Story by David Morton; photos by David Morton and Melissa Arnot
Dusty roads, baby goats, chickens, monkeys and seemingly endless forests with every type of plant you could imagine –– That is how our trek into Makalu base camp started. Having done almost all of my traveling in Nepal in the Khumbu, which is significantly more developed and traveled (see Dave Hahns blog posts), I didn’t expect this area to be so remote.
The first day we flew to an elevation even lower then Kathmandu, and it was hot! I expected to start walking, but our Sirdar (trekking leader) told us that we were going to stay in Tumlingtar for the night and pack the things for a four-hour tractor ride tomorrow. In the morning, we all piled into a Jeep and began the drive up a road that we learned had only been built the day before! You can imagine it was rough, but all the locals were eager to drive in the few cars that had made it down the road.
The local people in this area are amazing. They are a mix of Sherpa and Rai, and they don’t see as much tourism over here, so it certainly has the feel of being somewhere foreign. After a day of driving our walking began. It is so fun to interact with the people that live here and see how simply they live, especially the children who are often eager to come out and greet you with a soccer ball (Just don’t do what I did and kick the soccer ball too hard down the ravine).
The trek into base camp starts quite low (1,800 meters), but you quickly get higher. Then some big down hills drop you back into the forests. At times it felt like we weren’t making any progress at all, and to add to that we were greeted with rain, snow and clouds. The tea houses we stay in are stone or wood walls covered with tarps. There is no electricity (except the occasional solar panel). It really is reminding us how simply you can get by, and how we often fill our world with luxury that we don’t really need, though it would have been nice to sleep somewhere dry more often!
After eight days of walking we have arrived at the lower base camp, at 4,800 meters. We will only stay here one night as we try to move all of our expedition equipment up to a base camp at 5,600 meters. It feels good to be here; the alpine zone suits us. We are out of the forest for good now and I already miss it.
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