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Margaret and Keel's Asian Adventure
Riding Tigers: REPORT #23

April 25, Y2K BKK, Thailand

$1 = 37.5 bhat

My how times flies. It seems like no time ago that I was in Bangkok and yet I left from Nepal one day before my sixty day visa expired. Nepal is such a time warp kind of place that it should be no surprise that the time passed quickly.

To catch up, our trip to Nepal consisted of three treks. Our first one to the Langtang region just north of Katmandu was ten days long. The Panorama Trek in the Annapurna region took eight days. We just finished our Solu Khumbu trek to the Mt. Everest region. This trek took 22 days and the highlight of course was the trip to our guides home, so far off the tourist path that the locals still came to stare at the white people. Also seeing the scene at Namche Bazar and of course those glorious mountains. For any would be trekkers, I offer the following tidbits of information:

Be extremely careful of Altitude Sickness. If you have no experience with how you respond to altitude I would consider the Annapurna region. However, If you must "go to Everest" , do not go by flying in to Lukla. Walk in from Jiri instead. It takes one week to walk from Jiri to Lukla but by the time you arrive you are acclimatized and in shape. I was amazed at the number of trekkers I saw that flew to Lukla and then became sick from the altitude, thus ruining their very expensive trips. Two German tourist died of altitude related illness, one at Everest Base Camp the other at Ghoko, while I was trekking. I passed a house where a dead porter was being mourned. He died of altitude related, cerebral edema. It cost US $10,000 to be evacuated in a helicopter, yet we saw evacuations daily. We obtained 15,000 ft. without so much as a headache because we followed the rules: ascend slowly, drink copious quantities of water, schedule acclimatization days into your itinerary. Learn the symptoms and descend if they present themselves. Be smart about it. It serious stuff.

We did not use Diamox, which is a prescription medicine designed to help with altitude related illness. We were amazed at the people taking Diamox to prevent altitude sickness. The research is unclear about the phrophalatic use of Diamox but I believe it leads people to a false sense of security. Follow the rules and let your body acclimatize naturally.

We chose to walk in from Jiri via Pike Peak and the small village of Gora, where our guide Dawa was born and raised. We walked for days without seeing another tourist. We took 12 days to reach Namche Bazar and then trek north to the famous monastery at Thengboche, where early Everest Expeditions set up Base camp before realizing they weren't quite close enough to the mountain. The location does provides spectacular views to Everest and Lhotse. The monastery is worth a visit but don't stay in Thengboche as all the lodges are real dumps. Better to stay in Debouche about half hour walk north where several nice lodges may be found. We trekked toward Island Peak and climb several small knolls for glorious views of hundreds of Himalayan peaks. Do you realize that Nepal has over 1000 peaks higher than 20,000 Ft., many of them still unnamed. Nepal is truly a Shangra La. Its also a great weight loss program, all that hiking and high carbohydrate diet. I have lost at least 15 lbs.

Namche Bazaar is a very cool place. Located two days walk from Lukla. It has developed into a thriving Sherpa capital and a great place to get a cappuccino and some bakery items while watching the expeditions and tourist trekking scene unfold. You can actually get anything you need in Namche. Its sort of a like a little Katmandu in the mountains, only alot more expensive. If your going to Namche, the better lodges are higher up the slope. As it is a two hour very steep climb at the end of a long day to walk to Namche many people stop at the first lodges they come to in Namche. Walk on through the main part of town and stay at the better lodges a little higher up.

The Everest Region can be summed up as the best and the worst that Nepal has to offer. If your put off by blatant commercialism, very high prices and lots of people, you may want to trek another area. However, the mountains and views are unrivaled by other treks. Annapurna region has much better trails and trail maintenance, and the lodges are better than in the Everest region. Annapurna has virtually no expeditions (incredible huge groups) and is less expensive. Also in Annapurna you have no altitude issue to contend with. Langtang is a sweet gem of a trek that is only limited by the number of Himalayan peaks that you observe. This is not too much of a down side cause you can almost touch the ones you do see, there so close.

Nepal is a wonderful place with wonderful people. I certainly plan to return. I close this update for now. Hope to file a few more while in Bangkok. I am going to stay here for a few days and hope to meet with the creator of this web-site, Taka who is currently traveling in Thailand. From here it is a little unclear but immediate plans are to go to the sapphire minds near Kanchanaburi. I also intend to honor the history of my parents generation by going to see the Bridge over the River Kwai and the allied cemeteries near Kanchanaburi. Cheers

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