Nepal. On the way to Everest during the rainy season. Part 2. Mountain road to Lukla

I got up according to the plan at about 5 am. And the first thoughts in my head were that my muscles hardly hurt after yesterday, although I waved a short distance through the mountains. The shoulders made themselves known a little about themselves – nevertheless, the backpack was packed almost to the top and weighed a lot, and with local elevation differences it does not let you get bored even with all the accustomed shoulders of the traveler. But these are trifles, the main thing is dry and rested legs.

My trekking boots had already been trampled in a dozen countries and they looked stern but reliable. Only recently they began to get wet. Before starting the route, I, of course, glued them with glue, bought back in India, but this work was extremely dubious, and it was possible to bet on which day of the trip the boots would leak again. Damp feet – and the path can be ended, in any case, I will not meet DR on the mountain. Drying the bots on the way or overnight is almost impossible, and you get blisters or something worse on the count of three. Nobody canceled the return trip either. As long as you go there, as much as you have to return, cars do not go to the top, so the fewer problems the better.

Surprisingly, my new friend was already busy with breakfast. Nepalese tea, cookies from a pot-bellied backpack, and rice with vegetables. Breakfast by the fire, right in the house. Since childhood, I wanted to sit by the fire without leaving my home, but smoke, neighbors, parents, social norms and the possibility of a fire somehow prevented the crazy idea from being realized. And here on you, here it is absolutely normal. Every day, get-togethers, heart-to-heart conversations and meals around the fire are a beauty. Today, the wife of the owner of the house also joined us, yesterday evening, when I showed up for the trial at night with the rain, she was probably already asleep.

I went to the trail with a positive, well-fed and happy as an elephant. In part, after such a warm welcome, but the main thing that warmed me was that I not only made it to the base camp, but even drove a little faster than necessary. The sun even peeked out for the first 10 minutes, before disappearing for half a day. And half an hour later it started to rain. In a normal situation, it could bring a little discomfort on the way, but here you drag your backpack, climbing higher and higher up the mountain, the T-shirt becomes completely damp after 10 minutes, so some kind of drizzling rain is just amusing.

On the way, I met an amazing dog. One of his eyes may not have seen, but a pearly silver crescent shone in it. In a cloud that hid everything around 10 meters from me, this comrade looked very mystical, but good-natured and welcoming. He kept me company for several kilometers, where he was replaced by a couple of local four-legged friends. It never hurts to have a good company on the way, it’s a pity that they still had some dog business of their own, and they also retreated somewhere into this endless fog.

Almost all the time you move along the trail, on one side you have a mountain, on the other a precipice into a cloud of white fog. But closer to the pass, I ended up in the forest. I walk along the path, trees on the left, trees on the right, no rocks, no cliffs – such a normal forest with not loaded textures of the sky. But the path could at times somehow deepen, turning into a living green tunnel, and then level out back.

The main assistant on the route is my GPS  on my  phone, since I didn’t have a guide who knew every nook and cranny. In principle, the path is the same. But it is not so. Every now and then the walking trail is crossed by a road between some villages. In the off-season, almost no one drives on it, simply because it is impossible for a simple technique. The rains wash it into an impenetrable mess. In some places the trail is crossed by other hiking trails, and although almost every intersection has a mark or sign, not every intersection. Once I went the other way.

The hook came out only an hour away. It was, just somewhere on the pass, where forest and fog surrounds on all sides. There was  no clear route on the  GPS , only direction, I lost the main trail. The path took me to a small monastery far from any settlements. I shouted in broken English, but I never got to see any of the adults. Several schoolchildren in monastic robes ran out. They did not immediately, but still pointed the right direction. I don’t know why the adults did not come out and whether they were there at that time. Since then, I have not lost my way up to the Renjo-Pass, which is a couple of days’ journey from Everest along the western route.

In general, the trail is even very bearable, in some places it is arranged like in a park – lined with stones, with marks on the trees, steps. You only need to walk along it, now rising, then again dropping the height. There are no more than three hours of travel between the villages, so you don’t have to worry about spending the night in a remote place. But not everything is so smooth, in some places you need to overcome streams falling on the path of waterfalls, in some places the path itself is nothing more than a stream and you have to jump over the pebbles so as not to test your shoes for water resistance once again. There were even several places where landslides occurred, and the trail went along the very edge of the cliff. These places were not difficult to overcome, but I had to get nervous.

A local helped me with lunch again. It turned out to be a young man, most likely a Sherpa. He worked on his small plot, and there they manage to grow everything they need for a year on the slopes: corn, tomatoes, cucumbers, rice, various greens and even mangoes. I asked him if he had boiling water to make noodles, and he invited me to visit. He added rice and vegetables to the noodles, fried everything in a pan, and brewed an invigorating tea. He himself was not married and without children. You don’t often see this here, many get married at an early age, and children cannot be counted! We chatted a little on general topics, and I rested, after wishing a happy journey, went on.

