Warning: You may get altitude sickness anytime. For some reason, that was the only concern of mine when considering a trek to EBC (Everest Base Camp). The idea of my body randomly reacting to the high altitude and not being able to continue my journey, would always be in the back of my mind, so I thought. I’ve always had in interest in Mt Everest, but not so much trekking itself. I was fascinated with those who were mountaineers and have summited the tallest mountain in the world, or at least have tried. What is the fascination behind attempting to summit Mt Everest while risking your life? Why would anyone pay 45,000.00 to risk their life on a mountain? What’s so....special about it? These questions made me that more interested in finding out the reasons. Interviews, documentaries, and movies helped me understand the beauty of Mt Everest and why people risk their lives yearly, just to say, “I’ve summited Mt Everest”. I would say it’s a personal emotion. Some may do it because they have a spiritual connection and others may do it for bragging rights. Either way and for either reason, your life is at risk.
When I was foolish enough to proceed researching how I can get close to Mt Everest without risking my life, I came across trekking to base camp 1. I rested on this idea for a few years. Then I finally found a company that made the booking process easy and provided enough details to make me feel confident in preparing myself for the journey. Kandoo Adventures had great reviews and if anyone knows the frustration of booking for even day trips with some companies, they would know some sites will take you through loops with filling out online forms and then have to wait a day or 2 for a response just to get a price. Once I found a good price for a flight to Nepal, I figured why not add Bali to make it worth the price and it was. I paid about $750.00 RT for 2 countries. Not bad, especially during a great season to visit. Once I booked everything, including my trek, I watched YouTube videos of other people’s journey to EBC. I’ve seen some amazing videos and very detailed. But one thing I noticed, is that everything I read online wasn’t a lie. Everyone reacted to the high altitude so differently. In some vlogs, there were trekkers that ended up in the hospital for a couple of days, some weren’t lucky enough to continue their journey, got food poisoned, got injured, while others didn’t feel sick at all and only experienced a minor headache. This all left me in confusion as to how I would react. Do I know my body well enough? Have I ever been at a high altitude? Then I remembered that I have, when I went to Machu Pichu in Peru. I then remembered how I reacted and then I realized the first couple of days were a bit hard for me. I also remembered it’s because I was moving to fast and too much once I landed. I had to walk slower and simply adjust, I did.
My few concerns before departing was if I should’ve worked out or if my asthma was going to be an issue. I’ve read conflicting comments online, and I didn’t want to start working out too soon before my departure because I didn’t want to risk injuring myself or getting too sore. And lastly, I am the only African American woman on YouTube that will be vlogging a trek to EBC. It wasn’t so much pressure to put myself on YouTube as the first for anything, but it would’ve been great to see some familiarity on YouTube beforehand, to pump up my confidence a little more knowing that there was someone that looked like me and did it. The pressure came with making sure that my video was going to turn out to be my best work in general, as this would be the most challenging thing I would experience in my travels, and one of the most beautiful ones.
I landed in Kathmandu and checked into The Mulbery hotel the following day. This would be considered the first day of the itinerary, where we met each other in the group and our tour guide. There were 5 of us, including our guide. I was the only girl in our group and the only one from America. Jason and Ken were partners from Sydney & then there was Des, who was from London. We all went over what to expect in the next couple of weeks briefly and asked any questions that we may have had. The next day, we were off. Bright and early in the morning we headed to the airport to fly to Lukla, where we would start our trek.
