The Realm of Rock and Ice
Since I came across the big crowd coming from the opposite direction in Chola Pass, my walk became quieter, only the sound of flowing water and the wind… sometimes the sound of rescue helicopter flying low dominated my ears. In Thangnak, I stayed in a guesthouse with 2 other trekkers, one from New Zealand and another from Canada. Since I arrived early and has nothing to do but to rest, we chat almost the whole day until our dinner arrived. I still had the same headache since Gorakshep 4 days earlier but I tried to ignore it. There is no cure on altitude sickness except going to the lower elevation. Drinking a lot of hot ginger tea just kept my body warm and nothing more. But it wasnt too much, only the headache that annoyed me. I already slept well at altitude of 4700m. Slowly my body started to adapt to the high elevation, where the oxygen is about half the amount compared to the sea level. My heart beats faster, the digestion system reacts differently, the pH reading of my blood changes and the system boosted the amount of oxygen-carrying red blood in my body. All these happen without me controlling it… everything is controlled by a mysterious entity… I could only feel the effect…
The next morning I kept walking following the trail that leads me towards Gokyo, another small village in the Everest region. The landscape here is absolutely amazing, something very different. Sometimes it reminds me a bit about the landscape in the high mountain of Khan Tengri in eastern part of Kyrgyzstan… and sometimes it reminds me a bit of the landscape of Iceland… and sometimes it reminds me about the image I created in my mind on the landscape on the moon. Breathing freely without an oxygen mask is the only thing that reminds me that Im still walking on this earth. The landscape surrounds me while walking towards Gokyo is surreal. Since Im walking at really high altitude, almost 5 kilometers from the level of the ocean, there is no flora world here. No trees stand a chance to grow here. Its only rock and ice… a pure tundra.
While walking on the trek, I always became fascinated whenever I saw the passing Sherpas… the local people here in the Khumbu region. The sherpas who work as a porter for those big group of trekkers are carrying really heavy loads. Sometimes I saw some carrying 3 huge backpacks probably 150L each, tied together with a rope and they just carried it while climbing very high mountain passes just like a boss. They ascend the mountain pass steadily as strong as a Kyrgyz mountain horse… and they descend the mountain at the speed of a mountain goat. And shockingly, when they reached their destination, they took a rest by lighting a cigarette, completely ignoring the fact that the oxygen is only half the amount in the thin air and started smoking as in theyre chilling on a beach of Copacabana. It was such a bizarre moment.
Whenever I stayed in a guesthouse, I usually chill with the Sherpas. Probably because I look like them, theyre always curious about me. There was once an old sherpa came stood next to me, lighting a cigarette and started speaking Nepali to me. My guide, Pemba who are used to my playful attitude, just looked at me from far while laughing, watching me mumbling in a language even I dont understand with the old Sherpa. The old Sherpa really thought that I was speaking Nepali but perhaps he has problem with his hearing, kept talking to me in Nepali about some subject until he finished his cigarette! There were many cases that other trekkers mostly the Westerners who thought that Im a Sherpa, started asking me about the trail ahead and the weather forecast. It was hillarious.
I reached Gokyo at noon, welcomed by the beautiful landscape of the thick cyan colour lake, surrounded by the big mountains and the tiny Gokyo village next to it. I took a good shower, had heavy meals since I got my appetite back and took a good rest to prepare myself to climb to the peak of Gokyo the next day. Early morning the next day, I woke up as early as 4am, planning to start early to climb the peak of Gokyo for the sunrise. But I was too tired and it was too cold, so I moved very slowly, had a good breakfast and drank a lot of hot water before I finally starting climbing the peak of Gokyo (Gokyo Ri) at around 630am. Thank god the headache I had for days was gone and I felt energetic again as usual… so I climbed fast and it took me only an hour to reach the peak of Gokyo Ri with the elevation of 5360m.
When I reached the top, I was amazed looking at two very interesting views. The first one was when I looked down at Gokyo lake. Such an amazing view, with the green colour lake surrounded by towering mountains all lit by the morning sun under the blue sky. The second one was when I looked straight towards the east, looking at all the world’s highest mountain, with Mt Everest dominating my sight and two other 8000m peaks which are Makalu and Lhotse. It was surprising to learn that we cant even see Mt Everest even from the Everest basecamp since it was covered by Mt Nuptse right in front of it. You can get the clear view of Everest once you climb Mt Kalapatthar (5550m) from Gorakshep. But here from Gokyo Ri, I get to see the best and the most interesting view of not only Everest but other 8000m peaks as well all within one sight.
Gazing at those 8000m peaks made by nothing but rock and ice, I imagined myself climbing right to the top of it, pushing myself towards the end of the troposphere, almost reaching the border of the stratosphere. I imagined myself looking at the world from a totally different perspective, everything is below you, no clouds above, only the blue sky and the shining sun. The planet’s weather activities all happen below the peak of Everest most of the time… so there is nothing veiling you from the blue sky on daytime and the zodiac constellation at night. Here in Gokyo Ri when its only slightly above 5000m altitude, the oxygen is half the amount compared to the sea level. Up there at the peak of Everest at almost 9000m altitude, the oxygen is quarter the amount! The Everesters call it as death zone. Not only the altitude could kill you, but the wind, the weather and the ice as well.
Gokyo marks the end of my walk in the high altitude. After Gokyo Ri, I was so motivated to cross another pass called Renjo La Pass (5360m) towards the east but I had to reach back to Namche Baazar quickly since my money was depleting, so I needed to get to the ATM machine in the civilization to withdraw more cash. Everything is very expensive up here in the mountain… making my wallet losing it’s weight very quickly. So I walked fast down the elevation after Gokyo, back to 3000m altitude. But the experience, nothing could be described by words. Sometimes, I tried my best to convert my experiences and my thoughts into words and pictures on this blog Im writing… but none of these match the experiences I received from the road. Words just represent nouns and verbs, but it couldnt represent the universe. Just like you are trying to describe the taste of water to someone who never taste water in his entire life, its just impossible. You simply have to taste it, experience it firsthand. Or you try to describe the colours of a rainbow to a man who is blind since birth. The images I posted here just represent a split second of what my eyes saw… but it couldnt represent the true feeling of being in the place, it couldnt record the wind, the coldness and the warmth of the shining sun, the random thoughts in the mind while I was in the specific place and how the heart getting closer and closer towards Oneness in such places… such a powerful moments…