Everest Base Camp Part 9: rats and recalcitrant yaks

Tuesday 31 December

A late start this morning with a 7.30am wakeup call. What luxury! The lower altitude obviously was kicking in, as I only woke up once in the night to pee, instead of the usual 4-5 times, which made for a much better night’s sleep. It was still perishing, however, and my water bottle was yet again completely frozen. The loo was opposite the main entrance, whose door was left almost permanently open, and combined with concrete floors throughout the building, made nightime calls of nature not only a chilling experience, but a very perilous one since the floor was a solid sheet of ice. After having watched the “Into Thin Air” film the previous evening, there were plenty of jokes about needing crampons to go to the loo. Interestingly, my Crocs were pretty good under such conditions, and I managed not to fall headfirst into the long drop. That would have been a little bit embarrassing had I needed rescuing!

The walking today was yet again in beautiful sunshine, with marvellous views of the mountains. I wished I’d put on my thinner trousers rather than my winter softshells, but it’s always hard to imagine when you get up in sub-zero temperatures how much warmer it’ll get during the day once the sun comes out. Although it was mostly downhill today, there were still a couple of long steep ascents, just to remind us that we were still at 4000m and that we were therefore not as fit as we would have been at lower altitude.

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Halfway up a long, steep hill we met a cavalcade of yaks descending, forcing us to retreat to the side of the path. You never know if a recalcitrant yak is going to suddenly decide to make a beeline for you, even if you’re a little bit off the path, so it can be a scary time!

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In the afternoon, we retraced our steps from a few days earlier, down a very steep hill and up the other side, to a teahouse we had stayed in on the way up and which the others had named “Ratatouille” on account of the rats we could hear scrabbling around in the roof. Several people were a little bit precious about this and had complained  about having to stay here again. I really do wonder why people go on camping and basic trekking holidays in third world countries if they’re upset about having to use long-drop toilets or local wildlife, and complain about missing home comforts. It’s not as if the rats or mice were even running around in our rooms. However, the owners of the teahouse took pity (after all, Exodus trips are an important source of income to them) and let us stay in a different set of rooms,. which turned out to be much colder but very posh since they had en suite bathroom facilities, an untold luxury! Of course, there was still no running water since all the pipes were frozen, but it was absolute bliss not to have to leave the bedroom to go to the loo in the night!

A few people were looking forward to going home at this point, which seems very odd to me. Why on earth would you pay a lot of money to go on holiday to an amazing place and then spend your last few days wishing you were back home eating your fish and chips and being back at work? Of course, I was looking forward to a hot bath and my central heating, but I was definitely not looking forward to leaving Nepal after such an incredible trip, which was still far from over. We had almost forgotten that it was New Year’s Eve, and indeed, we were all so tired that there was little celebration. I suppose some people were thinking of the parties their friends and family would be having back home without them, but for me, it’s no big deal, just another night really. I’d rather be here on this incredible trip drinking tea after a great day’s walk than partying back home, in any case.

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