellow food, and huddled around many a dung-powered fire keeping warm four kilometers above sea level. I short, it has already been an Inspired Adventure and we still have more of the trip left than we have completed. Three days left until we reach Base Camp and then it is another five days back to Lukla, where we fly or chopper back to Kathmandu. This is the ULTIMATE Inspired Adventure.
Needless to say, today our theme was "doing it for the team" because there is no way we would have gotten this far without each other (okay, maybe without K2 - just kidding!). For our team, today was particularly significant. We passed the tree line and surged to 4400 meters, arriving in Dingboche just as the snow started to fall. In the morning we rose to brilliant sunshine and the bluest sky you can imagine. As morning turned to midday and midday became late afternoon, the clouds began to roll in. Following our path, they crept slowly towards us in a silent assault until we were completely enveloped. Their arrival signaled the return of our big jackets and a slight uptick in our pace to reach the lodge before they opened up and showered us with snow. It was absolutely breathtaking.
On a lighter note, it has been amazing to see how much little things can bring this team so much joy. Out here, where survival has become our primary objective and the modern world has all but faded away (save for this iPad that allows us to share our epic adventure), the taste of peanut butter, the smell of a yack dung fire, and the site of a porcelain squatter toilet ignite a level of happiness previously unknown. Today at our tea break, we came upon such a squatter. Wu (Wendy) came running (correction: we were at 4000 meters so she was walking briskly) into the lodge screaming "the toilet is so clean! You have to see it!" We then took turns inspecting and utilizing this brilliant piece of porcelain goodness. Hours later I could still hear people saying to each other " how about that toilet back there, huh? I really wish I had to go."
And now, here we are in Dingboche fighting the cold AS A TEAM united by a new-found appreciation for porcelain and doing it all for Cure Cancer.
Note: I tried 7 times to get a photo in, but the connection at 4000 meters deep in the Himalayas just can't handle it (shocking, I know)
Today we pulled our boots back on, zipped up our coats, packed up our bags, and continued onward toward Everest Base Camp. Without question, the moment of the day we all look forward to the least are those first ten minutes in the morning after the alarm goes off. It is 6am and we are nestled deep in our sleeping bags. "Beep beep beep beep beep" and I am knocking on the wall to wake up my neighbors. That knock is passed down from room to room until all 10 weary travelers are wide awake, though the walls are so thin, my knock usually carries all the way down. There is no heat in the rooms, which means the temperature at this hours hovers around -5 degrees. By the time we reach Base Camp, it will be roughly -30 degrees at 6am.
We must then get out of our sleeping bags and embrace the arctic temperatures, change into our clothes (which are equally freezing), pack our bags, attempt to brush our teeth (assuming the taps haven't frozen), and saunter into the lodge where we will once again eat a meal that can adequately be described as "yellow." EVERYTHING we eat is yellow.
While every day is tough and we are digging deep to get the kilometers behind us, reminding ourselves that we are doing this for something greater than ourselves keeps us going. Today's theme was "I'm Doing It For Cure Cancer" and do we did! 9 kilometers mostly uphill, ascending from 3400 meters to just over 3800 meters in roughly 7 hours, arriving at Tengboche Monastery to another frigid lodge. It's all part of the adventure! Knowing that we are here on this Inspired Adventure to help find a key to a cure gives us that extra burst of energy when it is needed most.
If there is anything to say about it today, it is that the team found its rhythm. KGB (Vlad) caught his breath. Jazz and Wu paced together. StavMan got his uphill groove back. Yes, it seems that all the pieces are falling into place right on time. We are now just 4 days away from Base Camp and let me tell you, there is no stopping us now!
Today we had a lie-in! Up at 7:30am and off by 9am on what would become a 7.5 hour acclimatization walk amidst some of the most stunning scenery any of us had ever seen. The Himalayas maintain this otherworldly quality that is simply impossible to capture in a photograph and equally difficult to express in words. It is like "walking in the heavens," as our guide Tashi says. With each turn there is a new panoramic view, a new angle to take in, and a new peak to measure up.
Last night the whole team was feeling fairly broken by the altitude, the distance covered, and the thought of what lied ahead. After a good night's sleep, however, we were pumped and ready to go. Especially StavMan, who was literally falling asleep at dinner last night. Boy did he bounce back! Everyone brought their A-game. K2 (the other Kyle) and J-Rod (Jarrod) were their usual ridiculous selves posing in Kung-fu position at the edge of mountains. K-Dax (Kaine) and Chook (Paul) remained level-headed, good humored, and an all-around joy to trek with. Jazz showed everyone up when we hit heavy snow on a downhill, literally skiing down the Himalayas in her trekking boots.
Tomorrow it's back on the trail, with 8 hours of mostly uphill steps ahead of us. What does this team have to say about that? BRING IT ON!
One final note: Wendy officially has a new nickname. It's "Wu!!!!" It was inspired by the profession of our IA team member Nadia's partner. Just too perfect.
Note: More trouble with photos due to Internet connection. Sorry!
