After yesterday's blow out we hit the hay early and slept right through until the sunlight engulfed my tent at 6.00 this morning. Today was marked down as a rest day to enable our bodies to gain the most from the altitude we were subjected to yesterday, but we were all looking forward to the traditional 'puja' ceremony which was programmed for this morning.
This ceremony is held by the Sherpa contingent and a local lama (that's lama not llama), and is a pre-requisite for any Sherpa setting foot on Everest. Rocks are piled up to form a make-shift alter, with the lama sitting cross legged in front chanting, ringing a bell and banging a drum. The alter and accompanying table were adorned with a quite bizarre array of accessories; a picture of the Dalai Lama, bowls of rice, two cans of beer, a rubber duck (Stu's attempting to win an award for the photo containing the best travelled duck), something that looked like Mr Potato Head, loads of prayer flags, and the whole group's ice axes, crampons and climbing boots. The idea is to bless the equipment and appeal to the mountain gods to look over us and assure our safety, but the occasion was anything but the sombre, contemplative affair I was expecting. In fact, at first I was disappointed as I was hoping that it would be a spiritual affair, allowing us time to reflect and philosophise as to what awaits us on the mountain, but I soon realised that Sherpas do things differently when it all morphed into some surreal kind of party. Randomly enough it all ended with a beer, a tot of rum, a no holds-barred food fight and a sort of Nepalese can-can! So not quite the tear jerker I was expecting but as long as the mountain gods were happy with a load of sunburned climbers, covered in flour and rice, performing some impromptu line dancing, then it's OK with me.
So now we've got the gods on our side, we just need to keep putting one foot in front of the other. Unfortunately we've another day or so before we can start the ascent to Intermediate Base Camp and beyond, so until then we're enjoying life here at BC, discussing the possibilities of the next two months and sorting out our equipment ready for the big push. Tomorrow we're being issued with our radios and being taken through a technical refresher to remind us of the exact skills we'll be required to have perfected in the next couple of weeks.
And as for sending back these blogs, can anyone explain why half an hour sat freezing on the top of a hill with a satphone can't result in a sent e-mail, whereas people are chatting away on mobile phones in their tents? We're hoping that the satellite comms comes into it's own further up the hill, because at the moment it seems to be solely unwelcome ballast!
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