Our first order of business upon arriving in Nepal was to prepare for our two-week Everest adventure. During past trips to Nepal we had hiked the Annapurna Circuit and to Annapurna Base Camp, with Everest each time losing out mainly over concerns about just how busy it gets, especially during high season (i.e. October). But as people who love hiking, and love hiking in Nepal in particular, the highest mountain in the world simply had to get its turn sometime, crowds or no.
How much does the flight from Kathmandu to Lukla add to the adventure?
While the scene at the domestic terminal was a touch on the dystopian side, we eventually made it through, optimism reigning, before things took a grim turn, about when a group of tourists on the flight before us filed out, boarded the bus and rode it all the way to the plane before turning around, coming back and filing back in to the terminal looking as sad and dejected as me after my last bowl of cereal before leaving the country. Some of them had waited all day the day before, and this latest turn of events seemed on the verge of breaking their spirits. This led to some desperate talk of renting helicopters, and we began mentally running through our options, preparing to head back into Kathmandu and having to face the prospect of trying the whole process again the next day, when out of nowhere they surprisingly called us out onto the runway where eight little planes immediately filled up with people (just 18 per plane, I think) and lined up, eager but orderly, like your parents waiting in line for Elton John tickets, then suddenly took off one after the other like we were fighter jets racing off to avenge/conquer/protect. At Lukla we swooped down out of the clouds below the level of the land, dodging clouds and hills in equal measure, then dove sharply down to the tiny, sloped runway where our brave pilot executed an admirable, if rather sketchy, landing, then they immediately rushed us off the plane and runway so they could get everything the hell out of the way for the next plane already visibly into its descent. So I’d say the flight adds a little something, yeah.
How many days does it take to trek to Everest Base Camp?
It depends on how fast your body acclimatizes to the altitude and how many rest/acclimatization days you build into your schedule. Most of the hiking days, while inevitably and strenuously straight uphill, are not particularly long because you can only add so much altitude each day (usually 300-600 metres). Predictably, people are constantly pushing the limits and ascending faster than they should, justifying it through the combination of disbelief these warnings actually apply to them, a complete lack of understanding of how altitude works, and a reasonably justifiable desire to limit the amount of long afternoons pointlessly sitting around generic common rooms playing cards, writing increasingly banal details in a journal they will never open again after this trip, and desperately waiting for the teahouse owner to eventually honour us with the lighting of the fireplace. In our case, we predictably followed the most common guidelines and spent two nights in both Namche Bazaar (3,450m) and Dingboche (4,350m) and reached Kala Pattar (5,600m) on day 8. Then, freed of altitude constraints and aided by gravity and massive cravings for warmth and reasonably-priced soft drinks, it is possible to make it back down to Lukla in 3-4 days. As we had built in a couple extra days to deal with unexpected physical ailments, or very much expected bouts of exhaustion, we ended up spending them hiking a side trail from Namche to Thame and back. But, for most people, I would suggest 12 days (8 up and 4 down) would be perfect. All told we spent 13 days on the trail, during 10 of which I bemoaned the lack of reliable meat products, and 3 of which I spent furtively sniffing at my shirt, suspecting that strange funk was my doing, yet continuing to hope I was imagining it.
Does trekking to Everest Base Camp mean you are going to climb to the summit?
No, only glory hounds and crazy people actually try to climb Everest. I heard that 10% of Everest climbers end up dead, and those odds are simply far too high for any sane person. Just consider that statistic for a minute – that means that if a group of 10 try to reach the summit, odds are one of them will die. Also, 9 of them will suffer from some form of altitude sickness, one of them will be gay, 6 of them will list Into Thin Air as their favourite movie, and 3 will have racy episodes of Game of Thrones saved on their DVR.
What do you mean you’re doing the Everest Base Camp trek and not actually going to Base Camp?
Well, for starters, almost all Everest summit attempts take place in the spring so at this time of year there is not actually anything – or anyone – there. Where the trail separates at Gorak Shep you have two choices. You can spend a couple hours toiling up the incredibly steep slope to Kala Pattar where you will be rewarded with some of the best mountain views in the world, including the Khumbu Glacier and arguably the best look at Everest (highest in the world) and other major peaks such as Llotse (4th highest), Ama Dablam (sharp as a shark’s tooth) and Pumori (“unmarried daughter”) looming over you like a giant, stonily rugged female volleyball player. Or you can spend 4-5 hours hiking the much flatter path to Base Camp at 5,340m where you will be treated to a closer view of the glacier and the chance to line up for a photo next the Everest Base Camp sign. Unfortunately, Everest itself is well hidden around a corner, but at least the name is famous and impressively recognizable, while Kala Pattar sounds sort of like a small village in India that recently made the news because of a cholera outbreak, or the public stoning of an adulteress.
