Thursday, 12 November 2009

The Adventure Company: Top tips for Travelling in Peru

Alison Tunnock recently went to Peru with The Adventure Company, and knowing how many people on our community are searching for information and guides for their own trip, has kindly submitted some tips for everyone to benefit from!

Peru Top Tips


1) Exchange most of your Dollars into Sol on arrival. Despite contrary advice, we found that everything was quoted in Sol and the street seller only wanted Sol. You can negotiate an exchange rate, but this would be less favourable. All shops and restaurants quote in Sol only. Water etc en route needs to be paid for in Sol.


2) It can get very very very cold at night, take the warmest sleeping bag you can find, it still won’t be warm enough!


3) Be aware that your holder for the trek cannot weigh more than 7kg. After taking into account your sleeping bag and mat – it doesn’t leave much left for clothes etc. The porters are very strict with this and you will see why when you see the poor chaps carrying them up the mountain. As the days go on and the food and drink gets eaten, you will be allowed to add more to your holders for the porters to carry.


4) The food is actually very good and we found that we didn’t need so many snack bars for the trek. They will give you one or two snack bars/chocolate each day and we found this more than adequate.


5) Wear lots of layers, you will get warm whilst walking. Also take some sort of headscarf for the later days – you really will not fancy washing your hair in the freezing mornings. If not, invest in a cheap bottle of dry shampoo- lots of girl adventurers swear by it!


6) Your mobile phone won’t work for almost the duration of the hike, so prepare anyone who may need to get hold of you.

7) Take spare camera batteries, memory cards etc – you will be trul amazed how many photos you will want to take.


8) The walking poles are useful, especially for going downhill. And we found the less fit members used them for going uphill too.


9) There are toilets on the trek – to varying standards! There will be a toilet at each campsite.

10) Be prepared to have numerous "enthusiastic" encounters street sellers. And also when you go into the shops. It's also polite to tip the children if you have a photo taken with them.

11) The porters work incredibly hard! They carry your stuff, cook, tidy up, serve you. You even get hot water and tea in bed in the mornings! You must give them a big generous tip at the end!!


12) You will get a menu on arrival which you choose from for the trek days. 3 hot meals a day with crisps and snacks waiting for you each day after trekking. We even got a birthday cake made for one of our party and mulled wine!

13) We all got attitude sickness to varying levels but most of us just had a slight headache. It is surprising how it hits you when you first arrive in Cusco, we all thought we were dying! But you do adjust quite quickly. Just don’t think you can run up the stairs to your hotel room. I did and soon regretted it! There was internet connection at the hotel in Cusco.


14) Find places to chill out and chat about your trip with new friends in Lima as its limited on attractions. If not, it could be a big come down after such a great trip.

It was an amazing trip and very manageable for all standards of fitness. They have a guide at the front and one at the back so no one gets left behind. We were looked after incredibly well and no one felt scared or threatened at any point. Hilda (our guide) was wonderful and very knowledgeable.

Are you looking for trekking tours to Peru, or simply looking for a holiday in Peru? Why not take a look at trips The Adventure Company offer. Visit their Peru page or visit their website for more information.

Thanks for reading,
The Adventure Company

Friday, 4 September 2009

The Adventure Company: Air Cadets swoop in on Morocco!

This months blog comes from Cardiff Air Cadets who recently took part in our Atlas Trails Teenage Adventure trip in Morocco. Their group leader, Troy Blackenship shares his travel diary with us:

20-27 Aug 2009
"14 staff and 20 cadets from 1344 Cardiff Squadron, Air Training Corps, have just returned from their first overseas adventurous training expedition in the Atlas Mountains, Morocco.

The Atlas Mountains are a mountain range across a northern stretch of Africa extending
about 2,400km (1,500 miles) through Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia. The expedition lasted a week and included a day in Marakkech before being transported to Oukaimeden at 8,600 feet in the Atlas Mountains to begin trekking. They had no experience of
expeditions in Morocco and so this expedition was arranged in conjunction with The Adventure Company who arranged a hotel in Marakkech and gite accommodation in the mountains, qualified Mountain Leaders, chefs, muleteers and mules to transport the food and main luggage on the mountains.

