Japan has been great! At least that's what I tell everyone.
My almost five months in the country constitute the longest consecutive period of time I have spent in one place since my departure from Brazil three years ago.
I need to escape.
But escape to where? I am terrible with choices, and there are literally (figuratively) an endless number of places I could set off to from Asia's doorstep (anyone been to Guam? Saipan?).
It's officially adventure time.
But where to adventure to?
Really only one answer.
To the mountains.
To the Nepal.
How did I reach this conclusion?
Easy. I started with the facts:
- My experience hiking in snow? Virtually zero.
- My experience hiking in the winter months? Virtually zero.
- My experience hiking and sleeping in below zero (°F/-18°C) temperatures? Actually zero.
- My experience at altitudes above 14,503 ft / 4,420 m? Actually zero.
So I had a brilliant idea to remedy all of these things: hike to Everest Base Camp. In the dead of winter. Alone.
Because what would an escape be without the risk of certain death?
Now don't let my intentional over-dramatization of this scenario incite any sort of emotion within you (I care about you too). It isn't as harrowing an adventure as you may think.
It isn't? It isn't.
First of all, the Everest Base Camp trek can be done at a very leisurely pace (which is required because of the altitude gain). Base camp sits only 38.58 mi/62 km from the (typical) starting point of Lukla, Nepal, and most organized treks to Base Camp take between seven and nine days going up.
Under forty miles in more than a week's time? Four to five miles a day? That doesn't sound too intense. That almost sounds like it isn't even worth it.
Secondly of all, as far as going alone, I would love some company on this journey (despite my love of solo adventures), but unfortunately, my call to immediately give up any plans or responsibility and hike to what may be certain death in Nepal was not attractive enough an offer to entice any of my known associates. However, I am confident that I will make plenty of friends along the way (although the winter months are less crowded than the fall).
The only thing I have any real concern for is the altitude. You can only truly prepare yourself for altitude by spending time at altitude, and despite my recent attempts to get my cardiovascular system out of the gutter (and my promise to myself to hydrate religiously), the risk of altitude sickness will always be present (so long as I continue upwards).
Simply getting to Nepal in the first place is quite the undertaking.
My initial ticket (from Japan) was booked on the notoriously cheap China Eastern Airlines: two stops in China and twenty-four hours of travel time (you get what you pay for).
But lo and behold, a week after booking said ticket, I get an email notifying me that there has been a change to my itinerary and I need to call to find out the details (why not just send me the updated itinerary via email?).
So I call.
The change? One of my layovers in China has been changed from a six hour layover to a forty-eight hour layover. Isn't that called cancelling my flight?
Seeing as how I will have limited time in Nepal and I do not want to risk being delayed in getting there, I decided to (for this once) abandon the budget route and go with something a bit more reliable – Qatar Airways.
Now my expected arrival in Nepal is a whole forty-eight hours before my original arrival time (prior to the change), and my return flight departs later and gets in earlier. Wins all around (except for my wallet).