From the chaotic and crazy streets of Kathmandu to the serene high mountain villages of the Himalaya, Nepal is stunningly picturesque. Armed with a digital camera and our iPhones, Kristina and I attempted to capture the color, light and feel of this beautiful country.
This gallery follows our experience starting in Kathmandu and continues on as we trek to Gokyo Peak, a stone’s throw from Mt. Everest and Pumori, where our Uncle Paul climbed two decades ago. There’s also a BIG REVEAL about Apple Pie, so read on…
Enjoy and Namaste!
Charlie and Kristina
A panorama at sunrise from the roof of our guesthouse in Kathmandu. Each morning the sound of roosters and motor scooters drifted through the air with the smell of incense and fresh laundry.
The primary aim of our time in Kathmandu was to plan our trek to the Everest Region. We spent many hours reviewing maps, travel logs from other trekkers and speaking with guides in order to prepare.
We’d then venture out into the dusty (often un-paved) streets to get the necessary permits and last minute supplies. The Nepalis and visitors alike would wear bandanas and face masks to minimize breathing in the dust and exhaust that swirled in the air of the streets.
The city is a chaotic and tangled set of streets and alleyways with little discernable order. Vegetable and flea markets bloom on the sides of streets, looking like colorful baskets of flowers.
The people of Nepal are so friendly and hospitable; always smiling and willing to help out a traveler.
Every so often we’d stumble across one of the many temples scattered throughout the city. At this one in particular, there was a ceremony in progress and we decided that a little blessing before our journey into the mountains would serve us well.
This rats nest of power lines is representative of the general infrastructure of the city and country. Still very much developing, the power grid would often overload, causing brownouts and frying battery packs (we lost two USB power banks). The 2015 earthquakes didn’t help the situation and the country is clearly still recovering from the devastating natural disaster.
Before long we were ready to get some fresh air and get away from the hectic city. We boarded a tiny twin engine “Yeti Airlines” plane and climbed high into the mountains. This view from the cockpit shows the box canyon we were flying into – those are the Himalaya directly in front of us. Each day, more than half the planes that take off for the Luka airport, situated at 9000 feet, turn back before they see the runway. A small card in the seat back pocket asked us to rate the safety of the pilot’s maneuvers on a scale of 1-10. Seriously.
Landing at was has to be the world’s scariest airport, situated at 9000 feet in Lukla, Nepal. Thankfully we had no issues. Unfortunately the same can’t be said for a Yeti Airline flight that missed the runway in 2008, crashing into the cliffs below.
Safely at the gateway to the mountains, and with our packs on our backs, we began the steady 10 day climb. We passed through Sherpa villages, forests of pine and rhododendron and deep valleys. The higher we ascended, the thinner the air became, and we’d have to make mandatory stops to rest overnight and acclimatize.
A lot of the natural environment reminded us of the American west with similar flora and fauna and a decidedly exotic Asian twist. Apparently Bengal tigers occasionally come up from the jungles and roam these forests!
Trekking through little Sherpa villages, where the Nepali spring was yielding beautiful green meadows and wildflowers was one of our favorite experiences.
Smiling Nepali children were everywhere, shouting “NAMASTE!” to anyone passing by.
The environment and culture was pristine in some of the villages high above the trekking trail, and you’d catch glimpses of Nepali life often reserved for the locals.
Regularly on the trail we’d come across large Buddhist prayer wheels and boulders inscribed with Buddhist mantras for luck and concentration. We’d spin the wheels for good luck and pay respect to the mountains.
TRY IT OUT YOURSELF! – Press the PLAY button to give it a spin! (Listen for bell ringing at 12 seconds)
A large “Mani Stone” inscribed with “om mani pedme hum”, which Buddhists say as a prayer and meditation practice.
This is the beautiful Dudi Kosi, or “Milk River”, which flows from glaciers at Gokyo, where our trek terminates.
Numerous high suspension bridges were needed to cross the river as we zigzagged our way up the valley. They would sway and bounce as porters and yaks crossed them. YIKES!
Throughout the length of the trail we’d run into porters carrying mind (and back) bending loads of up to 300 lbs. They’d be carrying everything from baskets of vegetables to cases of beer.
We’d even see massive loads of plywood boards. These porters are paid at a rate of .50 Cents per pound for a set 12-mile distance (with 3000 feet of elevation gain).
Namche Bazaar. This is the gateway town into the Everest region, and every major expedition and trek stops here for one last taste of civilization (hot showers, electricity, bars) before heading into the high Himalaya. After a week in the tiny villages higher up, returning here was like a visit to New York City.