Many cadets were unable to afford the full cost of this expedition, so the squadron applied to 4 charities for additional funding to support the expedition. They all made significant contributions, and they are The Royal Air Force Charitable Trust, The Ulysses Trust, The Scarman Scholarship, The Jane Hodge Foundation, and finally a grant from the Air Cadets Region HQ (Wales & West).

Thursday 20 Aug 09 -Arrival
The group experienced very heavy rain on their coach journey to Gatwick but arrived with plenty of time to spare and boarded an Easyjet flight to Marakkech. The plane landed in Marrakech after a 3 3⁄4 hour flight where they met Abdul and Khalid, their 2 Mountain Leaders for the expedition. The temperature was, according to the pilot, a chilly 42
degrees Centigrade.


The team arrived at hotel Ryad Mogador after an interesting drive from the airport. Four lanes of traffic apparently driving in 2 marked lanes, and lots of dirty mopeds weaving around made things hair raising. Horn beeping indicates that an overtaking manoeuvre is about to take place, and the whole scene can only be described as organised chaos. To cross the road you walk out in front of the traffic and hold your hand up. It was very hot for a chilly day.
That evening the group visited a restaurant in the centre of Marrakech for the first taste of Moroccan food.

Friday 21 Aug 09 -Tour of Marrakech
They were taken on a walking tour of Marrakech which is a curious blend of 3rd world
basic living and the modern world. Mules work alongside motor transport and housing or
shops were very basic but have electricity. Most electrical goods and furniture on display were 1970s style. There are very few modern cars and trucks on the roads, most taxis being very old Mercedes and small Peugeot cars.
The guide for the Marakkech tour and Khalid and Abdu are all Berbers, but whilst the guide books imply they are a separate culture these young men were very metropolitan and mixed culture. One of the guides spoke 5 languages. It was extremely hot again, but when it is this warm the daily variation of a few degrees is imperceptible.
They visited a Berber pharmacy in the Souks and after a glass of mint tea were educated on the different herbs oils and creams and their uses. The group then visited the Palais De La Bahia.


After the palace there was time for souvenir shopping before making their way to the main open square in Marakkech, Djemma el-Fna, where there are snake charmers and market traders. The walk back from the square to the hotel was very arduous in the extreme heat.

On arrival at the hotel they had a few hours playing in the hotel swimming pool.
In the evening the group went back to the square, which this time was packed with people, and visited a nearby hotel for dinner. The roof garden of the hotel was covered in large dining marquees. Most people in the group had the same feeling about Marakkech -it felt like they have been there forever, and yet it was only one very long day.

Saturday 22 Aug 09 -Marrakesh to Oukaimeden.
First day in the mountains.
The overriding impression of both Marakkech and the journey to the Atlas Mountains was
one of a lack of architectural style and of poverty. The mountains appeared very slowly through a heat haze. The mountain road as they climbed to Oukaimeden brought
spectacular scenery anda few shops which appeared to be in the middle of nowhere. The
road had shear unprotected edges but the scenery was a great distraction. Berber houses appeared in the hillsides. Most trees disappeared from the mountains at around 2000 metres.

The accommodation at Oukaimeden was dormitory style. At 8633 feet the scenery was
rather like a cowboy western with grassy plains and mountains (usually covered in snow), and the temperature was more like a very hot day in the UK with a gentle breeze. There were mules, small cows and the occasional horse. Homes around the area are mostly hand built with dry rocks (for the Nomads) and rocks with concrete for the others.

In the afternoon the plan was to trek up to the summit of Oukaimeden at just over 9,800
feet, the highest peak in the area. They set off on the climb with the sound of thunder all around. The sun disappeared, and having climbed just over 100 feet had to stop to put on waterproof clothing. By 200 feet the rain was getting very heavy, and the guides wisely decided to abandon the mountain. Near the bottom of the mountain the rain turned to hail stones, vindicating their decision. At this height the hail stones really hurt as they hit your


Not everyone attempted the first climb because the altitude affected some more than
others. Most people felt queasy, some felt sick and others had mild breathlessness, but the vast majority had recovered within hours.

The group finally set out again after an hour and climbed the mountain trail behind our gite. The same pattern began again with waterproofs being put on as it rained at 100 feet, but as the group continued the rain eventually stopped, and they reached the summit after an ascent of approximately 300 feet. The vista was breathtaking. The first mountain had been conquered.



