By Gary Tse
Everyone has an inner beastie boy inside of them. When the one inside me took over control, I embarked on an adventure with my friends that took me right to the Himalayas, to the foot of the world’s highest mountain, Mt Everest.
To reach the Everest Base Camp, one can either fly into Lukla, or take a bus to Jiri which will add an additional 4 to 7 days to the trek. The upside of going the long way is getting to see the undisturbed way of life in the Sherpa villages. Due to the lower tourist traffic, the section between Jiri and Lukla is more pristine and untouched.
A 14-hour bus ride took us from Kathmandu to the town of Bhandar, slightly past Jiri. The bus ride was not the smoothest one and at different points, the passengers had to push the bus out of a muddy pool, change a punctured tyre, and push another dead vehicle out of the way. The adventure had already started before we reached our starting point.
The additional benefit of starting earlier is the physical conditioning and gradual acclimatisation to the altitude. This stretch was in fact more arduous and tiring than some of the higher altitudes. Of course, we also managed to enjoy the undisturbed countryside at our own leisure. Along the way, we got used to the suspension bridges, raging rivers and friendly Sherpas.
After 8 days, we reached Namche Bazaar, which has an altitude of 3440m and is also the main central activities hub in the Khumbu region. Everyone stays a day or two at Namche before moving on to the higher altitudes, and it is easy to fall in love with this small town. Yours truly also had his last shower for the next 2 weeks here, before it got too cold and expensive.
In some ways, this trek truly reflects the age-old mantra that it is about the journey, not the destination. Even if you do not reach EBC, the trek would already have changed you in more than one ways. Walking among the mountains and rivers, one cannot help but feel overwhelmed by the sheer beauty of the Himalayas. The scenery on display will convince anyone that they love nature.
When I eventually reached Everest Base Camp, it turned out to be much more disappointing than what I expected. Partly because I started in early March, the climbing season had not started and there were no pitched tents around. In fact, I was the only trekker at Base Camp that day and almost got lost if not for another two porters headed the same way. After struggling to take a decent self-shot for 15 minutes, this was the best I could manage.
Although I had ticked Everest Base Camp off my list, I was no longer satisfied with just that initial goal and decided to head over to Gokyo, separated from Everest Base Camp by a mountain range. Gokyo is an alternative destination to Everest Base Camp from Namche Bazaar and is renowned for its beautiful lakes at such a high altitude. It also offers magnificent views of the Himalayan mountain range, including Everest. Although it added another few days to my trek, the effort was well worth it, as you can see below.
While Gokyo is relatively unknown compared to Everest Base Camp, it is definitely much more beautiful and captivating. When I was at EBC, I realised I could not get a view of Mt Everest simply because I was too close. In hindsight, getting to EBC was an achievement unlocked, but what really made the trek worth it was the view from Gokyo.
Words cannot describe the true beauty in this region and the only way to appreciate it is by being physically there. With each step, you get closer to experiencing the Sublime and discovering more about yourself. Like they always say, it is the journey, not the destination that matters.