Of course, you can always do both, but extra effort isn’t really our style.
Is the hike up to Kala Pattar difficult?
Yes, although just how difficult depends on if you had been sick for several days, had barely eaten during that time due to a loss of appetite and, at the time, finding Nepali cuisine about as appealing as old band-aids, had already hiked from Lobuche that day, took only a small break to refuel with some Tibetan bread, then hurried up in hopes of reaching the 5,600 metre summit before the clouds rolled in. If that describes your situation then, yes, it will very nearly kill you. And even if it doesn’t, you will still probably end up crying for a little while.
How much elevation gain do prospective trekkers face?
Apparently, starting in Lukla you will suffer through a total of 4,800 metres gain and 2,400 descent. Then you turn around do the opposite on the way back. And that doesn’t even include all those hills climbed off the trail in search of isolated pee spots. By our calculations, the total will be somewhere in the range of 3,000 flights of stairs. Very rocky, uneven stairs covered in a whole lot of animal shit.
How busy is the trek?
Presumably because of last spring’s disastrous earthquake, visitor numbers to Nepal are way down. Which is a shame because so much of the country relies on tourism for their livelihood, and the debilitating damage and lingering economic effects are only being exacerbated by a slow trekking season. Based on numbers at the Sagarmatha National Park office, the number of trekkers was down nearly 50% for September, a trend that most Nepalis felt was continuing throughout October, normally the busiest trekking month of the year. Of course, while this trend is not good for the country as a whole, it did provide the small silver lining of making the trail slightly less busy for us, individually. While it still seemed pretty busy compared to most other treks we’ve done, we could hardly imagine the chaos of 2 or 3 times the number of trekkers clogging up the trails, jockeying for good spots in the dining rooms, and doing unspeakable things to the shared toilets. Of course, even in a down season where we routinely found ourselves practically alone for long stretches along the trail, there were still plenty of large groups around, all well-prepared to monopolize space, time and seats close to the fire with unparalleled vigour. And while we completely understand the inclination to join a group, be guaranteed social acceptance and have all your decisions made for you, as an outsider these huge, tightly-packed groups of identically-dressed hikers can all too often bear unpleasant resemblances to the admittedly necessary, but clumsy and reeking cargo trains of mules, cattle, dzopkio (half-cow, half-yak, all horn) and yaks. Witness: a stubborn refusal to cede their position within the close confines of their cluster to allow hikers to pass, the steady click/clack/clop of hooves and/or walking sticks, and an admirably rigid focus on the hindquarters of those directly in front of them.
What exactly was that thing crawling in our sink?
I have no idea, but it had way too many feet and will never be welcome anywhere near my toothbrush, no matter how nicely it asks. Of course, it’s dead now, so it’s not asking much of anything.
What is altitude sickness?
It is a condition that manifests itself when your body is unable to adjust to a rapid altitude gain. The short version is that as you ascend the air is thinner so you are getting less oxygen with each breath (70% at the start in Lukla at 2,850m, down to 50% at Kala Pattar at 5,600m). However, you are still exhaling the same amount of carbon dioxide so eventually the ratios within your body get messed up and you begin to exhibit a number of symptoms as varied and wonderful as headaches, nausea, sleeplessness, lack of appetite and even more frequent urination than I already enjoy through my combination of a tiny bladder and low threshold for discomfort.
Did you take Diamox to fend off altitude sickness?