We got to the airport and it was so crowded and hectic. The airport was very warm inside and it was pretty small. The chaos would’ve gave me an anxiety attack because there was not much direction in how to retrieve your boarding ticket. The airline booths were so small and no form of line. So there were people huddling over the counter space and the belt they use to weigh your luggage was also extremely small. Once we got our boarding tickets, thanks to Paupu, we headed over to the waiting area. It was one big room with screens hanging up that shows which gate is boarding. There were only about a few doors to exit from, which depended on which airline you booked. There were about three airlines that departed from the airport. We waited for 3.5 hours before we took off. Due to the weather in Lukla, the planes have to wait, even if the weather is nice there in Kathmandu. We board and the plane is so narrow and small, that you have to hunch down a bit in order to move to your seat. I wasn’t too anxious as I’ve been on a small plane before in Bolivia, when I flew to Uyuni thank goodness. But I will say it was a crazy feeling to fly over hills of homes that sits on it. We landed in a small town with a small landing strip and a one room airport. Literally, just one room for waiting with a few chairs and some two rooms with beds in them, as some of the workers live there. We waited 4 hours until we realized we weren’t making it to Lukla due to bad weather. There was another group that also took a plane to Lukla and got stuck in this small town instead. We stayed the night in a hotel that was set up as a home with multiple rooms and toilets that were in the floor, literally. Squatting was a job due to nothing around for support to hold onto. Let’s just say my thighs grew muscles by the end of the trip. The next morning we headed back down to the airport which was only a few minute walk. We waited for the plane after a few hours, one came. But, it wasn’t for us! It was for the other group that was here the previous day. We were disappointed but had hope for another to come by 3:00pm which is the closing window to fly to Lukla.
Noon comes back and he gives us no update. So at this point, we are stagnant and started to worry because tomorrow is the last day to start our trek or the schedule is behind and there will be no trek to EBC, but another trek to a smaller mountain instead. I didn’t pay and flew across the globe to see another unfamiliar mountain, so I started to get anxious that I wasted money and time for nothing. I was so upset at the idea of us not making it, that I started crying because I knew I would just go home instead of trekking to a base camp I have no interest in. Even for the experience, I still struggled with wanting to go due to how disappointed I would be. We then discuss a helicopter ride instead of flying the small plane for an additional $250.00 which wasn’t bad given that I would pay to get to Lukla. We then realize a few hours later once the window to fly was closing, there would be no helicopter due to the weather conditions, yes, even for a helicopter. We got the news that we will be sleeping overnight again in town. The guys in the group could tell how disappointed I was and tried to cheer me up which was very nice of them. I pulled myself together and try to remain hopeful for the next day. The trip isn’t over yet, so I remained rational about the situation. We got our rooms and decided to walk a bit further in town for some dinner before it got dark. We couldn’t find an actual indoor restaurant, but rather a few tables and chairs on this porch, which we had to climb a narrow ladder to. The kitchen was the only thing inside. I got some spicy noodles and beer, before I wasn’t able to drink any while on the trek.
The next morning we walked back down to the airport. It was pouring out! We got there around 7am and stayed until around 2:00pm. The plane arrived finally to take us to Lukla! We boarded the small plane and took off! It was such a relief to know that I’ll be trekking to Mt Everest for certain. We landed at Lukla airport and this is where we met our porters that will be carrying our bags on the trek and had breakfast. Originally, we were supposed to be starting our trek here in Lukla, but since we missed out on 2 days of trekking, we have to catch up to our itinerary. So, we were told that we will be taking a helicopter to catch up to where we would be at today on our trek, in Namche. I didn’t bring a sleeping bag or trekking poles since they’re cheaper in Nepal. I grabbed those on our way back down to the airport after breakfast. We waited maybe 40 minutes before getting in the helicopter that was pretty badass. It was this beautiful red and we stuffed ourselves in with layers of clothes on. We lifted off and headed to Namche 15 minutes away, which would be a full day of trekking if we were to walk. We landed and