The group of 15 South Africans reached Everest Base Camp this month. Picture: Supplied
The group of 15 South Africans reached Everest Base Camp this month. Picture: Supplied

LOOK: South African group reaches Everest Base Camp despite global Covid restrictions

By Clinton Moodley Time of article published Apr 30, 2021

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A group of 15 South Africans reached Everest Base Camp despite the global Covid pandemic.

It was the trip of a lifetime for participants, Prof Sonia Human, Rose Mills, Marius Fourie and John Thöle, Emily Farrell, Rory and Linda Macfarlane, Klasie Wessels, Sue Pearson, and Devin Baird.

The group flew from Katmandu in Nepal to the Tenzing-Hillary Airport, known as one of the world’s most dangerous airports, in Lukla, on April 7.

They started the trek a few hours after their arrival.

Wessels, who led the trek, said the Everest base camp journey usually took 15 days to complete (eight days to reach the base of Everest and five to trek back down the mountain).

He said overnight accommodation was in tea-houses located in small villages dotted along the way.

“The total walking distance from Lukla (the traditional starting point) to Everest base camp is 65km.

“One typically walks for five to six hours per day and altitude is more important than distance. The thin air makes even the shortest distances a difficult task,” he explained.

Getting closer to Everest Base Camp. Picture: Supplied.

"Everest Base Camp, at an altitude of 5 363m, has 50% less oxygen than at sea level. In terms of fitness, one needs to be fit enough to walk for five to six hours per day for 15 consecutive days," added Wessels.

Wessels explained that they were one of the first groups to trek since the pandemic hit.

The views that the trek offers. Picture: Supplied

“This year, due to Covid, there were very few international travellers.

“We were one of the first groups to start the trekking season.

“Our Nepalese hosts were so happy that we could do the trek despite the pandemic, especially since their livelihood depends on trekkers like us.

“There are only two trekking seasons, between April/May and September/October. The monsoon sets in during summer and is too cold with lots of snow during November and December,“ he said.

Emotions run high at Everest Base Camp. Picture: Supplied

The journey wasn’t at all easy. However, the group took extra care to avoid contracting Covid-19 and altitude sickness. Some suffered from diarrhoea, nausea, headaches, and dehydration.

“We adhered to a few rules. Each day on the trek, we drank at least 500ml of water per 10kg of body weight, consumed herbal tea including ginger, mint and green tea, avoided coffee, ate all meals and became conscious of breathing deeply.

“We also took Diamox – a tablet to prevent altitude sickness.

"The purpose of this journey is for participants to develop a new sense of appreciation of life.

“We take so many things for granted, and a journey like this makes one aware of the possibilities that life has to offer,“ added Wessels.

The group arrived back in South Africa on April 25. Their next trip is in April 2022.

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