This is a report of Neal Lever's spectacular trip and walk to Base Camp of Mount Everest, a trip he made in February 2012. During the journey of a lifetime Neal met many new friends, walked in the footsteps of explorers and experienced sights many people can only dream of. Follow Neal's personal report on these pages which includes a good selection of superb photographs. They are an inspiration to all of us who love walking and value the amazing natural world we have.
In Neal's own word's he summarises his journey: "High up above Kathmandu in the Himalayas stands the highest mountain in the world, Everest. It has always been a fascination to me throughout my life having read many books and watched countless TV programs about it. I like you, probably, are a keen walker and have travelled through much of our glorious country side and national parks. At the age of forty six I found myself in a position to fulfill my dream and walk to the foot of Everest. This is true account of my journey with all the ups and downs and the sheer wonderment on how so much beauty is crammed into one area. It is without a doubt the best thing I have ever done"
06.45pm. Checking in at the airport was a touch awkward because I had to rearrange the weight distribution, my rucksack (hand luggage) was over 7kg and with a bit of messing I managed to squeeze it into my overloaded kit bag.
07.05pm. I just had my last pint for a while in Giraffes Café (terminal 1 Manchester Airport) along with a not so very healthy burger and chips but it was good. Why does all junk food taste great? Flight is on time. Never flown with Etihad Airways before and believe that they are very good.
Day 2: Saturday 11 February 2012
4.45pm, Nepali time. Both flights were great with no delays. Filled in my visa and had to wait in line for 2hrs, not good. The boredom of queuing for two hours was alleviated by a young American girl named Lexi who had taken a gap year before University. She was "Sofa Lounging" or something. This is something you organise on the net where like minded people have registered. This allows travellers to stay with them for free while they show them around their local area. Lexi started in India then Pakistan and here she was in Nepal planning to do some English teaching in local poor schools.
After more security than gaining entrance to the USA, I picked up my expedition kit bag and said my goodbyes to Lexi then jumped into my prepaid taxi to the hotel, "The Royal Singh Hotel" which was only half an hour's drive away.
6.30pm. The taxi was a Toyota mini cab which was, at the very least, twenty five years old and would without a doubt been condemned in any European Country but my driver was very pleasant and full of joviality. All the bad drivers in the world should come to Kathmandu because they would fit right in. Organised chaos is the best way to describe it. Bikes by the thousands, cars, buses, taxis and lorries all going in whatever direction they wished whilst tooting their horns continuously. However it did seem to work in a rather curious way.
I saw a man carrying a double wardrobe on his back with some rather fetching door mirrors, it was obvious that he did not trust anyone with his cloths so he just took them with him and why not. Spontaneous stalls on the pavement by the dozen, hustle and bustle everywhere.
7.00pm. I arrived at the hotel to meet everyone in the lobby including our team expedition leader Pasang Lama, who was a very pleasant man, I got on with him straight away. No time to loose so I dumped my bags in my room and off I went for a meal with my new found friends.
Kathmandu Kitchens was the venue for our first meal together and was not far from the hotel so we walked there all sixteen plus Pasang chit chatting all the way each trying to make a good impression with each other. My roommate Ivan is a great guy even though he is from Yorkshire (sorry Dad) recently retired and is an avid walker and has done much of the Lake District and the Pennine Way. We arrived at the restaurant and we were shown to a long table all prepared in the centre of the room. After a starter of an Indian type cuisine, dancers appeared in National dress and began to serenade us or so I thought.
It was then that we realised that we were indeed amidst a Nepalese wedding ceremony but no one seemed to mind in the slightest although it was somewhat embarrassing putting us at the centre table. Later on throughout our long meal the wedding guests were mixing in with us asking where we were going and giving what seemed like blessings, I wondered whether they thought we were climbers, still no harm was done. After a pleasant meal we went back to the Hotel and had an hour or so in the bar but most of us were in bed by ten tired out after our arduous journeys.
Day Three: Sunday 12 February 2012
9.00am. Team Meeting. The meeting with Pasang and his team who were to look after us was interesting. Everyone had to provide proof of insurance otherwise the Nepalese government would not issue a trekking permit. Passports were collected along with a passport type photo for our trekking permits. The meeting was over thirty minutes long and was quite detailed in which he covered the next day's flight into Lukla airport along with what to expect during trekking. What to take and what not to take in the mountains. He then introduced us to his team. There was Nima trekking guide and chief Sadar, then Dowa trekking guide and Tenzin also trekking guide. The latter two also took it in turns to help our Yak man out with our five trustee Yaks, I never knew the Yak mans name but he was a nice enough man with not much English but then I cannot speak Nepalese.
10.30am. There were a number of trips that you could book but everyone wanted to do the tour of Kathmandu which made things a bit easier for Pasang to organise. After half an hour or so of viewing many temples and of course the famous sixties hippie street. We then went to the Palace to see the living Goddess named Kumri, she briefly came to an upstairs window for us all to see her. The living Goddess is selected at the age of about six to eight years old and is educated and worshipped like a god until she is around fourteen. She is then reunited with her family and another goddess is selected. Difficult for westerners to understand, one feels, but it seems to work well in Kathmandu.
7.30pm. We had a meal at Kilroy's, a famous restaurant in Kathmandu which seemed to be OK until about 2.30am in the morning when I awoke with projectile vomit and diarrhoea. Just what I needed before our early flight to Lukla.