the views were breath taking. It looked a lot like Macchu Picchu in many ways. The beautiful hills with hotels and homes sitting on it. We started trekking to where we would be staying for the night for about an hour. We arrived, sat down for bit to catch our breathes now that we are 3450m above sea level. We had to adjust to the high altitude, so we have a few days where we would have to trek up a hill for a few hours, rest for 30 minutes and go back down. This is called acclimating to the high altitude. We had our first day doing it once we put our things in our rooms. We headed out and everything was uphill and steep for about 2.5 hours. I actually didn’t struggle because I got the hang of my pace and breathing pattern. The key to trekking is to go sow and steady, always unless your used to the altitude. We realized trekking up how many groups we will be coming across during our adventure to EBC. There were some traffic jams on the hill, but the great thing is that a lot of people are kind enough to wait for you to pass and vice versa. Politeness and patience will always make things like a jam up on a mountain go smoothly. After a successful acclimation day, we went to set our things down in our rooms to go into town to do some shopping and grab some hot beverages before dinner. I really enjoyed this moment because it was just us bonding on free time to enjoy Nepal and see what it has to offer. We hung out at this really nice coffee shop that could easily fit in a ‘Boys Meet World’ episode. It was very chill and I felt like I was back in America somewhere in Soho, New York. We got to know each other more and it was also a nice break on the toes. We headed back to the hotel, got cleaned up for dinner. It was a full house in the dinning room as I call it. It’s one big room with long tables reserved for different companies with their trekking groups. We early met and talked with others that were in different groups because we sat so close to each other. Asking questions like if they were going or coming from EBC and how was it if they went already. We of course wanted the truth so we could prepare ourselves lol. After dinner, we decided to play some Black Jack, as we usually did in each town we trekked to before or/and after dinner. There were no tvs to watch, so that or reading and writing were our ways of entertaining ourselves. We were able to charge our phones and cameras for a small fee of $5.00 for unlimited charging for 24 hours. They had this tower charger sat on a table by the front desk, so that they can see who is over charging or to take full charged electronics out, to make room for those that need to do some charging. I felt safe enough to leave my camera batteries to be charged overnight on the table, but not my phone. So I made sure to full charge it before bed and in the morning while having breakfast.
In my room, the toilet wouldn’t flush correctly, my sleeping bag that I bought, had feathers that were flying out and it was actually damp. It triggered my asthma the moment I zipped into my sleeping bag. There is not heat in any of the rooms in any of the hotels on the trek, so we have to rely sleeping in layers and a sleeping bag. I couldn’t use my sleeping bag on one of the coldest nights during our trek. I had to sleep in a thin blanket they provide and in my jacket with my hat. Luckily, I had disposable heating pads I used for my hands and in my socks. I woke up freezing the next morning of course, but I was fine once I went downstairs to have breakfast. We have to pay for our meals, so we have our orders taken for each meal a few hours before eating and pay for our meals before leaving each hotel. We grab our gear and head off to trek to Tengboche. This was a pretty hard trek because it was a lot of ups and downs for long periods. It was a total 6 hour trek day. We were able to see the peak of Mt everest from a certain view point. It got me even more pumped up, which gave me some adrenaline to get my trek of the day done. My toes started to hurt once we had to trek down this very steep hill that had curves. I met a young Indian lady that was trekking past me going back to Lukla. She asked me for some of my water because she ran out and her group went ahead of her, which was pretty messed up. She was so thankful, and moments like that made the trek even more meaningful to me. She wished me luck and I congratulated her and wished her well. We stopped for lunch once we got a few hours into our trek. We had the best fried rice at this spot and I also tried the nastiest RedBull ever from Thailand. It was a shorter can and was gold, compared to the US version. It was flat and bitter. I actually enjoyed the local version of ReBull called TenZing, named after a famous local Sherpa mountaineer, the first Nepalese to summit Mt Everest in 1952. You can see his photos hung up on walls in hotels/tea houses along the trails to EBC.
