Our day started early with a nice heavy breakfast. There was curd. Please wait as my inner Tam-bram does a happy dance. Today’s agenda? The Everest base camp. Now anyone who knows me well would know that I’m petrified of heights. 17000 feet above sea level isn’t exactly in my comfort zone. In fact I was almost sure that I would give it a skip.. till the last minute. Here’s the thing. It’s not every day that people get the opportunity to marvel at the highest mountain on earth up close and personal. It’s almost like standing at the front entrance of a corner house and not going in because I’m on a diet. That doesn’t happen. Simple.
On the way to base camp, we stopped for some pictures to kill time. See, in Tibet, police measure the time it takes cars to get from one check point to another and then measure the speed. God forbid you arrive the checkpoint even five minutes early. You’ll get slapped with a 300 yuan fine. Bam. Just like that.
Our paths crossed with a group in a photography tour of Everest Base Camp. Their guide was actually an American who went to college in China and began organising tours in Tibet. “Tibet is my office”, he proudly exclaimed. Beats the average 9 to 5 any day. I made the acquaintance of another nice lady who’s daughter was a music composition teacher at Rutgers back in Jersey. It’s amazing how in this small world we find connections with people…fleeting exchanges with strangers to look fondly back upon.
We drove on and after around an hour, we bid goodbye to the Tengola Fa mountain range and welcomed the Himalayas with open arms. We bought our tickets and made our way towards EBC. Base camp was definitely going to be a challenge. I kept asking myself why I was bothering with it in the first place. I mean, we were told that It was not even picturesque! It’s literally a tent town from where we may or may not be able to see Mt.Everest based on the weather.
As we pulled into camp, I was actually a bit disappointed. It wasn’t quite how I’d imagined it. Not like the movie, for sure. On the bright side, I was an arm’s length away from the world’s highest post office. Turns out that the climbers camped on the other side of a hill around 2.5 kilometres away from where we were. The elite base camp, climbers only. Bummer. I’m glad we at least got to meet them back at Shigatse!
The evening grew extremely windy and cold. But it was still bearable. Little did we know that it was barely a glimpse of what we were to endure at night! The tent was pretty cosy and well equipped. Something I did not expect at all.
The others decided to trek it to the other base camp while I accompanied mum on the shuttle bus. It was getting darker, colder and windier. The air was extremely thin which made it difficult to breathe. We were worried when we didn’t see the others from the bus. Turns out they took the scenic “shortcut” and were offered a ride by a police officer on the way back. If that’s not enough excitement, the song ‘pardesi’ was playing in the cop car! Hot tea, French fries and a game of charades lifted all of our spirits and kept our minds off the cold. For dinner, we cooked daal and rice using Sanjeev Kapoor’s biryani masala. Best meal ever.