Author Topic: Everest Base Camp trek - Nepal TR  (Read 55475 times)

Offline Achas Veachas

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Everest Base Camp trek - Nepal TR
« on: September 21, 2012, 05:08:30 PM »
As promised here is part one of my TR, hopefully over Tishrey I'll have time to write about the actual trek
Disclaimer: This TR is being done from memory and happened a few years ago so no guarantees about the accuracy of the info.

Part 1
Kathmandu

I spent about 2 weeks in Kathmandu before and after the trek, so before I get into the actual trek TR will just give some info about Kathmandu, in no particular order.

Arriving at the airport: You don’t need a visa in advance. Though it is advisable to bring passport pictures with you otherwise there is a photo booth that charges an arm and a leg. The visa fees need to be paid in Nepalese rupees and as you can imagine, the change place at the airport is not the best rates so don’t exchange more than what you need for the visa.
As soon as you get out of the airport you will get attacked by an army of taxi drivers. They will usually offer to bring you to the best hotel in Nepal; they each have agreements with different guesthouses and are trying to make a commission off you. Your best shot is to ask them to take you to the Beis Chabad (most of them know where it is), over there you can speak to the Chevreh and find out information about the different guesthouses available.
Thamel: The Thamel is the tourist area of the city, that’s where the Beit Chabad and all the guesthouses  r and you’ll probably be spending most of your time in Kathmandu there.

Currency: At the time I was there, the exchange rate for the Nepalese Rupee was around 70-80Rs to a USD. In my mind spending 100Rs was about the same as spending 1$ in the US. Keep that in mind when discussing prices later and you’ll see how dirt cheap everything is.
Guesthouses: The cheaper guesthouses go for about 2-3 USD a night. I paid a little more (about 6 USD a night), and in return got the luxury of having hot water even when the sun went down (the cheaper ones have a solar heater so there’s no hot water at night, it’s an interesting scene at the Beit Chabad when everyone is hanging out and all of the sudden at Shkia everyone runs off, the Chabad Bochurim run to catch Minchah and the Israelis run to catch a shower).

Food: The only Kosher food is obviously in the Beit Chabad. The Beit Chabad runs a restaurant called Glatmandu, the food is regular Israeli food with a few Nepalee dishes thrown in. In the 2 weeks I’ve been there I sampled pretty much everything on the menu and it was all surprisingly good. The prices are on par with the local non-kosher restaurants (a.k.a dirt cheap), Rabbi Lifshitz told me he does that on purpose so that the less religious Israelis don’t have an excuse to go to the Treif places (although reasonably he could have charged as much as Avraham Avinu in his Eshel and gotten away with it).
The food is for the most part produced locally; the chickens are Shechted by Rabbi Lifsitz (I was there one night when he Shechted and Koshered over 200 chickens, nothing like eating a Schnitzel that was clucking 3 hours ago  :P). Fruits and vegetables are obviously bought there and checked for bugs (and believe me there ARE bugs) by the Bochurim and in my month in Nepal I haven’t been Milchig once (once in a while guests bring some frozen milk or cheese, but I can sympathize with the Lifshitz family for keeping them for themselves).

Beit Chabad: is basically the hub for all the Israeli backpackers, and the best place to go to for current information on everything you need, from guesthouses and Laundromats to internet cafes to trekking information and supplies. It is run by the Lifshitz family who are just amazing and by Bochurim that they bring down to help them in running the Beit Chabad day to day. The atmosphere is very laid back and all the Israelis, even the totally not religious ones come there to hang out and eat a “Schnitzel Im Cheeps (Israeli accent)”.

Internet: Try as I might I couldn’t find wi-fi anywhere, you need to go to an internet café, the prices ranged from 30Rs an hour to 100Rs an hour. The cafes closer to the Beit Chabad were in the 30-50Rs range and that was fine for casual surfing. For skype calls and video chats you might want to walk a bit further and find one of the pricier ones (remember even that is about $1.25).

Shopping: The streets of the Thamel are full of vendors selling Tchatchkes, and you can have a lot of fun bargaining with them. I admit in the beginning it felt weird haggling over 30Rs (about 25 cents), but keep in mind that its part of Nepalee culture (in fact if you buy something at the asking price, the guy will get offended as if you’re implying that he grossly underpriced the item), and as long as the haggling is done in good spirit and respectfully all sides will enjoy it. The general rule: once a vendor offers an asking price, feign shock and say you can’t pay more than a quarter of that, at which point he will feign shock and say “no possible” then the haggling begins. Eventually you settle anywhere between a quarter and third of the asking price and Shalom Al Yisroel.

Activities in and around Kathmandu: there’s not much to see and do in Kathmandu. Most people just use it as a stepping stone for the rest of Nepal. There’s the royal palace which is overrated. Then there’s a place called The Monkey Temple. It’s a temple on a hill overlooking the city. To get there you have to climb about a million steps (I chalked it up as training for the trek). The view from the top is pretty nice, I was there at sunset and although the views obviously can’t compare to the ones I saw on the trek, but it was pretty nice, and yes there are monkeys up there.