Literally an hour later, I met a Canadian traveler. Alone, without a guide – again, not a frequent sight. She herself is small, puny, not at all like the harsh travelers. My respect would be immeasurable if she carried a backpack with a tent and a hint of food, but she, like many, took advantage of the fact that here you can replace all this with money and a light backpack with clothes. Well, that’s okay too! Maybe I would have done the same if I were in a different financial situation. At first, I thought to join, it seemed like it was more fun, but she walked too slowly, even with her small backpack and without stopping to take pictures and enjoy the local beauty.

For the next night I got up in a small settlement. They are stretched along the trail. It even had a school. I walked a little late, but a few kids were there. Surprisingly, every day they walk a dozen kilometers uphill and downhill to attend school. Everything is on foot, there is no question of bicycles. Worthy of respect!

I was looking for a place to hide from the next approaching rain, but such that I would not suffer from it at night. Besides, it would not hurt to have dinner. After a difficult road, you want to eat brutally! I was lucky, on the way out of the village I came across a group of young people who suggested one house to me. This time they didn’t let me inside, because it was really too cramped there for himself, but the house had a veranda that perfectly sheltered the tent from the rain. While I was setting up the tent, the guys organized boiling water for me and did not forget to call friends, so when my house was set up, half of the village gathered around it. I don’t think there are a lot of such fools with their homes here, especially in the rains.

I had time to wash my clothes before it started to rain. He dispersed all the spectators to cozy houses, and I was left alone with dinner. Hamster heartily, and the best episodes of the last days flashed before my eyes. The roof securely grabbed my tent and the things I had left to dry. Naive of course, but something really dried up by morning. The rain drummed all night, and I peacefully gained strength, sleeping in a tent, at an altitude of almost three thousand meters.

In the morning the guys supplied me with hot tea and asked how the night in the tent went. I had a great rest and was ready for a new running day. The sun did not appear in the morning, but the clouds that enveloped the mountain were disgustingly drizzling. The most beautiful landscapes did not please my eyes, they were hidden behind the dense mist of this cloud, but on both sides of the path red strawberries flashed profusely. It is not as tasty as in the Motherland, but from time to time it distracted me from the route.

After lunch, I began to notice strange passengers, first on their feet, and then one of them dug into my hand under the bracelets. This is something like worms and even more like leeches that live on land. These comrades parachute on passers-by from bushes and grass, and dig where they can. I didn’t even notice how one of these creatures crawled to my wrist and managed to dig in. The bite site bled for another 20 minutes, after which a lilac trace the size of lingonberries remained. Later I tore one off my leg, it was twice as large and apparently had a good snack. I had to wrap the snow skirt of my pants under my socks and it really helped. These creatures got stuck in the resulting pocket and could not help but harm me, not crawl further. On one of the passes, when I left my backpack at a stone bench, I removed about a dozen of these parasites from my feet. I also noticed them on cows grazing along the path. The leeches stuck to the face and legs of the animal, some were removed by the cow, rubbing itself on something, and there were bloody spots at the place of the suction (* the situation, as if you were inside a horror movie), some cows and dogs did not notice or could not clean, and so and hung. I asked a local about these creatures. He said that they are called “Lychees” (we have them better known as land leeches), they are generally not dangerous, crawl out after the rain and stick around the bushes. Also showed me a couple of bites on it. He said that the locals are used to them and do not pay much attention. But I spent the rest of the day zealously watching what was on my feet. They didn’t bite me again, and the bite marks didn’t go away for a week. Some were removed by the cow, rubbing itself against something, and there were bloody spots at the place of the suction (* the situation, as if you were inside a horror movie), some of the cows and dogs did not notice or could not clean up and they hung there. I asked a local about these creatures. He said that they are called “Lychees” (we have them better known as land leeches), they are generally not dangerous, crawl out after the rain and stick around the bushes. Also showed me a couple of bites on it. He said that the locals are used to them and do not pay much attention. But I spent the rest of the day zealously watching what was on my feet. They didn’t bite me again, and the bite marks didn’t go away for a week. Some were removed by the cow, rubbing itself against something, and there were bloody spots at the place of the suction (* the situation, as if you were inside a horror movie), some of the cows and dogs did not notice or could not clean up and they hung there. I asked a local about these creatures. He said that they are called “Lychees” (we have them better known as land leeches), they are generally not dangerous, crawl out after the rain and stick around the bushes. Also showed me a couple of bites on it. He said that the locals are used to them and do not pay much attention. But I spent the rest of the day zealously watching what was on my feet. They didn’t bite me again, and the bite marks didn’t go away for a week. I asked a local about these creatures. He said that they are called “Lychees” (in our country they are better known as land leeches), they are generally not dangerous, they crawl out after the rain and stick around the bushes. Also showed me a couple of bites on it. He said that the locals are used to them and do not pay much attention. But I spent the rest of the day zealously watching what was on my feet. They didn’t bite me again, and the bite marks didn’t go away for a week. I asked a local about these creatures. He said that they are called “Lychees” (we have them better known as land leeches), they are generally not dangerous, crawl out after the rain and stick around the bushes. Also showed me a couple of bites on it. He said that the locals are used to them and do not pay much attention. But I spent the rest of the day zealously watching what was on my feet. They didn’t bite me again, and the bite marks didn’t go away for a week.

