Welcome to Freewheeling across the Himalayas

Le voyage est un retour vers l'essentiel (proverbe tibetain)


My name is Celine Soulard and on July 2010 I will embark on a 7 month cycling journey from Tajikistan to Nepal. This adventure will take me to some of the most challenging and beautiful roads in the world. I am also undertaking this journey to raise funds for the Mary A. Tidlund Charitable Foundation in support of the Ladakh Project (Health inc). I encourage you to subscribe to my blog to follow me in this great adventure. I will share with you in this blog stories and photos on a regular basis and hope to inspire you to contribute to the Ladakh Project.

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November 27, 2010

Namaste from Nepal - Trekking the Khumbu region....on the beaten tracks!

Sunset on Everest, Nuptse and Makalu from Gokyo Ri
I was very happy to arrive in Nepal on October 27th. It is nice to be in a country where people are nice and friendly, internet access is not controlled and restricted, I can choose my hotel and I don’t need to hire a guide and driver to enter the country!!! In Nepal you get your Visa at the border. The officer asked me “first time in Nepal?” I said “Yes” then he looked at me and said “Why did it take you so long”? I started laughing and told him I will have to stay longer to make it up!! I knew right away I was going to like Nepal!!!!

Tsering Sherpa from Thame - a lovely little boy

Thame Stupa
I spent few days in Kathmandu in the tourist ghetto of Thamel. It is quite the zoo there. It is hard to avoid these places when travelling and they have their utility (good coffee, internet access, etc) but it is expensive, crowded, the street are full of tourist junk, agencies, etc....just the kind of place I usually try to avoid when I travel!!! It is not as bad as Kao San road in Bangkok but close!!!

My first idea was to try to organize one or two trekking Peaks over 6,000m (Mera and Island Peaks) but the cost of permits, the fact that I didn’t have my equipment and the difficulty to find climbing partner made me change my mind. I still want to do this but it would make more sense to get together with a couple of friends and come over here with our equipment and do it now that I know how it works!

In the meantime I met Suzanne, Pierre’s wife (Pierre was my cycling partner in Tibet) who had just climbed Mera Peak with a French Agency and we decided to team up for a 3 weeks trek in the Khumbu region.

I am sure some of you must wonder why I decided to visit the Khumbu region as it is very busy with Trekkers going to the Everest Base camp. It is not the type of place I usually go!!! I hesitated a lot before going there but after a 4 months of cycling remote areas I thought that trekking from lodge to lodge would be kind of relaxing. Also Pierre had told me how beautiful the area is so I decided to give it a shot. It took a bit to get my head around the concept of trekking for 20 days with a backpack that hardly weigh more than a normal day hike pack!! In Canada any multiple day trek involve carrying food, camping equipment, etc. It is quite a treat to be able to spend 20 days trekking from lodge to lodge like one would do in Europe for a fraction of the price!

Thank God they have new bridges!
In Canada I think there is a misconception (even a snobbism) about the Everest region. After 20 days of trekking and having walks most of the trails in the area, I am VERY happy I didn’t turn my back to it. It is incredibly beautiful and being surrounded by all these famous 8,000m+ peaks is truly a great experience. It is like going to the Mecca for mountain lovers!

We choose to do the Three Passes trek. This trek allowed us to get some great views of the regions, see 3 different valleys and walk over 3 passes over 5,400m. The vast majority of people go to Everest base Camp and return the same way. The Three passes trek allow to see more of the regions and mostly we didn’t have to back track!

Three passes - Khumbu region
 We started the trek in Lukla. Landing on the airstrip in Lukla is very impressive. They fly small plane (17 passengers) and the approach through narrow valleys and through the clouds made me slightly nervous. Then you see this short airstrip with a wall of mountains at its end. The landing strip has a good inclination to help slowing down the plane!!!!

Even if I had spent the last month cycling in high altitude I had lost most of my acclimatization and had to be meticulous about our ascent rate. Most trekkers hire guide and porters but it is really not necessary. We carried our own bag and had no time constraints! As for the trail I am not sure how someone could get lost there!!!!

