Monday, 21 September 2009

Indian Glow on a Big Mountain

We got up this morning and headed off at 5am to the army encampment on the hill. As we reached the makeshift helipad we saw Everest, Lhotse and Nuptse glowing in the morning sunrise. Seeing a big mountain for the first time is a special moment. Ama Dablam greeted us with a smile and all around Pachermo, Kongde, Thamserku serku and Kusum Kanguru lit up with awe inspiring grandure. But enough talk you want to see how it looked.

PS Off to Thame tomorrow and therafter on to Gokyo. There is no internet up there as far as I know!!!

Namche Walking Past the door

Arrived in Namche this afternoon. In the last 28 years since I was last in Nepal I have harboured a feeling that Nepal is the finest country I have ever been in. Having come back I have confirmed that for me. This country has a very special quality. It has amazing, jaw dropping scenery, and remarkable people.

As I walked around the corner this afternoon it was at the end of a really thrilling walk up the Dudh Kosi gorge through emmaculate pine forests and flowers and glimpses up to towering snow clad peaks - Kusum Kanguru. On the way we bumped into Ang Phurba Sherpa. DB made the introductions. At 62 when he walked around the corner with a stride and perfect physique I felt this is someone of bearing. And with it perfect English and immaculate manners. I took his portrait.

And as we meandered up among the trekkers and mingled with the porters the contrast could not be more startling between the boy carrying the door or indeed the boy carrying the new telephone antenae for Tangboche which kept on getting stuck in the trees and he had to do delicate reverses.

Last night we stayed in Phakding at the Namaste Lodge. I enjoyed this immensley. The owners wife was highly "motivated" and ran in and out of the kitchen in a whirlwind and shouted and generally cooked and dispensed chang. While her husband Nima Dorjee Sherpa sat impassively in the restaurant. It transpired that we were both born in 1957. There followed a day long intermittant review of our lives and philosophy. late in the night as Tshiri Nima topped up the chang Nima Dorjee told me that he had been with Bonnington on the 1975 Sw face expedition. He left the trekking business and worked in the US to make the money to start his hotel. A common theme.

Will post some images tomorrow after download.

Off to load the film and get the "big" LF camera fired up at 6am tomorrow as the sun rises over Everest.

Saturday, 19 September 2009

Lukla Little Bit Up Little Bit Down

Arrived in Lukla the airport entry to the Khumbu this morning.

The bus journey from kathmandu to Jirri, the roadhead, was freightening. The road got narrower and narrower and with it my temperature rose. We followed the ravines around. The worrying thing was passing other buses. Because of the Monsoon the verge was very soft and we had to negotiate onto the verge beside enormous drops. Anyhow an hour from Jirri ( 8 hours out) the bus stopped and there was huge comotion. The passengers were looking into a ditch. It took some time before it became clear that a school boy had fallen off the roof. He was still coherent but had a nasty bump on the head. So we dropped him off at the Jirri hospital. The following day I found out that one of the buses had indeed gone in to the ravine with the loss of 50+ passengers.

There followed 9 wonderful days of treking in the foothills. Each day starting the same. DB / Chiring and Purna and I would set off at 7am. The mornings were hot and we traversed west - east across the foothills. Going up in the morning and generally down in the afternoon!!! The afternoons generally have been rainy. And there has been the occassional leech but like the west coast midge nothing to get too excited about!! We were the only westerns around bar three others that we met so the isolation was real. We crossed the Lamjung Jura at 3650m in very misty surreal conditions.

We took a rest day at Junbaise and DB and I visited the Thupten Choling monastrey. DB introduced me and I found this out later, as a British Buddist. So we had free access and worshipped with firstly the nuns and then the monks. There are 350 nuns and 85 monks and it is the biggest Gompa outside Kathmandu. It was a moving experience sitting there listening to their incantations. I was very surprised by how tactile the nuns were!!!!!

Life on the road is basic. Few trekkers come this way preferring to fly to Lukla. The great advantage for me is that I have been getting fitter and acclimitised. Having started at a low level!!! Intially I was stiff but now am going well!!!! I am surviving on a diet of Dhal Bat and fried rice and eggs.

When we crossed the Dudh Kosi things became markedly different. The ravine is very tight indeed and impressively steep. We walked yesterday along the narrowest of paths in the forest. Alongside precipitous drops. When it began to clear in the early evening the scene beneath us was like a boiling pot of mist. Awe inspirring. We stayed the night with Pemba Galijen Sherpa and his wonderful family of wife and three girls. It came as no surprise that he summitted on Everest in 1993 and has supported ever thereafter. This he says is his last year. He spent three months at BC living up at camp 2. It was interesting what he had to say about the change in the Khumbu icefall in this short time. It has collapsed and the crevasse and seracs are much less intimidating. There is more rock. Eventually he predicts it will disappear.

Tomorrow, with my band of merry gentlemen we will head off to Namche and the big mountains beyond. Apologies no images but this is not my computer.


Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Nothing Venture

The last two days have been spent in final preparations.

In every town associated with the mountains there is a Frau Biner or a Madame Baronnier and I guess in Kathmandu it is Shona. She took a bit of finding but along with husband Andy she has made the final gearing up a pleasure. "For the rainy season you need four pairs of socks - these thin ones to Junbesi, the next ones to Namche and above your thick good ones". Now I think you have everything".

Likewise Sorita the pharmacist has given me 5 different antibiotics for just about anything one might contemplate and more.