Sunday 23 Aug 09 -In the Mountains, Oukaimeden to Aguersioual
Ten mules arrived the previous evening, and on this bright Sunday morning they were just standing still, untethered, with no thoughts of running away. The first thing you notice about mules is that they do not turn their heads when standing still. They just stare at whatever they have been pointed at. The group discovered later that mules walk faster than people on hills, so the mules would set off an hour or so after the walking party, overtake them, and arrive at the destination an hour or so ahead of them. The altitude was still having an effect on some people so 3 staff and 2 cadets were taken by Land Rover to the next gite. The ride was very rough, and the Land Rover stopped 5 times for the group to get out and help fill in holes in the track to make it passable.

The morning climb up the first mountain to a height of 9000 feet did not take long, and the group stopped at this highest point in the trek for photographs holding the old Ynysybwl Ensign which is being photographed in as many locations as possible around the world by air cadets.


The terrain ranges from cement dust consistency to rocks and everything in between, and a trail is a 12-18 inch wide place where others have gone before –not always a proper footpath. The morning trek was 10km to a Berber village of Asamkru and was extremely difficult, with much of it along the sides of steep gradients or down steep rocky descents.

The only shade to be found was underneath Juniper trees.




Light rain started as the group lunched under the trees, but as the lunch ended the rain became torrential and everyone had to rush to clear up the mats they sat on and put their boots back on. With waterproof clothing on they scrambled back up the village hill to be met by a torrent of muddy water which they had to get across. A Berber family gave them shelter in their barn. Whilst watching the floods develop a young boy was spotted trying to prevent the floodwaters enter his house. A group of cadets and staff and Abdu, one of the guides, went to help him dig a diversionary channel. Five minutes later they returned - mission accomplished.


The rain stopped and the guides arranged for one cadet suffering from dehydration to be carried on a mule to the next village. Sounds easy but imagine being scared of heights and then sit six feet up on a mule which is walking on an 18 inch wide unmade track with a long way to fall if you slip. Every step on the trail is an effort as you look for a secure place to put down each foot. The group had descended about 1000 feet to lunch, and then climbed 800 very difficult feet and finally descended a similar height down to the village of Aguersioual. The total distance travelled today was 19 km.

Life is so simple and basic around these parts of Morocco. The weather had been so variable and the trekking was above the fitness level of the average 50 year old. The trek today took 10 hours, and no- one will forget it. Nor will they forget the shower at the gite –just a bucket with a tap.

After dinner the cooks, muleteers and guides entertained them with Berber music and
dancing, the music being made with metal trays, water carriers, saucepans and spoons. A fantastic cultural experience. The scene was reminiscent of African dancing.

Time in Morocco passes very slowly, approximately half the speed that a person would
guess without a watch. By the end of this evening all cadets were feeling fine and only 2 staff were below par.


Monday 24 Aug 09 -Aguersioual -Imlil -Aremd
This morning one cadet and two staff were not well enough to walk. They were all taken by minibus to the next gite in Aremd. The trails on the 10km walk were wider and more
solidand much easier to walk on, and it took just 4 hours. The temperature was high and at one point the group came across a channel of fast flowing water which they used to cool down by soaking their clothes and immersing their heads.

The scenery is breathtaking and they passed through Imlil which is a very tourist centred village. A little while later they passed another mule and muleteer coming down a trail as they climbed.



The fitness and agility of the native Berber people in the group had to be seen to be
believed. They run on slopes on which others would fall and they have the bounce and
energy of a spring lamb. The group has been supported by the addition of muleteers and
cooks whilst walking, and they would run ahead near the end of the trek in order to be
ready with drinks and food when the group arrives.

Tuesday 25 Aug 09 -Aremd / day Walk to Sidi Chamharouch
This morning as the group set out they were passed by many local women walking up
steep hills back to the village carrying grasses and sacks of feed on their backs and heads for the mules and goats. The men had all gathered at a house to build an extension. The community spirit in this Berber village is everywhere to be seen. It is incredible that despite their basic existence the Berber women and their children are always very well dressed, the women particularly often looking so brightly and smartly dressed that they look as if they are going out to dine, which of course they are not.


The group trekked 1300 feet up an almost continuous climb to Sidi Chamharouch which is
a religious shrine where a holy man died. It is a place used by Muslims in the same way as a pilgrimage to Lourdes. People with health problems visit looking for a faith cure, and we suspect it is mostly used by couples who cannot have children. Some people purchased little mementos. Then it was down to a river for a tented picnic and a swim.


