After my scariest and most spectacular flight from Kathmandu to Lukla, Nepal, I was ready to begin the 100km trek to Mt Everest Base Camp and back. Despite the chaotic events getting to Lukla, my flight still gave me an early morning arrival. The first day of the trek would only be a short half day, so I took the opportunity to take it really slow and allow myself extra time to acclimatize to the altitude. Lukla sits at 2800m and although I didn’t feel affected by the altitude at all, I knew that setting a slow pace would be highly beneficial in the coming days.
I walked through the village of Lukla, which was larger than I thought, catering for all of the trekkers and climbers that generally start their trekking here. There seemed to be plenty of guesthouses, internet cafes and shops selling trekking gear and everything else that you can think of. There is even an “Irish pub”!
The trail along the start of the trek is of high quality for the most part, roughly paved with stone in a lot of sections, making it more like a road. The section between Lukla and Namche Bazaar is a high traffic area with trekking groups, guides, porters, donkeys and yak trains carrying supplies and equipment back and forth. As there are no vehicles in this area, everything that you can think of is carried up the valley by yaks and porters. I could never get over the extraordinary weight that the porters have to carry, many of them only kids.
Following the Dudh Kosi River valley, the trek goes through tiny villages, farms and forests with the beautiful snow capped mountains above and the glacier fed Dudh Kosi River below. The weather was mostly fine, however the cloud cover kept the mountains hidden most of the time.
Stopping often to rest and take in the amazing scenery, I began to see how the people live in this area and how truly happy they seem to be with their lives, even though they have very little. Sitting in the front of someone’s house, a little boy who couldn’t have been any older than three, came running out to meet me. Obviously we couldn’t understand each other, but we still managed to communicate and he took an instant liking to my walking poles. Collapsing it down to a mini version for him, he walked around as if he was a trekker heading towards Everest.
After a few hours of fairly easy “up and down” trekking, I reached the village of Phakding which was my destination for the day. I crossed the river on a long bridge and found a nice tea house to spend the night.
My room was basic but comfortable and quiet, allowing me to have a good nights rest. The shared toilet was a western toilet and the common area had tables and comfortable seating surrounding a central wood stove for heating. For breakfast I had some eggs, toast and a cup of coffee, everything I needed for a good start to the day.
Starting off around 7:30, I continued trekking up the valley, following the ever present Dudh Kosi River below. Crossing the river several times along the way I passed more tiny villages with locals going about their daily chores. I seemed to be sharing the trek with all manner of animals, yaks, goats, chickens, donkeys and dogs all making their way along the road without seeming to have anyone telling them what to do or where to go.
Although the weather was still cloudy, the clouds cleared every now and then to reveal some of the amazing snow capped mountains above, adding to the already beautiful scenery. The more I walked, the more I learnt about the local Sherpas and their Buddhist beliefs. I kept seeing stones and boulders with prayers carved and painted on them, I quickly learnt that passing on their left side was good luck. As was the case with any prayer wheels that you pass, which you spin with your right hand as you pass on the left side. Since I was having problems with my camera lens, I thought it couldn’t hurt to try for some good luck.
Keeping my slow pace, I eventually made it to the village of Monju where there is a checkpoint for trekking permits and where you have to pay your Sargarmatha National Park fees to continue on the trek. After passing some more prayer wheels the trail continues crossing the river several times to the head of the valley.
As I got nearer the end of the valley, I could see where the trek heads up the mountain to Namche Bazaar, my destination for the day. I stopped in a village to enjoy a delicious lunch of Dal Bhat, a traditional Nepalese meal made of rice with a lentil soup, often accompanied by a type of relish and/or a potato curry. Re-fueled, I was ready to tackle the climb ahead of me.
My camera had been playing up on me for most of the trek so far, struggling to gain any focus, I couldn’t take many photos. Along the trek so far I had learnt to keep to the inside of the track when passing any yaks and to wait for them to cross a bridge before you attempt it. I saw several unaware trekkers get stuck trying to squeeze past a yak, or simply having to run back to safety to avoid it’s sharp horns.
At the end of the valley the trek crosses the river one last time before heading up the mountain to Namche Bazaar. At this point I had to give up on my camera and just take mental photos instead.
Although only gaining about 200m, the climb up to Namche Bazaar is a big change from the fairly easy trekking so far. Every time I stopped to catch my breathe though, I found that I couldn’t complain as I watched the porters and yaks plodding their way up the mountain, carrying ridiculous loads on their backs.
I found out that the people can actually carry a lot more than the yaks can, with some of them carrying up to 100kgs on their backs. Their special baskets that sit on their backs and attach with a strap to their head are filled to the top with supplies ranging from cases of beer, to full cuts of meat. I counted one person carrying 10 cases of beer, others had mixtures of rice, drinks, chickens, biscuits and building supplies. I saw people carrying full sheets of ply wood and others carrying a bunch of around eight, 3 meter drainage pipes. If that wasn’t enough I saw one man carrying a full sized fridge up the mountain. I wish I could have taken some photos of these people, my hat goes off to them.
At the top of the mountain I passed another check point and entered the village of Namche Bazaar. The main village for the Khumbu region, Namche Bazaar is a hive of activity. Like Lukla, the town seems to have everything you need including a pharmacy.
The following day was to be an acclimatization day for me. The afternoon before had the village covered in cloud, restricting any views of the mountains. I awoke in the morning to incredible blue skies with some of the most amazing views I have ever seen. Beautiful snow capped mountains surround the village and as part of my acclimatization exercises, I headed up to the view point at the top of the village. Here I got my first view of Mt Everest, the top of it peaking out above the other mountains in front of it.
I spent the rest of the day wondering through the village, visiting the local produce market and making my way to the main central market, where people come all the way from Tibet to sell their goods.
Namche Bazaar is a lovely little village, where all roads seem to lead. To the left was the road to Tibet, to the right was the road to Mt Everest. This was to be my path through the Himalayas.
Everest Base Camp Adventure Series:
- My Scariest and Most Spectacular Flight
- Following the Dudh Kosi River to Namche Bazaar
- Trekking to a Buddhist Monastery in Tengboche
- Snowed in at Dingboche
- Going Face to Face With Mount Everest