I once sat down to think about how much mountain climbing experience I have had over the years. One by one, I began to recall the experiences.
In 2021, when world travel was closed due to Covid-19, I went to Keokradong. I climbed the Chandranath Hill in 2019.
When I went to the Rohtang Pass in Himachal Pradesh, India, I walked at a height of more than 3,000 feet. I have plenty of walking experience but they were on plain land so, walking on a mountain pass that high felt surreal.
This experience motivated me to go to the Everest Base Camp (EBC).
I began to prepare bit by bit from the end of 2021 and as it is, you have to prepare for three months in advance before the trek, especially for the right pair of footwear.
I started buying different types of winter clothes and essentials for the trek. Some suggested the rest of the things should be collected from Nepal.
Finally, I set off for Kathmandu. The journey from Dhaka to Kathmandu was quite smooth. The next day I travelled from Kathmandu to Lukla.
Writing about Kathmandu always makes me emotional. My first world tour started in 1999 from Nepal and now I was visiting it after 23 long years.
The journey from Kathmandu to the base camp was a surprise to me. Landing at the Lukla Tenzing-Hillary Airport in the middle of a mountain in a small 14-person aircraft was a unique experience.
This was the first time I saw the cockpit of an aircraft. A translucent plastic curtain hung between the captain's seat and the passengers.
My guide's name was Krishna. Krishna and I came to Lukla from Kathmandu together.
My porter Khude, who I met in Lukla, could not utter a word of English. On the other hand, Krishna spoke four languages, including Bangla and English.
He gave me an idea about the history of Nepal, along with various aspects of the Himalayas and the trek itself. He also emphasised the importance of following the rules and drinking plenty of water during the trek.
Arrangements were made for us to stay overnight at a place called Fakding. I walked a good nine kilometres and when I came to the lodge, I was drained of energy. At that time the temperature outside was -2 degree celsius.
Dinner was served at 7pm. It was a simple but delicious Nepalese thali consisting of rice, papad, vegetables and chicken curry. Soon it was time for bed.
My next destination was Namche Bazar, the largest and most popular market on the base camp trek. Some travellers do not reach the base camp but take a short trek to visit Namche Bazar.
I had to stay here for a day for my body to acclimatise and also get some rest.
Acclimatisation is the process of adjusting the body to a higher altitude and then descending to a certain height and then falling asleep at a slightly lower altitude. This way the body can adapt to the elevated height gradually.
From Namche Bazaar we went to Tengboche and from there to Dingboche. At Dingboche, we stopped again for acclimatisation.
As the heights were changing I began to notice some physical changes, like shortness of breath, mild headaches, disturbed sleep and loss of appetite.
In Dingboche, I went for a walk in the afternoon to a bakery called France Bakery. This was the first time I went to an eatery at a staggering 14,000 feet altitude.
From Dingboche we went to Lobuche. The dream base camp was not far away and my excitement began to rise.
The altitude was increasing, the snowfall was increasing and the temperature was decreasing.
As I became more tense, I saw more physical changes. But now when I look back, it actually feels like a beautiful dream.
From Lobuche our destination was Gorakshep. You have to go to the base camp from Gorakshep and then come back here on the same day because there is no place to stay in EBC.
I was feeling a little stressed because of that. The urge to complete on time and reach my goal became intense.
Nature's wonders on the way
I saw places with extreme weather where humans and wild animals had to befriend each other to survive. At an altitude of thousands of feet, I saw a herd of yaks, mules and horses carrying food and basic necessities.
I met Ben, a 70-year-old American, while trekking. We spent a few hours of a night at the same lodge. Because we both walked slowly, I was glad to see him.
I could not believe my eyes when I stood in front of the huge rock on which the words 'Everest Base Camp' were inscribed. I still cannot believe I touched it and made it back to my country.
During the trek, I used to forget the fatigue when I saw beautiful primroses, rhododendrons and Himalayan roses on both sides of the road. Often I used to stop and look at the pine and birch trees.
Three overwhelming things
I was overwhelmed by three things during the trek - the skill of the Sherpas, the Tibetan scriptures carved on stones and the deceased mountaineers' memorial on Tukla Pass where Bangladeshi mountaineer Sajal Khaled also has a memorial plaque.
On the way I met two Sherpas, one climbed Mount Everest seven times and the other 17 times. Both were very simple and amiable folks. They made a living by running a restaurant.
In my eyes, the real heroes are the Sherpas and those who went to climb and did not return. Their sacrifices made Everest immortal.
Krishna informed me Tibetans call the peak Chemolungma while the Sherpas of Nepal call it Sagarmatha. I wondered why we called it Everest because Sagarmatha sounds way more beautiful.
Why I embarked on this journey
I did not go to EBC to prove anything to anyone else. It was a promise to myself to fulfill a dream.
Those who had doubts that I could not finish EBC trekking, when I came back, they said, "Many people are going on the EBC trek these days, it is not a big deal really."
While that is true, I personally am very eager to hear the experiences of all the 46-year-old Bangladeshi non-trekkers who completed the EBC trek.