Very briefly. Another common side effect of altitude that is not actually indicative of sickness, yet is disturbing all the same, is something called “periodic breathing”. This is when you are sleeping and you take one very deep, long breath, then another, more regular breath, then one or two short, shallow breaths, then stop breathing altogether for, in my case, I’m told, about 12 seconds, before gasping and choking in a desperate attempt for air, waking myself abruptly and irritatingly, ultimately causing angry glaring and additional grumpiness. Apparently, during an afternoon nap in Lobuche at just a hair under 5,000 metres, Laynni watched me do this for some time, finding it quite amusing as well as taking a clinical interest in the exact timing of the sputtering and length of breathlessness. Of course, I was less interested in her findings than her willingness to watch me fail to breathe repeatedly. Although, this information did lead to the one and only time I took Diamox. As far as I could tell, the periodic breathing stopped, although a pair of night-time visits to the horrific shared toilets with unpleasant bowel issues didn’t feel like a coincidence, and the Diamox was permanently retired after that. The downside of such a brief experiment was that I never got the opportunity to experience another of Diamox’s wonderfully varied side effects, the “softening of the eyeballs”. They recommend you stop taking it once your eyeballs become so soft it affects your sight, and although they don’t specifically say it, I would also advise against rubbing your eyes or, for whatever reason, poking them with your finger, although I have to admit I had this morbid hope that someone else would, just so I could see if their newly-softened eyeballs would actually burst like a soap bubble, or maybe just collapse like an overripe tomato.
What does “Dal Bhat, 24-Hour Power” mean?
Nothing, really. Although the Sherpas clearly love the way it rhymes, and the way it suggests that this common Nepali meal of rice, lentils and curry somehow imbues one with strangely prodigious levels of energy that allow them to remain active throughout day and night. However, while their ability to carry inhuman loads up the side of steep mountains is both impressive and, at times, frightening, their parallel ability to spend the other 16-20 hours of the day almost completely motionless, with no discernible source of entertainment or mental occupation besides occasional meals and long periods of staring blankly into space, renders this unending activity theory rather thin.
Are there vehicles along the route?
No, unless you count livestock or the occasional helicopter, such as the one we saw racing through the valley with its beautiful mountainous backdrop like a scene from a movie, dramatically sweeping down close enough for Laynni for her to wave to them from her carefully-chosen pee spot.
What are the teahouses like?
The teahouses, or lodges, along the way are surprisingly well-developed, much more so than in the Annapurna region. We’re not sure if that is more to do with the greater popularity of the Everest region, especially with, on average, higher-income tourists as opposed to backpackers, or is simply because 4 years have passed and the facilities have improved everywhere. Either way, many places had attached-bath options (although far from all) and the dining rooms/common areas were generally comfortable and warm (a good fireplace generously stocked with yak dung goes a long way when it comes to making high altitude evenings bearable). The menus were surprisingly large, although basically identical all the way to the top, with only the steadily-increasing prices as evidence you’d actually changed establishments. Since there are no roads and everything has to arrive on the back of something (porter, mule, cow, yak) it stands to reason that the higher up you go the more things cost. Getting beer to Gorak Shep, for example, could take as much as 10 days, enough time to grow a half-decent beard, or to realize 2 weeks is just a few days too long to spend in a Mexican all-inclusive. Still, it can be a little shocking to pay 350 rupees ($US 3.50) for a bottle of water that costs just 25 ($US 0.25) in Kathmandu. The rooms, however, were consistently cheap. Our most expensive was just 1,200 rupees ($US 12) and included a bathroom with hot shower and electrical outlets for unlimited charging, and our cheapest was a mere 200 rupees ($US 2). It included neither of those things, but did have two beds and some thin boards which at least vaguely resembled walls. Which is why once you have committed to a certain hotel you have virtually sworn a blood oath to eat your meals there as well. We never dared buck the system, but suspect that those with wandering appetites are occasionally never heard from again, or possibly only their faint screams emanating from the depths of the dungeons. There has not been any noticeable headway made in Nepali teahouses, however, when it comes to soundproofing. The glass half-full person might say the numerous sounds echoing throughout the hollowly-constructed premises lend themselves to an inclusive group atmosphere. The half-empty guy, though, who happens to be someone I am much more familiar with, tends to say “If I have to listen to one more Asian guy take a dump then spit in the toilet I am going to shove a toothbrush into my ear until it hemorrhages”.
Hiking boots on thin wooden floors,
Freezing hikers yank on creaky doors,
Paper-thin plywood walls,
Bellowed conversations through narrow halls,
Bowels rebel in neigbouring toilet,
Ear plugs. Ear plugs.
What should you do if you get sick during the trek?
