March 30, 2012
Every day is new. There’s constant change and sensory overload in the sights, sounds, tastes, and smells we encounter each day. It has been so hard for me to put it all into a coherent and concise piece of writing right now. Our impeding arrival at basecamp, acclimitization process, and eventual summit attempt are all looming, swirling around in my mind like a dizzying hurricane of doubt, excitement, and anxiety. I can’t keep it all straight, so forgive me for being scattered. Here are some ups, downs, and facts of the trip so far:
We first arrived in Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal about two weeks ago. It is a totally crazy place to me. I found it difficult to comprehend the culture and way of life there. Simultaneously chaotic, spiritual, impoverished, beautiful, and suffocating. We visited three notable places during our first days there: the Pashupatinath Temple, the Boudhanath, and the city of Bhaktapur.
Pashupatinath Temple, one of the most significant Hindu temples in the world, and the holiest in Nepal. Human cremations take place there, out in the open along the Bagmati River, which flows into the Ganges River in India and eventually reaches the holy city of Varanasi.
Boudhanath Stupa, one of the holiest Buddhist sites in Kathmandu and one of the largest stupas in the world. This is perhaps my favorite place I’ve visited in Kathmandu.
Bhaktapur, an ancient Newar city located on the outskirts of Kathmandu. It is a very prominent center for architecture and traditional art. The way of life there seems untouched and well-preserved within the ancient walls, a time capsule.
Trekking to Basecamp
Flying into Lukla was scary for me. The plane is so small and the mountains are so big and I was terrified of crashing. That said, I was in awe once we landed, because the mountains ARE. SO. BIG. And they just get bigger and more powerful the deeper we travel into the Khumbu.
Hiking to Namche
Namche Bazaar, at 3,440 meters; it is the main trading center in the Khumbu Region and one of the most modern and populated towns in the Khumbu Valley.
Sam, Cory, Conrad, and I are wearing these monitors on our chests 24/7 throughout the entire trip for the Mayo Clinic researchers. They are arriving to basecamp in a few weeks to conduct further tests on us in an effort to understand the effects of high altitude on the body and relate it to heart failure symptoms. The monitors gather all kinds of information that I don’t completely understand, including measuring our hearts 256 times per second. Whoa.
Sam sporting the monitor with the specialized TNF baselayer
I caught some sort of sickness in Phortse after a big day of hiking from Namche. My chest hurt, I started coughing and wheezing, and had a terrible headache. I was so bummed and upset about it. I rested there for two days while most of the crew visited the monastery in Tangboche. Today is the first day I feel better. I am realizing that being sick, tired, or just “off” is a high possibility for the next month or so, and there’s not much to do about it but try and rest well and deal with it. Patience, patience, patience.
We spent some time at the Magic Yeti Library in Phortse, reading with the local kids. They sang to us, practiced their english. It was a pretty cool experience.
We arrived in Pangboche yesterday and had two Puja ceremonies. The first one was with Lama Geshe at his house. It felt like a very intimate and personal event. We each received Kathas and necklaces with special knots tied in them, in addition to cards with notes personally written to each of us by Lama Geshe himself. The second one was held at the monastery in town. The lama there chanted and played a gong for a while before giving us each a blessed katha.
Lama Geshe gives his blessing to Sam
Puja at the Parlibu Monastery
The magestic Ama Dablam (6856m)