After the 9km trek back to Aremd the group passed a Mosque with the sound of young
children chanting. The guide explained that this was the Koran school where children have to learn the Koran word for word between the ages of 3 and 7, after which they start normal schooling.

Wednesday 26 Aug 09 -Back to Marrakech
The group started with an hour's walk from the Gite down to the village of Imlil where they met the coach to return to Marakkech. Just above the village of Imlil the group saw the beginnings of Western civilised standards with a major road construction project under way with huge lorries delivering hardcore, and one lorry delivering stone which was then carried by mule up an incline to a house being built very much in line with our construction standards.

After a pleasant return journey to Marakkech most people stayed around the hotel in the afternoon to play in the swimming pool and experience a rare event in the Atlas Mountains -a HOT shower.

Thursday 27 Aug 09 –Return home
Today they flew home tired, having completed a difficult but very enjoyable trek in the High Atlas Mountains. The witnessing and, to some extent, experiencing the Berber culture has been an eye opener, making everyone appreciate the standard of living we have in this country, and this was equally as important as the actual trekking.

The heights and distances covered have been phenomenal and quite a strain on the whole
group, but if it was too easy it would not be such a great achievement. I found that by the end of the third day trekking most muscle pains just disappeared. The Berber people are camera shy, hence no pictures of them.

Our appetite has been whetted. We can’t wait for our next adventure.
Steven Abbott MBE
Sqn Ldr RAFVR(T)
OC 1344 Cardiff Sqn, Air Training Corps"

The full picture set in high resolution can be found here

The air cadets went on the Atlas Trails Teenage Adventure trip in Morocco.

Are you interested in trekking in Morocco or are you looking to explore Morocco with friends? The Adventure Company have 16 tours which can suit every traveller, whether that be solo travel, group travellers or couples looking to get away on their own adventure. Visit the Adventure Company websiter to find out more.

Thanks for reading,
The Adventure Company

Friday, 7 August 2009

The Adventure Company: Completing Everest Base Camp!

We've a special treat for you this month as we have not 1, but 2 blogs this month. Reason being, we've had plenty of enquiries recently about Everest Base Camp and we felt travel writer, Rob Lewis really summarised his time there perfectly. That's without mentioning his stunning pictures, of course...

Everest Base Camp Trek
7 -23 March 2009
Rob Lewis

Day 1: Arrival in Kathmandu
The chaotic Kathmandu traffic on the journey from the airport is the first thing to make an impression in Nepal. It’s a constant wonder how the cars, trucks, bikes and pedestrians avoid colliding. I’m convinced there must be some rules in play amongst it all but I can’t figure out what they are!

The Hotel Tibet is our base in Kathmandu, a marvel of Tibetan architecture and design in red and gold. The facilities are clean and comfortable and the staff welcoming. Our Group Leader, Lalit, introduces me to the rest of the group who arrived earlier (my fault for booking so late!) and we enjoy a relaxed briefing from Lalit in the hotel restaurant over a beer or two. The Group of ten (six male, four female) get along well sharing the mutual excitement of the trip ahead. Everyone has their reasons for being here, mine is a fascination with Everest and the epic stories of successful and unsuccessful summit attempts. Base Camp is, however, definitely my limit!

View of Kathmandu

Spice Seller in Kathmandu

Day 2: Guided Tour of Kathmandu
An early start the next morning sees us boarding a bus for a guided tour of the capital. A friendly Guide is aboard to show us around and he is a wealth of knowledge and information not to mention bad jokes! We visit the enormous Swayambhu stupa and temple complex complete with its resident monkeys and we take lunch overlooking the enormous Boudha Stupa. Our Guide is also keen to enable us to walk at our own pace through the bustling streets with all their sights and smells.

Girl in Kathmandu

Kathmandu Kids 2

Temple in Kathmandu 5

I have some fun taking pictures of the local children who never fail burst into fits of laughter when they see themselves on the camera screen. Following a visit to Patan Durbar Square we end the day on the banks of the Bagmati river to witness the cremations at Pashupatnath which is a sombre but equally fascinating experience.

Kathmandu Funeral Pyre

In the evening I head down to the tourist district of Thamel to stock up for the trek. Thamel is a maze of insanely busy streets crammed full of trekking equipment and tourist shops and places to eat and drink. Its chaos is captivating and I dive right in. I pick up some cheap missing items of gear and plenty of chocolate and biscuits for essential energy!