First glimpse at the mountain from Khumjung
The lodges all have a wood stove in the eating area and the food was excellent. Since all the goods are carried to the lodges by porters the higher you get the more expensive the food is!!! Lodges owner and staff are very nice and friendly which is amazing given the number of trekkers year after year.

Suzanne had visited the area 20 years ago and was amazed at the development in the region. The increase of trekkers and the construction of new lodges put a lot of pressure on this environment and brings all sorts of issues but I think overall the people in the valley have a much better life than before.

Lower Pemboche  - Typical village along the way
We were very fortunate on our way back to Namche Bazar from Thame to spend one day walking with the Tibetan coming all the way from Tibet through Nangpa La with hundreds of Yaks loaded with “Chinese Junk” on their way to the Saturday market in Namche Bazar. It was a very cool experience! They walk for 3 or 4 days with their Yak and then they simply go back. Except for the content of the bags this hasn’t changed for hundreds of years.

The day we crossed Renjo La I had a terrible time. I had some intestinal problems and my energy level was incredibly low! I was moving rather slowly and was happy when we reached the lodge at the end of the day. There we met the funniest little Sherpa. Tsering Sherpa a 4 year old very happy and social boy. Within few minutes of us arriving at the lodge he was sitting on Helene's lap....only one minor problem...we were not sure he was completely toilet trained!!!! ....one stinky little guy!! The funny thing was that he only knew on entence in English that he kept repeating "Ho my God". It was hillarious to listen to hear saying it without having any idea of what it meant! The next morning I spent time with him drawing, making paper boat, running around and took few photos. He was very thrilled about the photos!

Back in Kathmandu now. The next leg of the trip will be 6 weeks of cycling through Nepal and Sikkim.

Few minutes after Sunset - Everest Nuptse and Makalu

Village with Lhotse in the background

Me in Heaven!!! (photo: Suzanne Graf)

At the foot of Ama Dablam

View from Chunkung Ri (Ama Dablam in the background)

Kongma La pass

Yak returning from Gorak Shep (Pumori behind)

Foggy morning below Cho La Pass

Suzanne and I Chukung Ri

What is my name?

Typical lodge dinning room

6th lake and Cho Oyu

Walking acroos the glacier Cho La pass

Tibetan and his yaks going to Namche Bazar

Tibetan caravan on its way to Namche Bazar

Tsering Sherpa a happy boy!

Everest seen from Kala Patar

Sunset on Makalu

 Thanks again for all your comments and emails.I really appreciate it.  The rest of my trekking photos can be seen on  Flickr



Fred Bouwman said...

Hi Celine,

The pictures look fantastic, it makes me anxious to get there.

I am carrying my hiking boots just so I can hike in Nepal and was not sure of the route to take but this one looks absolutely amazing.

Excellent job on the photos.


Steve Ostrander said...

Unbelievable, Celine. I too am glad you did the trek... the resulting pictures are stunning. It has been very interesting to follow you in your travels. You are an inspiration.

Steve Ostrander

Al MacKeigan said...

Wow Celine, I'm so proud of you. You have a future in photojournalism I think. The images show your artistry , your love of time and place , your heart. I'm blown away.
Stay safe.
Al MacKeigan

Chris said...

Great Celine, You have had such wonderful adventures and no doubt will have some superb memories of these past few weeks. Shame about the rotten PSB! Your Khumbu picture refreshed many of my happy memories. Thanks! Hope you have a great time on the rest of your travels. Chris.

Anonymous said...

Great Pics and glad that you made it there safely. I have been following for some time.

Take care and safe journeys


Nancy Swanson said...

My wife and I have been interested in doing Three Passes. So far, your blog has given us the best idea of what to expect, and great photos as a bonus! We have substantial experience hiking the Rockies, Sierra, and Olympics over the years (both Canadian and U.S.), but have never gone over 10,500 ft nor over 11 miles in a day. Our largest single day climb was 3,000 ft.
If you still check this section of your blog, I would like to impose upon on you with a question. How significant is the impact of altitude from what we typically climb in the Rockies to the elevations found on Three Passes? Is it feasible for to make the jump without first undertaking substantial training at higher altitudes?

Once again, thanks for sharing your experiences.

Ben and Star

Celine Soulard said...
This comment has been removed by the author.