There were many Yaks passing us by that were porting bags and emptied fuel tanks on their backs, along with local porters that were teens too. They carried long table boards, bags, empty fuel tanks, to emptied water bottles. Ive seen some porters wearing flip flops going up and down hill with heavy weight on their backs, going fast. I mean, beating us within minutes of distances, until we caught up to them from where they would rest. Once we finally got to our teahouse in Tengboche, and felt so exhausted that we just plopped in the seats in the dinning room. We got our keys to our rooms and decided to drop our belongings in there, unpack a bit since we would be staying there for 2 days, due to having a full day of acclimitising the following day. We all came back in the common area of the small dinning room to play some cards. I paid for a few wifi cards that were only 5mb on each card. I needed to stay in touch with my sister and upload some photos/videos to my Instagram story for my followers to stay in touch and updated with my trek. We had our dinner a few hours later and played more cards after. We went over our plans for the following day and charted our blood pressure/oxygen levels/heart rate daily to be sure we were feeling good enough to continue trekking. Every night we did this and charted how we felt, if we slept okay, if we felt nauseous or troubles breathing. Our guide kept track of this and it was great because not every company did this with their groups from what I’ve learned by asking a girl at the teahouse in Namche. I actually slept great this night, but also because they had a normal toilet that wasn’t an automatic flushable toilet, but the ones where you have to pour water in the toilet to push and flush your wastes down that way. No big deal, co pared to squatting in the ground on the floor with nothing to ground on. We headed off and started our acclimation day by trekking slowly up this big hill of a rocky mountain right outside of the teahouse. It was a 3 hour trek to get to the top, where we had a beautiful panorama view of white mountains and cool, windy air. We just sat and enjoyed the views for 30 minutes. I had my headphones on majority of the trek and just enjoyed some music. We had some traffic jams on our way up midthorugh and while going down, but overall it was a good day. We got back to the teahouse and played some cards, then we went to this free informative class about altitude sickness and how to know when you’ve gotten it. Tai was important as we were going to be going higher significantly in the next couple of days. The teacher was a woman from America, and she was a volunteering nurse. She was so sweet and answered any concerns we had and it was funny when she mentioned how people become obsessed with watching Youtube videos before the come to Nepal to prepare themselves but its the least informative way to learn about altitude sickness.
The following morning, we had our breakfast and prepared ourselves for a long day ahead of us. This day was the hardest for me, due to my feet aching from having shoes that weren’t broken in properly and half a size too small with thick socks on. This was a 8 hour trek day, with a significant greater altitude, making it that much difficult. This is also where we see some glaciers. We hit the memorial where the beauty of the surrounded mountains stole my breath away, literally. I struggled to pass my breath once we stopped due to needing water. I ran out of mine, so I had to borrow some from Des. Stupid of me. I caught up with my breathing and decided to walk around the memorial of those that have passed away from attempting to summit Mt Everest or passed while coming down the mountain. You can feel the energy because it was pretty quiet, even while having multiple groups around. It was just a sad, yet fulfilling atmosphere. After 25 minutes, we moved on. This is when I started to feel a bit ill. From a headache to nausea. I was hoping it wouldn’t get worst and that it was due to my body adjusting to the thin air and altitude, and that it would pass. It didn’t. We had 3 hours to go from that point, and I began feeling almost hunger pains, like I needed to eat. I started getting cranky and a bit bitchy I would say. It’s never me to complain outlaid, no matter what I’m feeling because we are a team and I didn’t want to make anyone else’s experience crappy or suck the joy out of an already difficult situation. I can’t express the feeling that I had once we got to the teahouse in Pheriche. I felt ill at this point and just needed water and to sit. I knew I was going to puke at any moment, but needed water first. We sat down in the dining area, and I requested water from my tour guide. He told me to wait after they give us our room key, and I snapped and told him no, I need it now and that I don’t feel good. He got it then. I went to the bathroom and it was one of the smelliest bathrooms I have been in during the entire trek. It reeked of old urine. It was also one of the toilets in the ground. I puked standing up without putting my face anywhere near that floor. I felt relieved automatically. I suffer from having acid reflux, so I think not having enough water and food, triggered something. We had lunch, but I barely ate due to still not feeling like myself and the pasta I ordered had ketchup in it instead of tomato sauce. I had some of Des veggie curry with rice and knew that would be my dinner. After we ate, we had the option to acclimate and take a hike in order to adjust to the higher altitude. I was too tapped out to do it, so I had to stay awake until after dinner if I didn’t do it. Ken and I just walked around the grounds for 30 minutes while the rest of the guys, Jason and Des went up a small mountain. Once it was time for dinner, I sat next to a guy from Miami who was alone and with a tour guide. He got very ill and came to the conclusion that he wouldn’t be able to continue his trek. That really sucked for him but he accepted it and was mature enough to not be selfish and harm himself any further. we did our routine of eating, checking our vitals, and go over the following day. At some point Ken said he wasn’t feeling well and barely had any of his dinner. We had to hope he felt better by morning. This night, we had a beautiful sunset against the side of the mountain, and it was breathtaking. This summed up my night pretty well.