In the evening we head out to a local restaurant where we sample the delights of live Nepali music and dance (including yeti and yak dancing!) and also try some raksi (a super strong local spirit) which could strip paint I’m sure but that doesn’t stop me trying more than one. The food is great and my vegetarian diet is carefully kept in tact by our watchful Guide, Lalit who directs the waiters as to what should give me from the sharing menu. It’s a great night.

Yeti Attacks in Kathmandu Restaurant!

Day 3: Flight to Lukla and trek to Phakding

An early rise the next morning and nothing has prepared me for the flight to Lukla. The plane is a reasonably modern 16 seater but rather ’cosy’ and I find myself looking over the pilot’s shoulder for the flight and, most memorably, for the landing. Perhaps not a seat I would recommend for the nervous flier. Huge cheers and applause erupt upon landing together with a few signs of relief. Great fun though!

Approach to Lukla

Once out of the tiny airport I get a first sight of the Himalayas which tower above all around Lukla and even here the view is breathtaking. Also noticeable is the thinner air after flying up from the Kathmandu valley, a sign of things to come as we all know. We dump our large bags and meet our other assistant guides and porters.

One of our Guides - Nehendra (Smiley!)

I marvel as the young porters load up, each taking two large bags on his back and roping over his forehead to spread the weight. And off they go, at a pace that will never cease to amaze me for the entire trip. We shall see them again each evening when they kindly deposit our bags in our lodgings (usually right outside our rooms).

And after a cup of tea and a quick equipment check (camera, sun lotion, hat, poles, sunglasses etc. etc.!) we are off. We trek for a few hours, mostly downhill which is a thankfully gentle introduction and take in the relatively lowland scenery of gorges, rivers and green fields of crops.

Tentative Crossing for Kathy

We arrive at our Phakding lodge which, to our amusement, is still under construction in places and we are the first to use our bare wooden bedrooms out in the back yard which have mostly only been completed that day. The room next to me is still being built and it looks like they had to finish mine in a hurry as, curiously, the ensuite bathroom door lock is on the outside!

Days 4 & 5: Namche Bazaar
The trek takes us up sunlit woodland trails which are steep in places and across long swaying suspension bridges over rushing white water. Those with a fear of heights cross tentatively whilst some others make the most of the experience and walk with an exaggerated bounce to their step which sets the bridge in motion and makes things a little more exciting!

We marvel (as always) as porters march across and up the track carrying simply ridiculous loads. One train of porters we pass carry slabs of wooden beams for building construction which must easily weigh 70kg. The weight is so great they’re unable to raise their heads to look up and we must navigate carefully around them. I wonder what we must look like fitted with all the latest trekking gear when all we carry is a camera and some water.

Namche Bazaar

As we climb up and round a corner we come across our first view of Everest between the trees. It’s a buzz to catch the first glimpse of the reason I’m here albeit a distant one but nonetheless the famous Everest ‘plume’ is visible and we all pause to take in the view and avail ourselves of the satsumas on sale from a local farmer who has obviously spotted a good location for business.

The proceeding steep climb up into Namche is rewarded with the sight of shops stocked full of essential trekker supplies and, after some rest at the lodge, we head out and stock up on warmer clothes and chocolate amongst other things. I rent a 4 season sleeping bag and buy a fleece liner to go inside. One thing I hadn’t expected was just how cold things would be at night even relatively low on the trek. And things only get colder as you get higher. Others rent chunky down jackets which they intend to sleep in. One rule to remember is that you can always take the extra clothes off at night but you can’t put things on that you don’t have! Namche also has places to email, get a massage and play pool. It’s no wonder that this is the first place chosen for us to stay for an extra night to acclimatise.

Namche Bazaar Kids

Namche is located 3,440 meters on crescent shaped mountain slopes and our ‘day off’ the next day is a climb up and out as we trek steeply up to the Sagarmatha National Park Visitor's Centre and then on (and up!) to a hotel suitably named ‘Everest View’ where magnificent views of Everest are available from the outdoor area at the back of the restaurant.

Rob & Everest!

Day 6: Namche to Tengboche
The trek the next day from Namche to Tengboche is made a little easier by the previous days acclimatisation but is still tough going in places. That said, the pace, as ever, is moderate and involves frequent rest stops to allow us to get our breath back. Everyone is still feeling fine which is good news.

