Wednesday, 02 November 2016
Mother Earth House
Lobuche, Khumbu Region. 4,930m asl.
I left Dingboche almost 4000 rupees (~PhP 2000) poorer. I wanted to cry. I spent so much on water and internet in Dingboche that the essence of being detached from the urban living comforts had been lost. But it was part stupidity, too. On my first night in Dingboche, I left my prepaid card on the dinner table thinking I only had to key in the username and password once. I almost coughed up my lemon juice the next morning when I couldn’t connect to the teahouse’s wi-fi and my prepaid card was nowhere to be found, likely thrown away by the staff last night. I resolved to forgo surfing the net and instead experience hardcore trekking by disconnecting from the fast-paced millennial world—for real this time. But I also wanted to pass the time by scrolling down my Facebook and Instagram feeds!
The decision was a no-brainer—I bought another prepaid card.
The upside of my Dingboche day-off was I finally made friends with other trekkers. Agnes and Fanny were also clients of Green Valley and their guide, Tsering, was best friends with my guide, Jangbu. So when the two guides saw each other at the teahouse, they were inseparable since. The Swedish girls and I also shared tables since then and left at the same time for Lobuche this morning. Our small groups basically merged.
But age had probably got the best of me for when we made the assault on the “hill” just behind our teahouse, the girls just zoomed through it never to be seen again until lunchtime at Dughla. It took me two-and-a-half hours to get to Dughla.
Each trekking day was harder than the last one, at least for now while we’re ascending. For most part of the morning trek today, I was just nauseous and weak and the only food that appealed to my queasy tummy were chocolates. Even if wanted to continue walking, my body would just automatically stop, lean on the nearest boulder then I would start to think of a hundred horrible ways I could die here.
Today’s itinerary was to get to Dughla (4620m) before noon then hike up to the memorial set up for fallen Everest climbers and push towards the village of Lobuche. I stopped being frustrated with myself for being painfully slow in a relatively flat terrain. My goal now was to reach base camp safely, or maybe not reach base camp, but just go back home alive.
My Swedish trek pals were just about to finish lunch when Jangbu and I arrived at Dughla at around 11:30am. Agnes must have noticed how famished and drained I was when I crashed into the chair next to her so she offered me some of her dal bhat. Dal bhat is a traditional Nepali dish consisting of steamed white rice and lentil soup or dal. Back when I was still researching about this trek, I read from so many blogs that this dish would give you enough energy to get through the harsh trekking days in the Himalayas. Dal bhat even had its own catchphrase here on the trail, “Dal bhat power, 24-hr,” meaning eating dal bhat would give you energy or power for 24 hours. But I stayed away from it because the first lentil soup I had in Arizona about six years ago tasted like mud; I was more a garlic soup person when I started the trek. Surprisingly, the lentil soup here tasted very much like the Filipino mung bean soup (ginisang munggo) minus other ingredients like shrimp, smoked fish, tofu or moringa leaves.
Agnes urged me to get dal bhat for lunch and I did. And it was the first time I finished almost all of my lunch serving—a cup of rice, lentil soup and vegetable curry. Praise God! I skipped vegetable curry, though, because I didn’t want to add bowel issues to my long list of hiking ailments.
The girls took off before my dal bhat was served and soon after I finished lunch and a quick trip to the restroom, Jangbu and I resumed trekking. The hike up to where the memorial was located was steep and bouldery; and from where we ate lunch, I could see a lot of trekkers struggling with the climb. After almost an hour of huffing and puffing, I made it up to the ridge, relieved that the next of this kind wouldn’t be until mid-morning tomorrow en route to Gorak Shep, the last pseudo-settlement before base camp.
It was a mix of awe and eeriness at the memorial, which consisted of six-foot-ish cairns with prayer flags. What a fitting time to be at the memorial, I thought as I walked through the giant cairns. Back home, today (November 2nd) was a holiday commemorating All Souls’ Day. I should be in my hometown, visiting my family’s graves and lighting candles for their souls and yet I was on this solo adventure contemplating on what else life could throw at me.
Names on the cairns were unfamiliar save for one—Scott Fischer. He was one of thetwelve climbers caught in a storm and perished tragically near the summit of Everest in 1996. And oddly, though, of those twelve only he had a cairn at the memorial. But it’s not really an issue, and it’s nice to somehow pay respects to these climbers who sort-of had the same passion as me.
It took us almost three hours to get to our teahouse in Lobuche. Agnes and Fanny were already there, catching some sun outside the teahouse. After I settled myself in, I went down to the dining area and grabbed a seat from one of the tables near the heater and started writing. Unlike all the other teahouses in the last four days, Mother Earth House was full, another telltale sign we were near base camp—more people in teahouses. I never saw this much people in the common area since I was in Namche, which felt like longer than a week ago. I wondered if Leo didn’t leave, would we be sharing a room here? Bet it would have been uncomfortable and awkward doing all my nighttime rituals with Leo in the same room. Just the thought of it made me cringe.