The time for departure had arrived! Sunday afternoon was spent with my family at our house in Kloof. After a fine lunch, I said my goodbye’s, and then set off for the airport with Belinda, Daniel and Jenna.
Sean, Kath and Sarah-Jane got to the airport just after us and after checking our luggage in, we said our goodbyes to our immediate families. Never an easy time! Sean’s daughter Sarah-Jane is 3 years old and does not really want dad to head off for 10 weeks or so! It broke my heart to leave my family; perhaps the most difficult thing when embarking on an expedition of this length of time.
With the goodbyes done, we boarded a Kulula flight to Jhb and settled in to the first leg of our journey.
Waiting for us at OR Tambo was Francis, my warehouse supervisor in Jhb. He had the 3 equipment bags of the 3 other climbers and was at the airport to hand them over to us. Sean and I were going to take all this equipment through to Kathmandu, as it needed to be transported off to Base Camp before the rest of the climbers arrived. We now had 4 huge bags, each weighing in at over 40kg’s and, in addition, our own carry-on luggage! Now the challenge of getting it on to the flight without incurring additional weight costs! Well of course this was not to be. We were way over and at 30 US dollars a kg in excess luggage charges about to kick in, we decided it best to jettison some weight. I called Francis up and asked him to please come back to the airport. We met him outside and, on the pavement, we unpacked bags removing what we could. This excess luggage would be handed over to the 3 climbers and they would have to bring it over later. With 4 bags, still full to capacity, we headed back down to check in.
With some sweet talking by Sean and more shuffling of equipment, the bags got checked through and we then proceeded to security. Problem number 2 as my Leatherman, which was not on me from Durban to Jhb, was now in my carry-on bag. No way would I be able to take it on the plane and no way was I going to lose it to be discarded by airport officials! I ran off and tracked down someone who would value it, or someone who I could give it to and perhaps get in back in a few months’ time! Enter Willem, a guy from Kempton Park. He kindly gave me his number and said he would look after it whilst I was away. Hopefully I get it back on my return! Thanks to Willem!
Now on board Qatar, bound for Doha, Sean and I settled in for the 7 hour flight.
A quick change of flights in Doha at 9am, and we were on our way to Kathmandu.
We landed at about 4.30pm to a rainy Kathmandu. Of course, I then did something that I never do…… leave my bag on the plane! (Yea right…) Luckily I was just outside the plane and quickly retrieved it! Not something I want to do too often whilst here..!! Inside the airport, it took us a while to clear customs and immigration, but once through, we were greeted by Mohan, our agent from Makalu Adventures. Mohan is responsible for all the expedition logistics from Kathmandu. This includes Sherpa’s, foods, kitchen, travel and transport from Kathmandu to BC. All the luggage was loaded in to a car, and we squeezed in amongst the bags.
Arrival in Kathmandu!
From the airport and an hour later, we arrived at Eco Lodge, a bed and breakfast owned by Mohan and in the center of Thamel, the tourist mecca of Katmandu. After off-loading our kit, Sean and I headed in to town for a bite to eat and a quick look around. First up was a falafel from a street vendor (was this a good thing..??) and then off to “Tom and Jerrys”, a popular tourist bar / restaurant in the heart of Thamel. Over a couple of beers, we celebrated the long, rather demanding trip from South Africa to Kathmandu. We were here, not too stressed or worse for wear; and we had all our gear!
Next up we bought sim cards and got our cell phoned connected. We now had coms with home and very quickly we were on to WhatsApp, catching up with family at home!
Still hungry, Sean suggested we head off to Rumdoodle. This is a popular restaurant, frequented by climbers and Sherpa’s alike. It is known for its special membership club! Those climbers who successfully climb Mt Everest, are issued a membership card. On presentation of this card, the cardholder can eat for free at Rumdoodle, any time they wish! Now if I take the cost of climbing Everest and dividing it by the number of meals one may have at Rumdoodle, it would be the most expensive meals ever eaten!!! But being a card holder and eating for free at Rumdoodle is a special privilege afforded to those few climbers who have successfully summited Mt Everest. We tucked in to a few beers and steak, and then headed home for a well-deserved sleep!!
Dinner at Rumdoodle
Monday morning, after a late sleep in, after breakfast, we then met up with Mohan again. We were off to meet the Sherpa team, and discuss the camp set up and other logistics on Everest.
At Mohan’s offices, we were introduced to the Sherpa team.
1. Ongchhu Sherpa – Sidar / Head Sherpa and climbing Sherpa
2. Phurba Sherpa – Climbing Sherpa
3. Phursemba Sherpa – Climbing Sherpa
4. Kami Sherpa – Head Cook
5. Purna Magar Sherpa – Camp 2 cook
The plan with the Sherpa’s is for them to accompany the climbers on Everest. Sean will be climbing alone, without a personal Sherpa. The rest of the team will have their own climbing Sherpa all the way to the top.
The 3 climbing Sherpas, Sean and I
Back at Eco Lodge, and with all bags and barrels with us, we again went through all the goods, further breaking them all down into smaller barrels. These barrels would be transported by yak to base camp from Lukla, and needed to be the right weight. We found a stash of biltong and Sean told the helpers who were assisting us that it was crocodile! Keen to taste some, everyone was given a small piece to sample! All of this happened whilst we watched the world cup cricket semi final between SA and New Zealand. Not the outcome we hoped for unfortunately…
With all Base Camp equipment now packed, and on its way to the airport for transportation to Lukla, Sean and I spent the evening relaxing, knowing everything was on its way!
Final packing before being flown off to Lukla