Decending back towards Namche

Martin, Matt, Diane and Matt

The views as we climb get ever more spectacular and I’m starting to really feel like I’m high up. We pass mountain goats and see our first Yak trains as they plod down the trails with incredible surefootedness on even the most rocky sections.

Yak Attack!

We pin ourselves against the mountain side (as instructed) to allow these huge beasts to pass on the narrow path, the theory being they are much less likely to topple over the edge than we are! I have to actually breathe in a couple of times to prevent a rather large pointed horn snagging on my jacket.

By this stage we are wearing windproof jackets and woolly hats and gloves. Gone are the t-shirts and shorts we wore on the way up to Namche. The wind has picked up notably and occasional strong gusts reduce temperatures instantly. The sun continues to shine down most of the time and sunglasses are still a must.

Memorials to Fallen Climbers

Our arrival in Tengboche is heralded by the sight of the highest monastery in the world at 3860m. Everest, Kwangde, Nuptse, Lhotse and Kangtega amongst others stand tall above and present a truly magnificent scene. After some negotiation Lalit gains permission for us to be shown round the monastery which was locked for the evening. Inside is a scene of utter peace and tranquillity with beautifully ornate decoration in oranges, golds and reds. Its easy to forget you are in the high Himalayas when wondering around inside.

Inside the Monestary at Thyangboche

From the monastery we walk behind and along a path to enjoy yet more jaw dropping views off to the west Also here are a few memorials to fallen climbers which remind us all that despite their beauty these mountains have a darker side. I linger as the others head back to the lodge to take in the sunset over the surrounding peaks and take some snaps. It’s a wonderful feeling of remote wilderness and the silence is almost audible.

Day 7: Tengboche to Dingboche
I awake to a view of sunrise over Everest out of my bedroom window. Not a regular morning by any means! I miss out on an option to head over the monastery at 6am to watch morning puja (prayers) as I choose to grab all the sleep I can and remain in bed. I hear from others in the group who go that only 3 monks show up so perhaps the others made the same decision as me!

View of Kathmandu

After breakfast we trek down dusty paths to a river where we cross and then start up the other side. The landscape is beginning to change now, gone are the woodlands and lush greenery, replaced by browns and greys with dense gorse bushes and rough grasses growing by the side of the trail.

The Group Heads out of Dingboche

We arrive at Orsa and stop at a remote lodge for lunch, we will actually be staying at this place on the way down although we don’t know it yet. It’s at this point that someone (I think I’m safe to blame Lalit) recommends garlic as a preventative measure against altitude sickness (AMS) and those with a liking order garlic soup and some raw cloves are handed round. What possesses me to eat one is anyone’s guess but the effects are instantly unpleasant. I contemplate, as my eyes water and my breath strips paint, that I would perhaps have preferred a dose of AMS!

We walk for only another half hour or so before arriving at Dingboche at 4262m where we will spend another extra acclimatisation day. It’s at this point, as we approach the lodge, that I start to feel the first effects of the altitude as my head begins to ‘buzz’ and I feel slightly dizzy. Up until now I had found things relatively easy going (I’m a bit of fitness freak back home) but now things start to feel like hard work.

Bloody Cold on the Khuumu Glacier Moraine

The lodge is very basic (the rule is now clear – the higher you go the more basic things get!) and it seems like we’re in for a cold couple of nights. As always a game or two of Uno is played before a couple of us decide to join another group staying at the lodge for a strange drama school game which I never fully understand followed by Charades where I struggle to play out a mime for ‘Muriel’s Wedding’… Generally it’s hard to fill the time in the evenings and I berate myself for not having brought some travel board games or similar. The rest of the evening is spent huddled around the wood burning stove (which at this height is actually burning yak dung given the lack of trees in the area), keeping ourselves warm and reading by head torch.

Day 8: Dingboche
The next morning I wake feeling pretty awful as a stomach bug has settled in during the night. The acclimatisation walk is therefore a tortuous affair for me and I begin to feel utterly exhausted only a few hundred metres up the steep trail. The altitude only compounds the problem and soon Lalit takes the decision to stop me and escort me back down to the lodge. This is a low point. Not only do I feel terrible but I start to worry that, unless I recover before tomorrow’s departure up to Labouche, it could be the end of my trip.