Well, scientifically I’m not certain, but what I did after I came down with sinus cold, sore throat, cough and debilitating fever was sneeze, cough, pound ibuprofen, plod along, scowl, repeat. This method had me back to 80-85% within no time (i.e. 4-6 days). I don’t like to throw around words like “revolutionary”, but…
What is the food like?
Well, the menus are surprisingly large, but many of the items end up tasting exactly the same, regardless. There are all sorts of international choices of varying appeal from French toast, spaghetti with ketchup and baked beans on toast to local specialties such as dal bhat, Sherpa stew, yak steak and Tibetan bread (deep fried bread shaped like the steering wheel of a tiny 60’s sports car). Occasionally you’ll have to make difficult choices between things like “Chicken Soup” and “Chicken Soup (Fresh)”, and have to decide if the latter is worth an extra 60 cents or if that is just foolish extravagance. Above Namche Bazaar, which most people reach on day 2, it is taboo to slaughter animals so all meat has to be physically hauled up by either beast of burden or super-human porter, one day at a time resulting in fairly questionable freshness. Hence, eating meat, not recommended. Much like tuberculosis.
Between my frustrating sickness, a severe case of menu monotony and an unfortunate experience with a “cheese pizza” that more closely resembled a paper plate covered in Elmer’s Glue, I eventually hit a wall in Dingboche, struggling through a supper of boiled eggs and Tibetan bread; the following day my mushroom soup proved to contain little to no mushrooms and I was forced to resort to a partial can of shattered, dispirited Pringles and an old, bruised apple for lunch. A few days later, however, my body and I were back on more cooperative terms and I was once again able to tuck back into some maddeningly homogenous but necessarily filling meals of fried potatoes, vegetable-free vegetable soups and sticky plates of fried noodles. Not often do you hear the phrase “Man, I cannot wait to get back to Kathmandu”, but at certain times, in certain places…
Now a question from the audience:
Is it possible to look fashionable wearing huge puffy down booties?
Do you need a guide?
Well, that depends how much you enjoy having a teenager with minimal English and questionable hygiene weigh in on every aspect of your life by stating “I think is better…” followed by his firm instruction on everything from what time you should get up in the morning, to what type of drinks would be best for you, to where you should sit in the restaurant, to how wearing a jacket when you’re cold is definitely the way to go, and obviously a clever conclusion you would never have reached on your own. Having him carry one of our bags makes up for a lot of that, though. Although we did learn firsthand the folly of believing that, in the words of the venerable Seinfeld, when it comes to bad B.O., that the O will leave with the B, when in fact it will likely linger where it was last witnessed, namely spread far and wide across every corner of my trusty old backpack. Finding a safe, yet safely distant, spot for it each night in our tiny room has been one of our bigger challenges. As for our language issues, I can unequivocally state that trying to have a conversation with someone who regularly substitutes “too much” for “much” or “a lot” can also cause plenty of confusion. For example, “I think too much water” does not accurately convey the message that we should drink more water at high altitudes, and can easily lead to fairly circular and pointless argument. By the time he told me “I think too much washing hands” I had figured out our issue enough to comfortably smile and ignore all further comments. Friendly, however, and eager to please. Although I suppose the same could be said about most Labrador Retrievers.
How many bars are in Phakding, and how many of them will be playing the Metallica I crave while hiking?
At least 2, although if your tastes are varied enough to enjoy rocking out to Bon Jovi as well, then your choices increase to a solid 4 or 5.
What would happen if I tried to carry the porter’s load up the mountain?
One of two things, I expect.
- Despite an embarrassing bout of grunting and straining I would ultimately prove unable to actually budge the 60 kilos of various food supplies, bottled drinks and building materials, eventually surrendering in humiliation.
- I actually manage to leverage the unwieldy pile onto my back, stagger 10 to 15 metres up the hill, swaying from side to side like the last person leaving Pizza Petes’ after-hours, before hearing an alarming pop from somewhere in my back and having my knee give out in the wrong direction as I collapse in a heap. Presumably the bulk of the weight would then land on top of me, crushing a number of vital organs and causing me to soil myself in a very public, and less than ideal, fashion.
Why do you have to climb over stone fences and through wire ones to reach the hotels in Dingboche?
Presumably because either the hotels were unable to come to any amiable agreements with their farming neighbours to run a path through their small, square patches of dirt, or because many of the lodges actually double as mafia safehouses, international spy dead drops or locations of risqué underground Shithead games.