The following morning we had breakfast. I had the same thing as dinner, and the guys had actual pancakes and oatmeal. Ken wasn’t at the table when I arrived, but when he did come to the table, he looked blue and purple almost. He wasn’t talking much, he barely touched his food and then I realized he had altitude sickness. He went to lay down before we headed out, and Paupu called in the company to let them know he wasn’t feeling well and what the next move should be for Ken. They decided after checking his oxygen levels, which was at 50, he could not continue on the trip. You need at least a 70 to continue the trek minimum, and he surpassed that and was at a danger level. He got helicoptered down to Kathmandu to go to the hospital that day. We started our trek with our two porters and no Paupu because he had to stay back with Ken. We all felt terrible, and I felt bad for Jason, his partner because he had to leave him behind. This was a tough trek day because we were heading to base camp today. We had this one steep mountain to trek up that stole my breath away immediately, but I pushed through it and we also took a lunch break at the cabin we would be staying at for a night, before continuing to base camp. This would be the world’s tallest cabin inn that we would be sleeping in, and that alone was exciting. After we ate lunch, we grabbed our trekking poles and headed 2.5 hours to base camp. I felt great and the closer I got to base camp, I had this sudden energy that kicked in. As we got closer, we seen many other groups from afar at the base and people coming back from base camp. Those groups that passed us had smiles on their faces and excitement. This pumped me up! I seen the yellow tents that the mountaineers stay before making their way up to summit. The weather started to get cloudy and snow started failing lightly, with some winds. The moment we got to base camp, it cleared up briefly and it just hit me, I made it to Mt Everest base camp. There were people cheering, laughing, smiling and dancing. It was nothing but love and amazing energy surrounding us. It was like celebrating your accomplishment but also celebrating everyone else’s accomplishment. We congratulated people in other groups, and took our group photos in front of this big rock with flags wrapped around it and a sign. Before I bursted into tears, I looked over and noticed that Des was sitting and not looking well. He almost looked sad and exhausted. He pulled his camera out, I walked over and he started to log and say how he wasn’t feeling well. After he was done vlogging, I asked him how bad does he feel. He said exhausted and almost sick. Uh oh. He has altitude sickness. I almost couldn’t enjoy the moment at that point because I was so worried for him, but he said I should go take photos and take in the moment, so I did. I walked away and took a moment to myself and pulled my camera out to vlog my emotions. As I started talking, the tears just took over. I could barely breathe and I felt this new part of me creeping in. A part of me that verified that I can do anything I want, and I did. We stayed for another 10 minutes and started to head back. I had a burst of energy and lead the group. Usually, its Des thats either in front of me or right on my tail, but he was walking much slower than usual. I didn’t need any breaks, even with a numb and sore foot. He needed us to stop and rest after 30 minutes of walking. He was breathing harder and you can tell it took all of him to get up and to keep on moving. After another 20 minutes or so, he needed to sit down again, but this time, he wanted to sleep. Oh God. Sleeping at that high of an altitude from exhaustion is dangerous. So Jason and I went ahead with one of the porters. Paupu and the other porter stayed with Des and basically helped him walk back at a slower pace. He put his arms around their shoulders and walked that way. Although he is much taller than them, they made it work. I became somewhat exhausted one hour before we hit the cabin. It was hard all of a sudden and I just knew I was burnt out. We made it back, I went to my room to put my things down and went in the dinning room to sit and drink tea. Jason and I talked about our emotions and about Des, then about 2 hours later, Des came in the common dining area and just plumped down in the chair at our table. He put his head down and he mentioned that he was ending the trek to go to the hospital. We wished him well and were going to see him back in Kathmandu at the end of the trek. We walked him outside and watched him get on a horse. This would be his transportation back down to the nearest town with a helicopter landing, about 2 hour ride down. We said goodbye and went back in because it was actually cold and windy out. We had dinner and went over the next day. From this point on, we would be heading back to Kathmandu, about 3 days to get to Lukla.