I sleep for most of the day whilst the others complete their walk and relax. However as the afternoon progresses a few others start to feel unwell. It’s fortunate at least that we sicken on a rest day where we will have the chance to recover before the day’s walking tomorrow. We hope so anyway.

Day 9: Dingboche to Labouche
The next morning most of us are feeling better. Only one member of the team, Matt, is still feeling poorly but he grits his teeth and heads out with the rest of us. We trek up and then along a spectacular valley where I grab some long range shots of the group as they trek along in single file with guides at the front and rear. We zig-zag up the valley floor crossing back and forth over streams and ice encrusted rapids. The view back down to Perriche is breath taking and its hard to keep pace sometimes such is the desire to continually stop and take in the vistas.

Leaving Lobuche to head to EBC

After lunch we climb sharply up to a site of memorials for fallen climbers and sherpas. Amongst them I linger at the memorial to Scott Fisher who perished in the 1996 Everest Disaster, the subject of one of my favourite books ‘Into Thin Air’ which I have brought with me to read once again on this trip. The barren landscape and blustery grey skies only add to the sense of sadness at this place.

Poignant Memorial to a Climber

We arrive early at Labouche (4930m) and after lunch we head up a nearby slope to ascend onto the Khumbu Glacier moraine take in stunning views of the glacier and the wider Everest region. The climb is tough and the wind blasts us with snow but we’re not disappointed by the panorama at the top.

The snow has left a white carpet over the whole area and the night is bitterly cold. This, added to excitement of the next day’s trek to EBC, results in a virtually sleepless night.

Its at this point we lose our first team members as Matt decides to descend in order to fight his stomach bug at a less extreme altitude and Kathy’s headaches and nausea cause her to decide enough is enough. It’s hard not to feel a sense of togetherness on this trip and we’re all gutted for them both.

Day 10: Labouche to Gorak Shep & Everst Base Camp
A 6.30am start is necessary to be sure of getting to EBC and back to Gorak Shep in one day. The walk is now through snow and ice, the landscape dominated by the Khumbu Glacier which appears as a motionless river of ice and rocks (although it is, in actual fact, slowly making its way down the valley). We undulate up and down through the rocks besides the glacier and it’s hard to keep a footing. At one point, a Tibetan Snow Cock perches just a few feet above us and serenades our passing with its distinctive call.

Gorak Shep Lodge

We trek into Gorak Shep (5160m) having made a good pace (Lalit hails it as ‘Nepali Pace’) but I feel I’m now suffering for it. We grab some soup and pasta for what, in my confused state, I think is lunch but as its only 9.30am it’s actually breakfast. As we head out towards EBC my head starts to pound and I try to get as much water on board as possible. The walking continues along the glacier with short sharp climbs and descents as we weave in and out of the rocky moraine.

Approaching Base Camp

Base Camp Climbers

Finally Base Camp (5346m) comes into view and it’s not long before we’re crossing the glacier itself to reach a vantage point looking down over the tents pitched by the first of the season’s expeditions and toward the notorious Khumbu Icefall. It’s truly a wondrous sight and the fact that there is no actual view of Everest from here seems of no consequence.

Iain did it for charity!

Everest Base Camp. 5346m!

This is the culmination of seven days of extremely challenging trekking and a lifetime ambition achieved. Together the group and guides join in celebration and pose for pictures and we try to let the event sink in. After what seems like five minutes but is actually half an hour we depart back towards Gorak Shep, however I feel exhausted and every step is an effort requiring concentration and deep breathing to get oxygen on board in sufficient quantities. At this height the air contains only 50% of the oxygen found at sea level and the walk back to the lodge, some 2 hours or so, will undoubtedly remain the most physically demanding thing I ever do. By the time we get to the lodge I am utterly exhausted.

Day 11: Kala Patar
The optional hike up this 5500m peak is now only open to 6 of us as two more have decided to descend. And to my eternal regret my sleepless night and pounding headache, not to mention the exertion of the day before, cause me to remain in my sleeping bag as the others head out at 5.30am. I do head up at 7.30am and reach about halfway before meeting some of the group on the way down and descending with them having run out of time to go up any further. I have at least managed to take a few pictures which will become my favourite of the entire trip as they almost do justice to the amazing scenery encountered at that height.