My goodness, what a day it was. We awoke at 6:30am in sub-zero temperatures, sliding into ice-cold clothes amid shivers, frigid fingers, and totally numb toes. Then comes putting in contacts, sorting out blistered feet, applying sunscreen, and everything else that goes into prepping for a long day of altitude trekking.
Following breakfast and our morning music pump-up jams, we hit the trail. One thing has become incredibly clear at this early stage: the temperature changes almost constantly, which means taking layers off and putting layers on almost constantly. Round a bend and slide into the shade - fleece, coat, hat, and gloves on. Turn the next corner into direct sunlight - fleece, coat, hat, and gloves off. I call it Himalayan hopscotch for no reason other than that it is alliteration and sounds fun.
Today brought unparalleled beauty, which only promises to get more spectacular as the days go on. We descended deep into the valley and followed the river for several hours before heading upward 600 meters (2000 feet) in a steep ascent, all the while criss-crossing otherworldly suspension bridges covered in prayer flags flapping purposefully in the wind. This place already has that mysterious, wonderful, heavenly quality that is only magnified by the fact that we will be reaching Everest Base Camp in 7 short days.
Without question, today's highlight was catching out first glimpse of Everest itself soaring 8,800 meters (over 29,000 feet) over sea level. Today's trek also gave us the opportunity to get acquainted with everyone's trekking personalities. Vlad (KGB) keeps the group moving. "Okay, so we go now?" Jazz captures every moment with her camera. Emma (Boo) has a certain whimsical quality that follows her everywhere. Wendy (Hots) is a fighter and powers through. Together, we are an awesome team that will absolutely get to Base Camp.
We arrived to Namche Bazaar just after 5pm, a full 8.5 hours after we set off. It has been a day to say the least, and the whole group are exhausted. It was a quick dinner, a quick stretch, and off to bed for everyone. Tomorrow we have a solid 5-hour acclimatization walk! Before I sign off, a quick shout out to StavMan is in order. Acclimatizing to altitude has been particular difficult for him but he put his head down and pushed through today, far exceeding even his own expectations. He is already a legend and it is only day 2.
Note: Havi trouble uploading photos, so doing my best!
After waking up at 4:15am for the third morning in a row and once again waiting countless hours in the Domestic Airport Terminal we shucked the airplanes and opted for a less weather-dependent form of transport: HELICOPTERS!
Broken into a group of 8 and a group of 4, we hopped aboard the Lukla Express and careened toward Lukla, soaring over farms, deep ravines, and schools full of young kids waving as we zoomed over head. We landed amidst mild fanfare as weary travelers, who had been stuck in Lukla for day, wrestled for a seat on the chopper heading back to Kathmandu.
From there we met our crew, scarfed down a quick lunch, and started on our way to Base Camp 12 hours after we had first woken up. Our first stop was at a massive prayer wheel to bless our climb and wish good luck on our journey.
Three hours later, we reached our first stop of Phakding by torchlight in the darkness of a cloudy moonless night. We had crossed our first massive suspension bridge and were treated to a brilliant view of our first mega-peak, called Khumbila. From here we will check in to our lodge, roll out our sleeping bags, enjoy a cup of tea by the communal fire, nosh on some delicious food, and head straight to bed. We have 8 hours of uphill trekking tomorrow!
It. Is. Go. Time!!!
Alas, today was not our day! We awoke once more at 4:15am and were in the airport by 5:30am amid pouring rain, thunderstorms, and lightning. Things just didn't look good and, at 10:15am, we called it. Today would be spent in Kathmandu.
Regardless, spirits remained high as we stuck together and did our best to stay positive. We created a "VIP" section at the airport (ie. put rows of chairs in a circle and plopped a table down in the middle). We taught a few newbies how to play Canasta, we napped, and we ate an obscene amount of processed foods like chips ahoy and sour gummies. Paul, Jaz, and I have already survived a bout of gastro so the whole group decided not to take any chances today! All the while the announcements continued to blare over the loudspeaker: "Your attention: Fight 731 flight 731 flight 731 flight 731 Pokhara Pokhara Pokhara Pokhara is boarding now. Gate 2 gate 2 gate 2 gate 2." it was very full-on and VERY LOUD.
Only four days have passed and already it feels like we have known each other for years. There is something about a common task and a focused mission that really bring like-minded people together. Plus, everyone has a very personal commitment to Cure Cancer Australia Foundation which is beyond Inspiring. We are all here for more than ourselves.
In this familiarity comes, as all Aussies know, nicknames! This is in part due to Aussie custom and part do to an expansion of Jarrod and the other Kyle's push-up game with all new challenges. So dear readers, I would like to introduce you to Cure Cancer's Inspired Adventures Team Everest:
Wendy - Trotters
Emma - Boo (like in Monster's Inc)
Vlad - KGB (because he is from Serbia and yes, we know that's wrong)
Paul - Chook
Steve - Psycho (he picked it)
Jasmine - Jazzzzzz
Kaine - K-Dax or Kodak
Kyle (Me) - Special K or K-Money
Jarrod - Beavis
The Other Kyle - Butthead (for obvious reasons)
Tashi - T-Pain
Everyone has their own unique punishment for using first names. Jarrod and e other Kyle are on push-ups, Wendy has to "ride the pony," I have to air fist punch while humming the Rocky theme song, and so on. These are the types of shenanigans that emerge after three days of 4am wake-up calls and spending all day in a cold, loud, crowded airport terminal.