Are there showers on the trail?
Showers were surprisingly available throughout the trek, in the earliest villages fairly common inside the rooms and farther up only in rather unappealing outdoor shacks, generally ramshackle and somewhat out of keeping with their $US5+ price tag. We stumbled upon a fairly nice room in Namche that included a hot shower and plugins in the room for what, in the mountains, would be considered a rather astronomical price, but when looked at with a more objective eye seemed more than worth it, that figure being all of $12 after all. So that took care of day 3 (heading up) and day 10 (heading down), then I also partook in Dingboche on day 6 despite a long lineup and it being a perfect example of those unappealing outdoor setups I mentioned earlier. In case you ever find yourself staying at the Good Luck Hotel in Dingboche in dire need of some scrubbing, here is the process:
- You are shown into sheet metal structure outside hotel by small Nepali man
- He will point at the dials and controls and in a very rehearsed tone tell you “don’t touch anything”, but just to knock when you are ready
- He then exits, you undress, knock, the water comes on and soon becomes warm
- He begins yelling incomprehensibly from outside while you say “What?” repeatedly
- You recognize the words “hot” and “more” and loudly agree
- You watch as the temperature gauge begins to drop: 35,34,32, 28, 25, 23 and eventually jump from under the water despite a head and beard full of shampoo, all the while shrieking “cold!”, “too cold!”, “no hot!”, and so on
- When his responses lack the required urgency or intelligibility you open the door to poke your head out and clarify the problem
- At this point said man will yank the door fully open leaving you standing naked and shivering as a large group of porters stare in shock
- You quickly usher the man in, urge him both vocally and through desperate hand gestures to fix the problem
- Eventually it will occur to you to grab your tiny pack towel and make a token effort to cover up
- He fiddles with a couple dials and one tap and eventually the water becomes hot once again, at which point he gestures to it in a satisfied manner as though he has just given you a pony for your birthday
- You hesitantly thank him, unsure how much gratitude is required for taking care of a problem of his own making, either way still more concerned with your freezing testicles
- Complete shower process
How does an average day on the trail go?
Awake with the sun at 5:30, spend one hour huddled in sleeping bag dreading the bitterly-cold outside world, breakfast at 6:30, pack at 7, leave at 7:30. Break for lunch around 10:30. Arrive at destination around 12:30, unable to go farther due to altitude constraints. Spend the next 8 hours eating, napping and otherwise attempting to entertain yourself without unduly taxing the precious batteries of any of your key entertainment devices. In bed by 9. Struggle out of sleeping bag to stumble down freezing cold hall to nasty shared toilet for pee break at 11:30. Return to start.
Are there charging facilities and wifi access?
Yes, far more than I expected. Most teahouses offer charging for 250-350 rupees per hour with limited effectiveness, and wifi at rather exorbitant prices for unlimited usage (with the rather large disclaimer that the power is out half the time, and the other half the connection “is not working”), or you can purchase an Everest Link card (100mb for 350 rupees) so that in a number of different villages and lodges you can gleefully get as far as a message stating “Connection Failed. Dismiss?”. Shockingly, at Gorak Shep, the highest village on the trek, we were able to get a strong, consistent 3G connection using the NCell sim card I purchased after reading how NCell was definitely the Official Carrier of the Everest Base Camp trek. Apparently, the Chinese recently built a big tower at Base Camp, for whatever reason (Appear more generous to the international community? Facilitate future troop movements?), so finally my misguided foresight paid off at least a little. In fact, all the days of “no service”, and interminably slow to the point of being imaginary “E” data connections, were easily forgotten as I sat high on a rocky outcrop just below Base Camp and Kala Pattar browsing MLB.com and learning that the Jays hit 4 bombs to come back and tie the ALDS with the Rangers at 2 apiece. Days later I read about the historically bizarre game 5 victory over fried momos in the Green Tara Resort dining room…
How do you get your pants to stand up on their own like that?
That, my friend, is just one of the many awesome side effects of hiking along dirt paths in the same clothes every day for two weeks, never washing them, rarely washing yourself, and completely losing interest in whatever you happen to sit on during breaks in hiking. Other side effects include, but are not limited to, mystery spots on your ass, your entire wardrobe evolving into the same off-brown colour, and developing an endearing habit of scratching your crotch vigorously in mixed company.
