On day 6 we left Namche Bazaar and hiked to the village of Khumjung which sits at an altitude of around 3790m. On our way there we visited Kunde hospital which was founded by Sir Edmund Hillary in 1966. It was the second major project of the Himalayan Trust and it serves 10,000 Sherpas within the Khumbu district. It is now funded by the Edmund Hillary Foundation and has 4 medical staff (a doctor, 2 medical assistants and a trained nurse/midwife). It is run by local people who provide a 24 hour service. They are able to perform procedures such as tooth extractions and cyst removals and they have basic diagnostic equipment including an x-ray and ECG machine. They also provide a maternity service to pregnant women and they have even performed a number of c-sections under epidural!
The hospital has 15 inpatient beds and offers a wide range of services for the Sherpa community. If someone is very unwell and needing more serious medical treatment they can be flown out to Kathmandu by helicopter, although 95% of the local people can not afford this. The only alternative would be for them to carry their unwell friend or relative to the airport in Lukla to be flown to Kathmandu! Once there, treatment is paid for by the Nepalese government or hospital funds.
There was only one examining room at the hospital so while we were there a queue of local people had formed outside the hospital, in the freezing cold, waiting to be seen by the doctor! After he had seen his patients we were given the opportunity to speak to him and ask any questions which was very interesting. Although I was pleasantly surprised at the medical facilities available, it still makes me feel very grateful for the NHS and I gave a small donation to this very worthy cause.
After this we headed to the lodge where we would be staying for the night. Those of you that know me well, know that I don’t feel the cold, however even I had to resort to wearing trousers and my Buff at this altitude! (the temperature was only 2 degrees!) I haven’t put my shorts back on since!
After lunch we visited Khumjung School which was built in 1961 and was the first major project of the Himalayan trust. It now has around 350 students and the Himalayan trust have opened a further 25 schools in the Khumbu district.
We also visited a monastery where they had a skull kept as a sacred relic in a locked box as it is believed to be the skull of the legendary Yeti! Many of the Nepali people still believe in this mythical creature, however others think that the skull is that of a goat!
We returned to our lodge for some rest and relaxation time and following dinner we had a talk from our group doctor about altitude sickness. He highlighted the signs and symptoms to look for and the importance of keeping hydrated! I have been taking this very seriously and I have been drinking around 4 litres of water a day! I’ve never drank so much!
The next day we had a fairly easy trek to Thyangbosche which is home to one of Nepal’s finest monasteries! The scenery was spectacular and we had clear views of Everest again (although still very much in the distance!). We then followed the trail to the village of Deboche where we would be staying for the night.
The scenery here is fantastic and I am experiencing incredible things every day but I would be lying if I said it was easy! I’m missing my wife, friends and family more than I ever would have imagined and it really is tough being at such high altitude. Everything feels like a massive effort! Still, I’m staying strong and focussed – it wouldn’t be a challenge if it wasn’t difficult!