Offline Dan

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Re: Everest Base Camp trek - Nepal TR
« Reply #1 on: September 21, 2012, 05:13:43 PM »
Very cool, keep it coming!
Save your time, I don't answer PM. Post it in the forum and a dedicated DDF'er will get back to you as soon as possible.

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Re: Everest Base Camp trek - Nepal TR
« Reply #2 on: September 21, 2012, 05:17:46 PM »
Thanks so much, I am happy you listened to our requests to write a much needed trip report on Nepal. It is in my top 3 right now so it is great to read about it.
Did you see any funerals in Kathmandu? I have a friend who watched them do an outdoor funeral including cremating the body over this huge stack of logs.

Offline Achas Veachas

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Re: Everest Base Camp trek - Nepal TR
« Reply #3 on: September 21, 2012, 05:23:30 PM »
1: Thamel
2: Beit Chabad
3: Rabbi Lifshitz getting ready to Shecht

Offline Achas Veachas

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Re: Everest Base Camp trek - Nepal TR
« Reply #4 on: September 21, 2012, 05:24:21 PM »
4: Steps to the monkey Temple
5: Monkeys :)

Offline Achas Veachas

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Re: Everest Base Camp trek - Nepal TR
« Reply #5 on: September 21, 2012, 05:26:06 PM »
Thanks so much, I am happy you listened to our requests to write a much needed trip report on Nepal. It is in my top 3 right now so it is great to read about it.
Did you see any funerals in Kathmandu? I have a friend who watched them do an outdoor funeral including cremating the body over this huge stack of logs.
Your welcome. Thanks for pushing me I really enjoyed jogging my memory as it was a very memorable trip.
i haven't seen but have spoken to Israelis at the Beit Chabad who have

Offline Achas Veachas

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Re: Everest Base Camp trek - Nepal TR
« Reply #6 on: September 21, 2012, 05:33:57 PM »
6: A sign at the base of a Buddha Statue
7: Sunset from the monkey temple
8: Cant have a post about Nepal without cows

Offline E

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Re: Everest Base Camp trek - Nepal TR
« Reply #7 on: September 21, 2012, 05:34:43 PM »
Awesome !! definitely on my bucket list

Offline Achas Veachas

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Re: Everest Base Camp trek - Nepal TR
« Reply #8 on: September 23, 2012, 01:34:03 AM »
Part 2
Introduction

When I got back and told everyone I trekked to Everest base camp the first thing everyone asked with wide eyes was: “You climbed mount Everest?” When I tried explaining that I only got to Mount Everest’s base camp I would get a shrug and a “So what’s the big deal to get to the base of Mount Everest?”. So I
figured that before I start I should explain a bit:

Mount Everest is in the middle of nowhere, and if your idea of “nowhere” is “someplace between Montana and Idaho” think again. There are no roads or airports in the area, the closest airport is a 10 day walk away and the closest road that a 4 wheeled vehicle can travel on is a 14 day walk away. So if you want to see this wonder of Hashems creation your only option is to get out your hiking boots and walk for 2 weeks in areas with no cellphone reception, no internet, and no running water (yes no showers for 2 weeks).

Being that there are no roads the only way to get supplies in is by using porters (and to a lesser degree Yaks), so basically everything we saw along the way was carried in by someone. For this reason prices for everyday necessities (think toilet paper) are sky high, and they keep getting higher the farther you get from the airport at Lukla. In fact we laughed when in Kathmandu the staff gave us 2 rolls of toilet paper along with the rest of our gear; towards the end of the trek that toilet paper became the most precious possession we owned and was bartered for such luxuries as coca cola and satellite phone use.
The porters are a story for themselves, eventually we got used to seeing them on the paths but in the beginning we couldn’t help but feel amazed. Picture this; we are a group of fit hikers, wearing hiking boots and all our fancy gear, barely schlepping our way up a hill, wheezing through the thin air (more on high altitude breathing later). And along comes this short thing, all skin and bones, wearing flip-flops, carrying anywhere between 60-100 kilos on his head, and he zips right past us. The first few days I would get flabbergasted anew each time we saw one. Their salary was nothing to write home about either (by American standards at least), if I remember correctly about 1,500Rs a day (around 20USD).

I mentioned the thin air. People don’t realize but the hardest part of trekking in Nepal is not the walking for 5-6 hours a day; the walk is done at a very leisurely pace – practically a stroll. The hard part is the altitude. Your walking amongst the highest mountains in the world (the Himalayas are on average twice as high as the Alps), and even the valleys we hiked through are higher than most alpine peaks.

