Saturday, October 11, 2014

EBC: Next Steps

From Overview to Key Learnings, it could only lead to Next Steps!

This is the last post of this blog, but hopefully not my last post on trekking and hiking. I have already planned for a trek to ABC in April of next year and am thinking of signing up for Chadar trek coming February. So yes these are my immediate next steps...but I know you are not interested in my next steps. 

Here are next steps for those reading this blog. If you ever wanted to do a trek, you must consider EBC. It sounds tough but it is not - EBC is one of the most luxurious treks possible with all the lodges and tea houses along the way. You don't have to carry luggage backpacks - all you need is a day backpack - porters carry most of the load. You don't have to sleep in tents - all lodges provide you rooms with bed and blankets. And except for Lobuche and Gorakshep, you can get attached toilets too. Hot showers cost but they are available (including Gorakshep). Wifi too - paid but available at most places. NTC connection works a most places except Lobuche. Can it get any easier if you want to trek? Not really! 

Only thing you need for this trek, in addition to gear I had listed in post titled "Key Learnings", is a love for trekking. Don't do EBC if your aim is to just tick it off your bucket list. Yes, reaching EBC was important to me but I enjoyed the journey as much as reaching the destination. I had as much fun coming back to Lukla as I had while getting closer to my goal. Don't do EBC or any such trek if you can't handle lack of clean beds or attached toilets. Remember there are only 3 modes of transport in these places - foot, animals and chopper. And it's every expensive to make even basic things available - so don't expect all the comforts that you are used to. Infact, once on this trek, you will soon find out how little you need to survive and function! We have made our lives unnecessarily unhappy by running after things we don't really need. I was at my happiest when my N-cell connection stopped working and when I decided to not pay for wifi. Yes I did miss hot showers and clean restrooms (hygiene after all can't be compromised for ever) but I didn't miss my bed or other comforts of my home. 

The other thing you should keep in mind while booking such a trek for the first time is that you should try avoid packages as much as possible. And here is the reason why. We paid INR 63000 for the 12 day trek but it didn't include expenses on water or tips to porters and guides. It also didn't allow for individual rooms or rooms with attached toilets at all places. We had to pay extra every time we chose single occupancy rooms or when we exceeded the quota of number of nights with attached toilets. We also had to pay for tea consumed mid morning and also for soup during lunch. I ended up spending another INR 30,000 on these additional expenses. Lot of times PK and I shared a meal, and that means the trekking agency had to pay less as against the budget, but those savings were not given to us back in form of free tea or soup. 

So now when I am planning ABC trek, I have already told the agency that I want to pay for all costs on actuals and I will pay a commission for their efforts. In addition, I realised that we didn't need guides AND porters. Porters know the route as well as guides do, so for next trek I am not taking a guide. Nima, in my opinion, was not really required for the trek. He, honestly, did nothing but yes he did put together a great team. Mingmar, Pasang, Karma, Lakpa - all amazing people. Without them PK wouldn't have made it to EBC!

In addition, I am also reducing porter cost by reducing the number of bags. PK & I plan to fit both our stuff in one duffel bag, which implies that we can do with just one porter for upto 3 people. Budgeted this way, the cost of trek is 35% lesser than the package offered by the agency. 

One last tip before I sign off from this blog - After Kathmandu you cannot withdraw cash and credit cards don't work either. Even in Kathmandu you have to pay NR 400 for every ATM withdrawl and 4% additional charges if you pay using credit card. My advice - carry cash from India. But only in INR 100 denominations because anything larger is not accepted. Also, if possible, carry some cash in USD as well - any denomination works (1 USD = 100 NR). It helped that I had extra cash on me in USD that PK could use to pay for the horse rides. Had we all carried more cash, she could have been on that 4 minute flight from Namche to Lukla instead of Nima. 

And if you still have more questions, you know how to reach me and I will be more than willing to answer them. Till then, I will dream about my next trek and you should start thinking about one too!

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