If you have ever been to Kathmandu and know the Bagmati River, you might think that I am trying to get out of my Everest expedition by poisoning myself with the dirty water of the river. No, this is not the case, however, it is true that you probably would poison yourself if you ever drank from it in Kathmandu. The Bagmati is a highly polluted river, which is due to the uncontrolled mixing of sewage that is being channelled into its waters. Furthermore, it is considered one of the holiest rivers of the Hindu religion and dead bodies have to be dipped three times into the Bagmati before cremation. The bodies are normally cremated in the early morning hours at the Pashupatinath Temple, which is one of the holiest Hindu temples in the world.
Anyway, I actually did drink the water of the Bagmati but that was in the hills, where I came across the source of this holy river. As part of my training for Everest I am currently trying to run up each of the four main hills surrounding the Kathmandu valley. This morning I scaled Shivapuri, which at 2,732m is the second highest in the valley. My web designer, personal trainer and friend Richard and I ran 1,000m in altitude over 24km in three hours and it was great to get out of the mayhem of the city. I was actually stunned how wild and lush the Shivapuri National Park was, and it is a shame that not more people living in Kathmandu use this amazing natural beauty for recreation. Well, I am guilty myself as this was the first time that I actually ventured that far out of Kathmandu for my exercise. Anyway, just below the summit, we came across a retreat and met a Sadu, who introduced himself as Toteke Baba and told us that he had been living up there for 15 years. Whilst he was brewing a cup of tea for us, he pointed to a little spout and told us that this was the source of the Bagmati River. For some strange reason I felt quite emotional when I went across and took a sip of this fresh and clean water. It is very rare that you can just drink from a river or a stream in Nepal and it felt very special to catch that water before it turns into that brown, polluted and reeking river we have to put up with in the capital.
Even though this was only the first time I went up there it was probably also the last time before I head for Everest. From tomorrow I will be extremely busy interviewing expeditions for the Himalayan Database, and there are some days when I am due to meet as many as ten teams! And even though the interviews themselves only take between 10 and 20 minutes, the most time consuming part of my work is actually finding the expeditions and pinning them down for a meeting, which can sometimes take up a big part of the day.
I am heading for the hill on 8th April, however, most of my team are arriving within the next few days and will leave Kathmandu for Lukla on 31st March. It looks as if the Everest Base Camp trail will be very busy with yaks, porters, Sherpas, expedition leaders and foreign climbers during the first ten days of April and the otherwise remote and barren base camp will certainly turn into an explosion of orange and yellow tents.