What is the weather like?
For the first 7 days we had nothing but warm, sunny days and uncomfortably, but somewhat irrelevantly, cold nights. We had to rush a bit on day 8 to make it up to the summit of Kala Pattar before the looming clouds converged and snuffed out our highlight views, but we made it just in time, starting back down amid heavy grey skies and a rapidly building snowstorm. Our remaining 5 days typically provided a couple hours of morning sun before clouding over and, depending on the altitude, either light snow or rain in the afternoon. All told, better than we had any right to hope for, a sentiment that was only reinforced as we descended past tired, discouraged trekkers struggling up the hill in the midst of their first few days under dark clouds and extremely limited views, with the skies only looking thicker ahead. There is no telling for sure what lies in store for them, but I know for certain that those hills seemed a lot easier to climb with the bright sun and stunning snow-covered peaks beckoning us on at every turn. Of course, it did go below 0 every night and none of the rooms were heated, so however you slice it, that part pretty much blows.
What is the scenery like?
Ah, the whole point, really. Well, I could describe the thick forest trails leading up to Namche, all the lush river valleys such as the Dudh Khosi and Imja Khola criss-crossed by picturesque suspension bridges, the stark, otherworldly terrain around Lobuche and Gorak Shep the amazing mountain peaks that appear magically around every corner for days on end, such as Everest, Lhotse, Ama Dablam and Pumori, culminating in the panoramic view of them all from Kala Pattar, but it would probably be simpler to just say that, yet again, we have been reminded that the Nepal Himalaya is the most beautiful place we have ever seen, period. And that includes the bathrooms in the Seoul airport. Just go.
- Book the first flight in and out of Lukla. That way you will be first in the queue when the flights are inevitably delayed, and if only a few flights go it may save you a night.
- Because of the notoriously common flight delays and cancellations you may want to build a couple extra days into your itinerary just to be on the safe side. In general, it seems quite easy to move your flight up if you end up finishing sooner.
- In Lukla you should choose a hotel, then stop in and leave a copy of your flight back to Kathmandu. They will then re-confirm your flight the day before if by chance you don’t make it back early enough.
- Bring clothes pins. There are lots of places to hang your wet/sweaty clothes but never anything to hold them against in the wind.
- If the sun is out when you arrive at your hotel ask for a room that faces the sun, then sit back and enjoy a couple hours of relative warmth (until the sun goes down and the only warm place is within a 6-foot radius of the dining room fireplace).
- Leaving around 7:30 in the morning should get you ahead of most of the big groups. On day 2 out of Phakding we made the mistake of taking “a relaxed pace” and left around 8:15, then spent the next 3 hours fighting our way past slow groups who, for some reason, seemed to consider it a personal affront to let anyone squeeze past their lumbering conga line. Or you can opt for a different tack and leave much later. The only problem with that, at least during our trek, was that the early mornings offered the clearest views so it was nice to be on the trail at that time.
- If you are thinking of paying for a hot shower anyway (usually around 500 nr) it makes sense to ask about the rooms with attached bath as some have showers and, at usually around 1,000 nr, the showers kind of pay for the room on their own. Our room in Namche was 1,200 but also had electrical outlets and considering it cost 250 nr per device for charging we were practically making money on that exchange.
- If you are hiring a porter and have room in your backpack it pays to stock up on snacks, Kleenex, toilet paper and the like before you arrive. All prices increase astronomically as you climb higher, usually due to the necessary transportation issues, but sometimes just in a transparent attempt to overcharge the desperate (needless to say, we did not fall for the $US14 container of dental floss in Namche).
Well, there you have it. Round 3 of Trekking in Nepal, finished for now and, just like the first two times, I feel like we’re going to want to return the minute we leave. Although, considering how things usually go at good old Tribuvhan International, it may take a week or two to forget its myriad horrors first, but after that, boy oh boy, our selective memory will be back in full force. In the meantime, we’ve got another 5 or so days in Kathmandu/Bhaktapur which we are, theoretically, going to fill with some fun adventure like rafting or mountain biking, but more realistically with eating a lot of food that doesn’t have “fried” in the title and vainly touring bars in hopes of finding someone not only willing and able to show a Blue Jays game, but still interested when they find out it starts at 5 am local time.