Please keep all extremities crossed tomorrow in the hope that we fly on to Lukla. Otherwise who knows what will become of us...
Our day began at 4:15am when the phones in our rooms rang to life with our courtesy wake-up calls. "This is your automated robotic wake-up call. Get up," the Nepalese-accented robotic lady yelled at us. By 4:45am the hotel lobby was buzzing. Bags were being weighed, items were being left in storage, keys were being returned, and rope was being gathered to tether our worldly possessions to the roof of the van. Anticipation was mounting and the energy was contagious!
We jammed to some tunes on the iPod en route and the chaos continued once we arrived. More weighing, random innocuous metal detectors beeping, boxed breakfasts being devoured, and tired eyes attempting to keep open. By 5:30am we were watching the brilliant Nepalese sunrise over a distant mountain range beyond the airstrip. It was go time!
Tashi, our brilliant local head guide (or T-Pain, as we call him) warned us that flights to Lukla are often delayed due to wind so we should be prepared to wait. And wait. And wait. Waiting is exactly what we did. Our 6:15am departure time came and went. 8am, 9am, 10am, and 11am came and went.
Most of the team killed the time reading books, playing games, or taking pictures of me napping in strange situations (above). Emma bought some things. Correction. Emma bought everything. Jarrod and the other Kyle, however, killed time by inventing a ridiculous game with only one rule. Every time one of them says anyone's first name, they must do 10 push-ups. This is fine at sea level but at 5000 meters, it becomes downright exhausting (especially for the other Kyle, who is absolutely terrible at this game).
After a quick early lunch of local Momo dumplings it was back to waiting. 12pm. Still waiting. 1pm. Still waiting. 2pm. The waiting was over. The rest of that day's flights were canceled and it was back to the hotel for us. We retrieved our luggage, tied it back onto the van, and hurtled once more throw the streets of Kathmandu. The afternoon and evening brought more preparations, more shopping (especially for Emma), a Nepalese dinner, and a very big HAPPY BIRTHDAY to our teammate, trekking extraordinaire, and downright lovely guy Paul. We had pretended all day not to have remembered then surprised him with a big cake. It was great!
Now off to bed, and we begin the waiting game once more tomorrow morning. Fingers crossed we get off the ground!
After a massive breakfast it was straight to the van for our full day of Kathmandu exploration. As our little transit vehicle bumbled and bobbed down the pot-hole laden streets of downtown, we jostled around in the back doing our best to avoid contact with the roof.
We spent the morning and early afternoon exploring four of Kathmandu's most historic and significant sites, from Buddhist stupas to Hindu live cremation sites running alongside the river. While each location brought its own unique collection of wonders (from intensely territorial monkeys to the inescapable aroma of burning incense), no doubt exploring the vast and unexpectedly massive Boudhanath Stupa was the highlight.
Our experience began by taking in lunch at a little rooftop cafe that offered sweeping views of Boudhanath alongside appetizers, mains, and desserts of wild boar. The other Kyle and Jarrod found this particularly amusing, reverting back to Neanderthal times with their grunts, groans, and complex statements like "Boar Good!"
Afterword we walked around the entire stupa two times (always clockwise) walking both on the ground and on the stupa itself. It's sheer size was overwhelming and you could sense its significance and importance. Th whole area just felt incredibly spiritual.
Our evening consisted of shopping until we were literally feeling like dropping to ensure that Jarrod and the other Kyle did not have to make their base camp attempt in AFL shorts and thongs. Paul, Wendy, Cain, and our very own resident shop-a-holic Emma also enjoyed the amazing deals laid out before them.
From here it's onward to Lukla tomorrow morning, where the trek officially begins. Stay tuned!
Leaving the doldrums of a by wet city to arrive in a perfect 22 degrees Celsius Himalayan paradise was alright by all involved and we enjoyed what will be our last bit of luxury for several weeks at the Hotel Shanker here in Kathmandu.
Of course, it wouldn't be an Inspired Adventure unless something incredibly inspiring had already taken place. Our first stop once in Nepal was at the local barbershop. Emma got a more mountain-friendly bob cut while Jarrod and Kyle (Brisbane Kyle) shaved their heads in support of his mate Gareth for Jarrod and in memory of his grandmother for Kyle.
The rest of us crowded around outside creating what was certainly a scene. The two seemingly nice boys from Queensland were officially transformed into what we have so aptly nicknamed "The BrisVegas Mafia," or "BVM" for short.
After a five-course feast, some traditional dancing, and a bindi on all our heads, it's off to bed to rest up. After our two-hour briefing on just how intense what we have taken on will be, the team need all the sleep we can get!
One step at a time. Doing it for a cure. Here we go!