Having made it to Everest Base Camp we are now descending. The group unanimously decided to head back to Namche to meet up with Alistair and then hop on a plane from Lukla back to Kathmandu. We will then get back to Kathmandu four days early. There were as many reasons as members of the party, including illness, altitude sickness, "too bloody cold up here", but perhaps the best is a desire to wash elephants in Chitwan National Park.
Day 10 - Pherice to Lobuche (4930 m) to Khumjung (3790 m)
Three brave souls, Marta, Ed and Louis, got up at 4 AM to climb Kala Pathar to see the sunrise over the Everest Himal. A hard ascent that gave fantastic views of the changing colours as the sun reveals the mountains, including Everest, in all their glory. OSOC now has a celebratory t-shirt on the ceiling of the Alpine Home in Lobuche.
Descending is so much easier than ascending! We obviously don't climb as much (to cross valleys and ridges there are still some tough ascents), but the real benefit is that being acclimatised to 5000 m, we are now super-humans at 4000 m! A long day ends in disappointment when there is no room at the inn; we have a (Nepali) "little bit up" to find a lodge. Spirits improve when we find a marvellous family lodge, run by a Sherpa (who has climbed to the summit of Everest twice), his charming wife and their 5 year old son. The son has an infectious giggle, tormented by Marta and Louis tickling him.
Day 11 - Namche Bazaar (3440 m)
We are back in Namche and have met up with Alistair who has been here a couple of days; enough time to suss out all of the coffee shops. On the way we visited Edmund Hillary school in Khumjung; although it was closed for a holiday, it appeared one of the best equipped schools I have seen in Nepal, perhaps not a surprise given Hillary's involvement in its creation and its position on a main Everest Base Camp route.
The nights are definitely getting less cold, to the extent whereby I don't need to add clothing.
Whilst we were trekking there was a frequent sound of a helicopter. Some of the flights are tourists, but most of them are medical evacuations. A sobering thought for us as we were all wary of altitude sickness.
Day 13 - Phakding to Lukla (2800 m)
Whilst waiting at a bridge for a packhorse train to cross I made a new friend, Pinchu, from Solo Khumbu, the home town of Tenzing Norgay. His English and my Nepali were about the same (poor), but between us we struck up a friendship and stopped at a roadside cafe, where the only items on the menu were dhal bhaat (Nepali meal of rice, vegetable curry and dhal soup) and chia (Nepali spiced tea). Pinchu, like so many Nepalis, is full of smiles and laughter. Whilst at the cafe I asked how far Lukla was, he replied "1 hour". I replied "1 hour for you and 2 hours for me?"; Pinchu laughed and said "1 hour for you and half hour for me!"
Day 14 - Return to Kathmandu (1400 m)
The end of our adventure as we return to Kathmandu, where we will have a celebration dinner. It's been a marvellous experience. The group bonded well, the guides and porters were brilliant. Having arrived back early, we all have a chance to see more of Nepal. Some are heading off to Chitwan National Park to look for tiger, crocodile, rhino, sloth bear, elephant. The rest of us are going to Pokhara to hang glide, trek, canoe or relax in a bar by the lake (that's me!).