After almost three weeks of trekking we felt it was time that group 1 made a contribution to this blog.
We arrived in Beni with a simple mission – to lead the way to basecamp so that we could have first access to the sauna and jaccuzi; there was some mention of setting up some science too. Sadly we had underestimated the other groups and our own desire late starts and short days.
The adventures started about 10m into the trek; what seemed a very simple task (to cross a bridge) became a major obstacle when Petra and Dave (aka Emma Lloyd-Davies) decided to take a photo. As the rest of the group vanished round a corner Petra and Dave were faced with a simple choice – to follow the 50 porters, tents, blue barrels, sherpas, guides and their 10 group mates or to go for the small road to their right. After a couple of hours of walking it slowly dawned on them that maybe they had chosen the wrong one. Thankfully a quick bus ride soon brought them back to the rest of their group and raised an interesting possibility when Jamie asked a passing taxi, ‘How much for Hidden Valley?’
Further up the valley Dave managed to provide some interesting education for the local Nepali children, who now know that Westerners poo in the same way as everyone else, while Joey (aka Zoe) almost became a snack for a praying mantis.
A couple of days later two simultaneous disasters occurred, firstly a fear that we had run out of toilet paper and then Jamie’s trendy sunglasses were accidentally given to a donkey herder. Thankfully the toilet paper scare proved unfounded however if anyone sees a cool looking donkey near Dhaulagiri please send a message to Bangor. Jamie’s problem did result in a new game: ‘Challenge Denzil’. The idea is that you give Denzil a few odds and ends and ask for him to make it into something useful. This can range from a replacement pair of sunnies to a cold fusion reactor (which he’s still working on).
Fears were raised about the manliness of some group members to the extent that some of the (allegedly) female group members drew up a list of requirements to be a real man. While some of these were easy to complete (folding a map, sharpening a pencil with a knife), a few members are struggling with slaying dragons and asking directions. Olivia (aka Sam) is also finding the ‘growing a beard’ requirement slightly hard. A corresponding list of lady-like qualities (mostly contributed by Rob the Pole) provided amusement during a hard day’s walking including looking pretty in a blizzard and having a headache in the evening.
We finally caught group 3 at a school campsite and put on a show of our Olympian strength with a piggy back race (girls carrying boys). This looked great until Dave decked it onto the floor. In the evening we hatched a cunning plan: to leave the flat and relatively dry campsite to take a rest day at a swamp one day further up the valley. Iestyn led the way in his trademark yeti boots through the delightful cloud forest to a wonderful campsite that featured daily rain, permanent cloud and an attractive mud finish. Realising that group 3 would still catch us up we hatched another plan to hide some of their kit...
The rest day produced some strange effects as Catherine began to dream of Britney Spears and Doug finally began to beat Phan (aka Stephan) in the beard competition. The next day we arose refreshed and dry for the first time in a week and decided it was time to leave the leeches behind. After a brief shower in a humongous waterfall we soon arrived at the glorious Italian Basecamp, though were disappointed by the lack of pizza or fine art. It did imbibe our team with a sense of style though and Sam realised that he could have bedhair without making any effort.
The final few camps before Hidden Valley basecamp featured quite rapid altitude gain and a few headaches and illness, fortunately we were able to ascend the French Pass together to reach the Hidden Valley. Knowing that there would be stocks of tents, fresh vegetables and most importantly more hot chocolate we were spurred into action. This dream was shattered somewhat when we found that basecamp was basically a shoddly errected tent and about three barrels. We put Denzil and Buffy (aka Jim Duffy) to work and A-team like they soon managed to produce a basecamp dome and a hint of electricity. The Hidden Valley proved to be a wonderful campsite with perfectly flat ground and sunlight from 7am to 5pm. The only problem was the wind that knocked down our first attempt at research tents and required igloo like reinforcements.
We were all delighted to see the other groups, not least of all because we could prod and poke them with different experiments and an attempt to collect as much saliva, urine and blood as humanly possible. Jamie and Sam estimate that we will be taking over 2.5kg of frozen spit back with us. If anyone would like to put in a bid for this please text Simon...
Despite the intense cold we are all feeling well and enjoying the science and climbing opportunities. The attraction of teahouses, restaurants and a shave is seeming more appealing by the day though! A big thank you to everyone who has sent messages to group 1 members, it is always wonderful to hear from home so keep them coming!
PS On a personal note, lots of love to Imo, missing you lots and looking forward to seeing you soon.