That day I passed the hardest part. The biggest difference in altitude was from a descent of 1,700 meters and an ascent of almost 2,000. In any textbook on hiking in the mountains it is written that it is not recommended to have elevation changes of more than 800–1000 meters per day, otherwise there is a high probability of a miner. This is such a disease with individual symptoms for each, such as headaches, indigestion, cough, etc., with the possibility of very serious complications. I didn’t have any symptoms, apart from insane fatigue after 10 hours of trekking along the mountain trail.

This time the overnight stay was in the center of the village, I did not ask for names then, but somewhere after a place called Dadeikanda. I went to a small guest restaurant, one of the few open in the off-season. I got boiling water and a roll, as a bonus to my noodles and coconuts with cookies, and got permission to throw up a tent on a flat and clean area in front of the establishment. It was dark by the time I was having supper, and I had neither the time nor the desire to look for something better. After a decent meal, in complete darkness I built my dwelling, climbed into my sleeping bag and snored. Traditionally, it rained at night.

Also, according to tradition, the rain ended by morning. In the tent, I was one hundred percent confident, and she did not disappoint. Only the tent was now damp. I shook off the drops as best I could, ate some cookies and tea, and rolled up the wet tent, carefully so as not to soak the inner tent.

This morning, my muscles were tugging, especially my calves. Apparently, I even surpassed my norm. And then I still did not think that I had an even longer walking day ahead. There were no record height passes, but there were close to them, and there were many of them. All day, up and down, and the paths themselves became steeper. In addition, the rain went crazy and continued pouring from 8 in the morning all day. The path began to sink in mud. Again, I began to seriously worry about my shoes. Water flowed from waterproof pants and jacket in streams. The rain cover on the backpack broke down first. Only the tour saved the things inside the backpack. a rug placed around the perimeter. Everything that was in the valve of the backpack was absolutely soaked.

But, oddly enough, it was on this day that the movement along the trail significantly revived. Every now and then I came across whole caravans of donkeys loaded with luggage. In the company of a couple of three local residents, they ply between villages, supplying them with various goods and food. You will not find other ways here. There are no highways or helipads, only on foot, only along one path. From the beginning, they amused and diluted the situation a little, but after the 10th, 20th caravan, they became nervous. It is better to skip such a caravan, because the path is narrow, and sometimes you even jump over the pebbles, besides, even in the rain, these comrades smell very bad and from time to time they also shit on the path. She becomes completely impartial, and you need to step more carefully so as not to fall into another cake. In general, it was raining and the atmosphere was heating up.

The day dragged on. Every time I looked at the map, it seemed to me that the short road should be in a different place. There was a feeling that you were going a hefty detour, that the locals, for some reason, paved the way in the wrong place, that it could be shorter and easier. Then the mind prevailed, and the realization came that, they say, such a specialist had come here, who knew what was better and where, not like the locals who had lived here for centuries. I had to say to myself – it’s good to whine, just go and you will be happy, anyway, it’s not far away!

Until dark, I never reached Lukla, literally an hour’s journey. My feet ached, my shoes were completely wet. The rain did not even think to end. I just needed to find a way to warm up and get some rest. I stopped in the village of Surkei, exactly in the one where a week after a similar rain a landslide will come down and in several places it will blow 4 houses. I threw my backpack and somehow strolled through the village in search of a place to sleep. There I met a Sherpa named An. He was a cheerful little man, a little tipsy and very hospitable. I stayed with him at night.

He lived with his mother in a small house away from the trail. That is why on that unfortunate day when the landslide came down, he remained unharmed and sheltered half of the village in his house. But that evening there were three of us. An’s mother barely spoke English, knew only a few words, but An translated for me. He muddied up a nice dinner of boiled potatoes in their uniforms and a specialty Nepalese vegetable sauce with hot peppers, and of course hot tea to warm my bones. Another advantage of this place was the stove, on which it was convenient to throw the boots and dry them at least somehow.

In the morning, after breakfast at An’s, I got to Lukla. It really was an hour’s journey to her. It took me three and a half days to get to it. Not bad, considering that the locals called the figure of 5-6 days without a big backpack. The town of Lukla has an airport, and better-off tourists fly from Kathmandu directly here, then the road is only on foot or in a helicopter rented for big money. Here I decided to have a day out, replenish food supplies, wash and relax. Food here is on average 2 to 5 times more expensive compared to prices in Kathmandu. And the price of some non-food products can be 10 times higher than the price in the capital. There is no choice, here I also bought some nishtyaks to celebrate my birthday. There were 5 days left before him.