Khumbu Ice Fall

View from the way up Kala Pattar

Back at breakfast the four who made it to the top describe an effort even more challenging than the day before but equally as rewarding given the views of sunrise over Everest and its surrounding peaks.

Porter passing group

After breakfast we begin the descent back down to Orsa which, after a few technical sections back to Labouche, becomes a virtual stroll compared to the journey up as the terrain smoothes out and the air gets richer.

Days 12-15: Orsa to Lukla (via Namche Bazaar & Phakding)
The pace now is hell for leather as, reunited as a full team, we march downwards with our lungs full of oxygen rich air and the sun on our backs. Its quite amazing how places such as Namche feel so comfortable now compared to when ascending when we endured headaches and breathlessness. We meet other groups coming up and worry for those already struggling but say nothing. There really is a lot to be said for the old expression ‘positive mental attitude’ and that’s the only advice I provide. The rewards are worth the effort…and then some.

Porter passing group

Lodge at Thukla

Walking back into Lukla in the first rain of the trip I experience a mix of feelings. Its good to be down at a relatively low altitude and to get a warm shower and a proper bed but Lukla also signifies the end of the trek and I feel sad that it’s all over.

Party Time, Lukla 2

Nevertheless, with alcohol now back firmly on the agenda after our week long high altitude abstinence its party time in our Lukla lodge and we celebrate our successful trek with a dinner for all the guides and porters followed by a disco where everyone really lets their hair down. It’s a great night and cements what has been a truly fantastic trip to EBC.

Party Time at Phakding

Hot Shot Matt

The Whole Team!

We say emotional goodbyes to all our porters and assistant guides as only Lalit will accompany us back to Kathmandu.

Day 16: Lukla to Kathmandu

After another hair-raising flight back to Kathmandu we disembark into the searing heat and smog which I had long since forgotten about whilst up in the mountains. The chaos of the city at first seems too much to bear but soon all seems normal again.

Colourful Shop, Durbar Square, Kathmandu

I spend a few hours shopping in Thamel which offers a vast array of souvenir shops and stalls selling everything from Ghurkha knives to pirate DVDs. I can only fit so much into my luggage so I have to show some restraint and resist the continuous attempts by shop owners to lure me into their premises with ‘cheapest North Face’ and ‘real Goretex’.
The rest of the afternoon is spent relaxing at the Hotel Tibet although most of it sheltering from torrential rain and lightning storms.

Rum Doodle Restaurant, Kathmandu

In the evening Lalit takes us to the famous ‘Rum Doodle’ restaurant in Thamel where masses of cardboard yeti feet signed by hundreds of previous trekkers and mountaineers adorn the walls. If you summit Everest you get free food for life here but I’m happy to pay as the food and drink is fantastic. We all sign our ‘foot’ and add a few of the common phrases from our trip such as “Everyone ready for outside!” and “Jam Jam!”. Our foot takes pride of place above the serving hatch from the kitchen so look out for it if you ever stop by.

Day 17: Kathmandu
A lazy day is spent wondering round Durbar Square and its array of temples and holy shrines. We also head to Freak Street, centre of the 1960’s and 70’s hippy community but now nothing more than a modern commercial area now full of backpacker accommodation and cafes.

The evening is again spent enjoying the Thamel nightlife and culminates in rickshaw race as six of us hire three bicycle rickshaws and willing drivers to race back to the hotel. It’s hard to shout encouragement to your driver when you’re laughing so hard but we do our best and they laugh as much as we do as the three dilapidated machines jostle for first place. All goes well until Matt and Iain decide to jump out of their rickshaw and run along side to speed up their effort only for Iain to fall under the wheels as he tries to get back in. A few cuts and bruises are par for the course we assure him once we have careered to a halt outside the hotel and our drivers are still laughing at him and the rest of us as they cycle off back to Thamel.

Day 18: Departing Kathmandu

It’s the end of the road. It’s a sad day to be leaving Nepal and it’s sad to be saying good bye to the rest of the group. As we depart the hotel is filling up with expeditions going for the summit and after experiencing the trek to Base Camp where these groups will only be starting their challenge I marvel at what it must take to get to the summit of Everest, the 8848m roof of the world…"

Are you interested in completing Everest Base Camp? The Adventure Company offer a range of treks to suit all visitors and fitness levels. Find out more on our website or visit our Nepal page for full itineraries and information.

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The Adventure Company