Last night I went over to visit the dark room. The technician, if this is the correct term has done a wonderfull job with my four negatives, so the film is confirmed good. He even gave me advice on my exposures. Which given his 27 years of experience I cannot argue with. During all this it became clear that the lab owner Kiran was elsewhere. Suddenly I found myself up in Durbar Square amongst thousands of ecstatic Nepalis on the last night of the Festival - Indra Jatra. They were awaiting the appearance of the 4 year old Kumari - child Godess. I was taken to the door of the palace and photographed her coming out. There followed absolute mayhem as the police attempted to regain control and get her to her awaitng chariot.

Mahesh will pick me up in the morning and take me to the bus park. There I will meet the trek team and we will travel by local bus to Jiri- the start of the trek. A nine hour bus trip that costs £16 for the four of us.

For my trek Mahesh has lent me a book to read - Nothing Venture Nothing Win - Ed Hillary's autobiography. Very appropriate.

Monday, 7 September 2009

Everest Stays Hidden

Attempted to take the Budda Airways tourist flight to Everest this morning however the mountain remained hidden in Monsoon clouds. So I hung around not understanding a word of the announcements and shouting whilst others headed off back into town. Suddenly I was all alone in the departure lounge.

Set off for Jiri on Thursday morning. Everything just about ready. Guide and porters in place and the plan is in place. Mahesh is very experienced in organising these things. His last client was Sir CB so I am in good hands. He re-assured me this morning that the first porter was choosen because he would setup my camera. The second is a big and strong gentleman who will be able to carry me down if necessary and he finished by saying that if anything goes wrong he will send a helicopter!!!!

This evening I delivered my test negatives to Kiran and we formulated a plan. It seems like the images will be hotshotted by express porter on weekly basis to Lukla. For onward delivery to his lab. I am beginning to wonder if digital is the way to go :-)

Saturday, 5 September 2009

The Himalayan Hash

Yesterday was a day off from photography. Instead I was picked up by the GM of the Hash at the Chatrakh roundabout in front of the cake house. It was the usual eclectic mix of people and countryside. The run lasted over two hours and I survived relatively OK so must be ready for a 3 weeks+ trek. It was hot and the altitude while running at the start was palpable. A cross section of local UN, UNESCO, Wateraid and diplomatic runners wound its way across paddy fields and through villages and past stuppas and a variety of shrines and much else. And lots of dogs who wanted to join in. On a scale of 10 this was 10. Very friendly engaging and interesting people who really understand what is going on here.

Had diner with Ralph a Christian German Dentist at the Vajra. He has just finished two weeks of voluntary help just north of Dumre. Reports that the people have looked after their teeth remarkably well. The problem is diseases like Typhoid.

Commence Large Format photography today. Check out camera and shoot some test shots in the Vajra back yard - not your normal garde :-)

Friday, 4 September 2009


The highlight of yesterday was one of those visits that had to be done but nothing can prepare you for it when it comes. I went to visit the cremation site on the Bagmati river. A helpful young man acted as my tour guide and we witnessed a cremation of an elderly lady and it was very moving. The whole area had a sombre mood. And all the way up the right bank of the river there were burning pires while down the left bank a crowd of onlookers and tourists watched. During all this a disturbance got up in the temple and the police arrived at some speed to sort it out.

The Sadhus were there in force and very congenial they were. We chatted and I took some photographs. I saw one at the gate on a mobile phone which he quickly put beneath his top before I could look closer. Seems like technology is enabling every facet of life here!!!!

Afterwards I returned to the monkey temple to try and catch the monks at evening prayers however it downpoured and they stayed inside so instead I photographed the monkeys.

Plan to take the tourist flight to Everest on Monday and then commence the slow road on Thursday :-)

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Himalayan Vista - Approach To Kathmandu

Room With a View

Not very uplifting but finally I have managed to post an image to the website. The difficulty seems to be the slow connection speed. So it is a trial image. The table in the garden where I have breakfast!!!! Met with Mahesh Sawa of CAT (community action trekking) the organisation founded by Doug Scott. Really like Mahesh. We seem to be having morning operational meetings to discuss the plan!!!


Festivals and Logistics

It has been an interesting first couple of days in Nepal. I have been meeting with my trekking agency and reviewing the options - an early start for the Khumbu seems most likely. This would be to start from Jiri and slowly gain altitude. Go to Goyko lakes and then cross the pass and go to Gorak Shep. This will allow me to see the classic Khumbu vistas and a lot more besides.

Yesterday was hectic. I also visited with Ganesh Photographic who will develop my negatives. Kiran Man Chitraker showed me some of his family photographs that date back 100 years. Beautiful large prints of the Royal family and even a shot of Tenzing and Hillary when they returned from the successful first ascent.

Yesterday was the opening day of the main festival here. It coincided with the first public viewing of the new Kumari. The 4 year old living godess. Durbar sq was a heaving frenzied mass. The full panorama of people and govt and diplomatic hoy poloy was in full vociferous view.

In the evening went to the Yin and Yang with Rob Casserly and Helen Sovdat who leave for Manasulu today.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Arrive in Nepal - Let adventure begin

To fly to Nepal after an absence of 28 years was an emotional moment for me. The flight was one of the great airline journeys crossing Iraq the Northern Gulf and touching down in Bahrain, Then on down the Gulf and across over Iran and some fabulous geology. Then leaving the desert and crossing Northern India. Picking up the monsoon on the way. Finally and dramatically I saw the Himalaya floating above a turbulent sea of monsoon cloud. It was very spectacular as we made our final approach in the encroaching darkness with fleeting glimpses of mountains and ridges and finally first view of Kathmandu. I am glad to say I was very re-assured by the first view. Unlike many cities they have retained th green open spaces. Unfortunately getting to the hotel was not the easiest journey - more reminiscent of Port Harcourt than old Kathmandu!!!!