The trek back was actually easier but there was a moment my feet were giving out on me. Somehow, my pinky toe nail got so soft from the moisture of walking for days in my socks, that it was peeling off and stabbing the toe beside it. I had no idea what was going on, I thought I had a sharp pebble or glass in my sock. My toes got swollen up due to my trek shoes being half a size too small and not being broken in. I had to sit a few times to pull it together and actually cried. I really didn’t mean to complain, but I was in that much agony that if I didn’t express my pain and eagerness to get to our teahouse, I would just cry in silence with my glasses on. This was a 12 hour trek day, so I deserved to complain a little that day and didn’t feel bad about it. A lady gave me blister band aids at the teahouse that lived in Kathmandu but was trekking with her husband, from Washington D.C. I was so grateful because the next day, I was flying. It helped so much and I also gave myself a nice foot rub before we took off. We got to Lukla two days later and stayed in the same lodge we had breakfast at in the beginning of our trek in Lukla. We celebrated with some drinks, I got the Everest beer, which was pretty good. There was another big group there from somewhere in Eastern Europe. They literally started partying. Blasting music, dancing, shouting and the noise only continued well into the middle of the night at the bar next door. I still slept good because I put my headphones on before going to sleep. Until a scream from a drunk man outside my window woke me up randomly. The next morning, I had the best breakfast that I’ve had on the entire trip and couldn’t finish it due to us having to rush to the airport to fly to Kathmandu. About 2 hours later after a short wait and a quick 15 minute flight, we were in Kathmandu. We went back to the Mulberry Hotel where it all started and said our goodbyes to Paupu. I gave him a nice tip and gave him a handshake. Ken was already at the hotel and it was so great to see him looking and feeling much better than the last time we seen him. Des was going to arrive a few hours later, and we agreed to all have lunch and dinner together. We got together and had drinks, a delicious lunch and then decided to go on the roof top where there was a beautiful upscale bar and pool, along with a few nice and clean bathrooms. We ordered more drinks and played one last few games of Black Jack. Time went by so fast after having a blast, we went downstairs to have dinner. After dinner, we walked around the area at night to a few gift shops some gifts to bring back home. It was a different vibe at night compared to the busy daytime. We got back to the hotel and Des said his goodbyes to us since he was leaving the next morning, while Jason, Ken and I departed in two days. It was sad to say goodbye but I know he missed his wife and was ready to get back home to see her.
The next day Ken, Jason and I spent the entire day out, walking around Kathmandu and buying things. I bought a painting from an art gallery ran by this painter and his brother. I stilled have it rolled up and sealed. As the hours went by, I checked into my new hotel around the corner that I would be staying at for one night before I headed off to Bali. We had our last dinner and exchanged contact and said our final goodbyes at the hotel. Thinking of everything that I put my body through, the amazing scenery, the friendships that I’ve made, and the overall journey of challenging my body, has forever changed me in regards to growth. I now believe that I can actually push myself to do anything I want, even trek to Mt Everest base camp.