…IF New York City had Yaks walking down Park Avenue…
On our rest day in Namche, we climbed up to the top of the ridge and got our first glimpse of Mt. Everest. It’s the central peak slicing into the jet stream, creating the cloud trail.
Press PLAY and watch the mountains DANCE!
From that point onward, it was several days of trekking for 3-6 hours, following the lead of our Sherpa guide, Pemba.
Pemba Sherpa was our guide for the duration of the trek. Since we were unfamiliar with trekking in the Himalaya, we chose to hire him for the equivalent of $20 per day to keep us safe and efficient. Fun fact: all of the people from this region have “Sherpa” as their last name and their first name is given dependent upon the day of the week they were born. “Pemba” was born on Saturday.
Each night we’d stay in Teahouses, like this one in Maccherma. They were basic, and some had little more than solar power and buckets for washing up after a long day. But they would cook you a solid meal, provide a comfortable enough bed and really, it was ALL about…
…THE VIEWS. That’s Ama Dablam, one of the world’s highest mountains, just outside the window.
OK – so I KNOW the reason you’re reading this post is because you are SO CURIOUS about the whole Apple Pie question from our first post. Well, I have any answer for you. The Germans and Swiss – go figure. Yep, it’s because of them that Apple Pie is so often served in the Himalaya. As German and Swiss climbers explored these mountains in the 1950’s, they brought a little bit of their baking culture with them, as evidenced by German “Konditorei” style bake shops everywhere.
Even a basic and boring task like doing laundry was a beautiful and inspiring experience when surrounded by peaks like these. CAREFUL flashing those things – there could be GIRLS around here!
We stopped in a local Sherpa home for tea and met the family patriarch, who looks devilishly handsome in fur cap, I must say.
A view inside their traditional Sherpa home, which consisted of two rooms. This one functioning as living room, dining room, bedroom and Buddhist shrine. On the wall are photographs of their son summiting Everest. The traditional black tea they serve is very tasty.
Each time we’d see an insane view like this we’d say “this is it – there’s no way THIS view can improve…” And then…
View over our Teahouse in Maccherma. According to local legend, a Yeti attacked a Sherpa woman and killed three Yaks here in the 90’s. Definitely a little uncomfortable making late night trips to the outhouse with that thought in mind…
After 9 days we finally reached the village of Gokyo, where we would make our final push to Gokyo Peak. This little village is magical, situated at 16000 feet between a frozen lake and the largest glacier in Nepal, Ngozumpa (not pictured).
The glacier. From a few hundred feet above, you can get a feel for how massive this giant moving sheet of ice really is. From end to end, it stretches for over 22 miles. Standing above, you can hear it cracking and groaning as it slowly creeps along.
A view up towards Cho Oyu, the 4th tallest mountain in the world.
A time lapse over the glacier as the sun goes down and the evening clouds ascend the valley.
On our Gokyo Peak summit day, we awoke in the dark at 4 AM in order to get a jump on the weather. It was crystal clear and dark, and as the sun began to rise, we saw every amazing color of blue. You can see our headlamps in this photo.
Every few steps we needed to stop and catch breath since air at this altitude is so thin. Our British friends, Nick and Shernoo, who accompanied us for much of our trek are pictured as well.
Kristina celebrating reaching the summit with Everest in the background.
After 9 days, 45 miles, 13K feet and a whole lot of huffing and puffing, we’re at Gokyo Peak!
Everest felt close enough to touch.
The finger is pointing at Pumori, the mountain my Uncle Paul climbed in the 90’s with a climbing team from Seattle.
We hung a string of prayer flags to respect the mountains and ensure good luck for our return trek.
Prayer flags fluttering.
But alas, we still had 17,600 foot Renjo La Pass to cross the next day. So here’s the march through the snowfields.
Up and up. As we ascended, the views started to resemble what we saw the day before. This ended up being a far harder climb than even Gokyo Ri peak.
At the top of Renjo La pass, enjoying our last view of Everest.
The final group shot from the top of the pass.
An elusive Yeti captured the last day of our trek.
Well, thanks for following through the photos from our Nepal Trek!
If you have any interest in following our footsteps, we’ll also be posting a short article about how to go about planning a trek to the Nepal Himalaya yourself. Alternatively, reach out to me via email at Charlie@driftwoodtraveler.com and we can talk about scheduling a call.
Charlie and Kristina