 The biggest danger of high altitudes is altitude sickness; the higher up you go, the thinner the air gets. I don’t remember exact figure but if I’m not mistaken at Everest Base Camp (5,360 meters above sea level) the air is 50% thinner than at sea level. What this means practically is that for every breath you take you only get half the amount of oxygen you would get at sea level (at the summit of Mt Everest the air is 30% thinner than sea level). Being that oxygen=energy you find yourself rather quickly extremely short on energy. Your body adapts to that by increasing production of red blood cells to help you absorb more oxygen per breath. But that takes time, so the best strategy is to ascend slowly and stop every few days to acclimatize. Otherwise you can get altitude sickness, which starts with headaches but can quickly get really dangerous, and the only cure is to descend a few hundred meters as quick as possible.

Even with a slow ascent your body usually lags a bit behind (it take a few weeks to “fully” acclimatize). Hence for most of the time you’re feeling pretty blah. The symptoms include irritability (in case you ever wondered what PMS felt like :P), shortness of breath and perhaps scariest of all sleep apnea. For some reason your body reacts to the lowering oxygen by stopping to breathe for a few seconds. You know those dreams where you feel like you can’t breathe? Now imagine waking up and still not being able to breathe at all. It happened to me twice and what you do is panic. Of course you know its normal and in a few seconds you’ll start breathing again, but try thinking that way when you wake up in middle of the night gasping for a breath, scarier than a nightmare.

The weirdest thing about all this is that how quick you adapt seems to be completely random and has nothing to do with how fit you are. I’ve seen Israeli guys just out of commando units in the army being carried down on stretchers. While on the other hand we met a group of grandmothers who seemed as jolly as if they were taking a stroll in the park. B”H no one in our group had any serious issues but also here some were affected more than others and there were no rules.

All this only lasted as long as we were ascending. As soon as we started our return trip we immediately started feeling better. I remember passing places where we remembered feeling like we wouldn’t make it on the way up, while on the way down we were skipping and having races. That’s the reason why it took us 10 days to get to Base Camp and only 3 days to get back down!
« Last Edit: September 23, 2012, 01:49:45 AM by achasveachas »

Offline Achas Veachas

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Re: Everest Base Camp trek - Nepal TR
« Reply #9 on: September 23, 2012, 01:35:38 AM »
9. Everything was carried by porters
10. And I mean everything
11. That is except for the things carried by yaks

Offline Achas Veachas

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Re: Everest Base Camp trek - Nepal TR
« Reply #10 on: September 23, 2012, 01:36:24 AM »
12. A sign warning of the effects of altitude sickness

Offline Ergel

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Re: Everest Base Camp trek - Nepal TR
« Reply #11 on: September 23, 2012, 01:41:39 AM »
Awesome. Keep it coming
Life isn't about checking the boxes. Nobody cares.

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Re: Everest Base Camp trek - Nepal TR
« Reply #12 on: September 23, 2012, 01:51:06 AM »
Amazing! I love all the detail you are writing with!

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Re: Everest Base Camp trek - Nepal TR
« Reply #13 on: September 23, 2012, 01:54:21 AM »
Sounds very scary. Is it 100% safe?
״וזה כלל גדול: שישנא אדם כל דבר שקר. וכל מה שיוסיף שנאה לדרכי השקר – יוסיף אהבה לתורה.״ - אורחות צדיקים

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Re: Everest Base Camp trek - Nepal TR
« Reply #14 on: September 23, 2012, 02:00:51 AM »
Sounds very scary. Is it 100% safe?
Which part sounds scary?

Offline Achas Veachas

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Re: Everest Base Camp trek - Nepal TR
« Reply #15 on: September 23, 2012, 02:02:14 AM »
Thanks for the feedback, I didn't realize how much I would enjoy it myself :D

Sounds very scary. Is it 100% safe?
As safe as any hike you'd take

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Re: Everest Base Camp trek - Nepal TR
« Reply #16 on: September 23, 2012, 02:03:11 AM »
As safe as any hike you'd take
I was referring to the breathing part. You did mention people coming down on stretchers...
״וזה כלל גדול: שישנא אדם כל דבר שקר. וכל מה שיוסיף שנאה לדרכי השקר – יוסיף אהבה לתורה.״ - אורחות צדיקים

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Re: Everest Base Camp trek - Nepal TR
« Reply #17 on: September 23, 2012, 02:06:17 AM »
I was referring to the breathing part. You did mention people coming down on stretchers...
If u use common sense altitude illness is preventable. If u feel sick so long as you decide to play it safe and descend you will be fine. The danger is only if u ignore it.

Offline Achas Veachas

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Re: Everest Base Camp trek - Nepal TR
« Reply #18 on: September 23, 2012, 02:10:39 AM »
If u use common sense altitude illness is preventable. If u feel sick so long as you decide to play it safe and descend you will be fine. The danger is only if u ignore it.
Exactly, people coming down on stretchers is usually a result of someone being overly macho saying "it won't happen to me" (which prob explains the Israeli army dude 8))

Offline L'Chaim

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Re: Everest Base Camp trek - Nepal TR
« Reply #19 on: September 23, 2012, 02:36:46 AM »
I'm curious how much such a (6 weeks) trip costs?