The temperature really seems to have dropped today and getting out of a warm bed into cold clothes really isn't fun - you don't make the same preparations as while camping to deal with this. At breakfast (I have a rather good but small cheese and tomato sandwich) people seem a bit subdued as even though we have descended quite a bit people are still getting over the shock of the summit day.
We are told that it is traditional to get a blessing from the local monastery (in exchange for 20 rupiah which us about 15p) so we decide to head up after breakfast. While waiting to go, it turns out that all the zokyo (cross between a yak and a cow that do most of the carrying in the valley) have gone. Apparently they are left to forage outside the villages at night and they have got fed up and headed back home over night. Whilst this may have been an accident, the less charitable amongst us feel that the driver sent them back to get him out of coming to base camp with us and so save himself a day or two of work - this would also explain why he was so insistent that we tip him last night rather than at the end of his work as we are doing for everybody. Still the idea of 'homing' zokyo is so funny that we don't mind that much and poor Nir has to head off and find some replacement ones to get the equipment up to BC whilst the driver comically loads all his saddles onto his (rather handily) one remaining zokyo and heads back home.
Then we head up to the monastery. I don't have the best of relationship with organised religion but determine to keep a lid on it if things go well but at the same time presume they won't. Outside the monastery is a poster providing advice to tourists, much of it is generic and useful but my favourite instruction is "Please don't give money to begging children but please give as generously as you can to monks." Whilst there may be good reasons behind the first part especially, the juxtaposition of the two is rather amusing. We are then shown into the main part of the monastery for some bowing with the Llama presumably preceding the blessing but are then shown a little cupboard which is opened with a bit of ceremony to display what looks like a leather cap with some died hair sewn into it. We are a bit bemused until we are told that this is a yeti skull / head and what the monastery is famous for. From there we are shown into another room which has a few pieces of art but most prominent is the donations box and so after a couple of minutes of looking at the art we put some money into the box and return to the main room. However the llama has now gone and it appears that we are not going to get our blessing after all. So, a little surprised at the recent events (and a couple of us with headaches after banging our heads on the low doorways) we head back to the teahouse to pick up our bags and on to BC.
Shortly after setting off, Paddy pops into a building to chat to a friend which leaves us poised outside the local bakery. A few of us are a bit hungry after breakfast and others realise that this is the last time we will be near a bakery for some time and so we decide to pop in - much to the apparent displeasure of our new guide. All we are doing today is trekking to BC which is about 3.5 hours or so and given the snow issues we are not doing much tomorrow so there is no real rush in any case - even so the trek is quite a steep one which will challenge the legs and lungs especially after the past couple of days. I am feeling pretty low in energy so, rather than hanging back as I have done before, get a rather large slice of Black Forest gateau. At about 11am we finally head off (only about two hours later than originally planned) and I struggle a bit for the first hour as I just have no energy but then some large clouds threaten to engulf us and my cake kicks in so I lead a charge to camp. In fact this only takes about an hour (timing estimates have not been that great on this trip to be honest) and we get into the mess tent for some tea and then lunch before the clouds arrive.
Base camp is a large flat area surrounded by a number of peaks and cols. there are a number of expeditions here which provides quite a bit of colour against an otherwise white, grey, black and brown backdrop. We are probably going to get to know some of the other groups quite well as given the conditions it is not likely that anyone will be heading up anytime soon.
|Base Camp with Ama Dablam in the backgroun|
|More people heading out|
Lunch is a fried spam with a rather good vegetable curry and excellent chapati. I realised that we would eating spam on this trip but had hoped that we might have a few days of fresh meat first - perhaps it is just that they did not know when we were going to arrive and so spam was the easiest way of getting us some lunch quickly ...
The afternoon is getting settled into the camp and trying to find out a bit more about the conditions. There isn't any real update as yet but our Sherpas have a number of friends here so will be going around tomorrow to get a better idea.
Supper is pretty good although vegetarian (curry) but luckily one of the rare internet opportunities recently showed me that a big steak evening is being organised for when I am back - something I will no doubt dream of tonight! We get three courses which makes it quite a social meal which uses up the rest of the evening. Part of the evening has been talking about avalanches (although there is little risk of one on AD that hits any climbers) and there is a moment of nervousness when we hear a deep rumbling shortly after getting into our sleeping bags!