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Trek days 1,2,3
The Everest Base Camp Trek from the Nepal side is one the most popular trekking route in the Himalaya. To save time and energy trekkers usually take the Kathmandu - Lukla flight in order to reach Lukla which can be thought of as the starting point for the trek. One can also avoid flying in to Lukla by walking all the from Jiri, which is 12 hours by road from Kathmandu. It is a 5 day walk to Lukla from Jiri. From Lukla, it is a 8 day trek to Gorakshep which is very close to Everest Base camp. Lukla is at a height of 2860 meters and Gorakshep is at a height of 5164 meters. It is a ascent of 2300 meters. For every 1000 meters of ascent one needs to take a rest day to acclimatise. The 8 days to Gorakshep contain 2 days to acclimatise. The first one at Namche Bazaar and the second at Dingboche
On the first day, as we reached Kathmandu in the afternoon we met up with our guide Tserring Lama. We hired the services of an extra guide who will also carry gear. We are to meet the second guide at Lukla. The evening was spent getting gear for the trek mainly subzero sleeping bags and down jackets. The next morning Tserring, Meera and I head to Kathmandu airport to get on the flight to Lukla. There was a lot of mist over the airport and our flight was delayed by more than an hour.
The flight from Kathmandu to Lukla is a journey in itself. Lukla airport has a 500 meter airstrip located on a steep hill. The airport is serviced by twin engined propeller airplanes that make several trips between Kathmandu and Lukla. The short runway makes landing and take off very exciting to say the least. The weather in the area is highly unpredictable which makes flying particularly hazardous.
After our long wait at the airport we heard them announce on the speaker that they were boarding our flight. We took the airport mini bus,we were surprised to find that there was only one other passenger other than us. So it was just Tserring, Meera, I and the other passenger who will be flying and we were taken to a spot on the airport where a plane was waiting for us. The crew waved to us urging us to get into the plane quickly and we hopped in to the plane just as we got of the bus. The air hostess was already inside the plane and she shut the door as soon as we got in. The plane began to taxi on to the main runway almost immediately and took off soon after.
The view from the plane just as we are flying out of Kathmandu. The hills are just beginning to rise.
The Himalayas come into view
These are very small planes that fly through the mountains. The mountains alter the wind patterns which results in turbulence at various points on the journey. I was able to watch the snow peaked mountains in front of plane through the pilots windshield from where I was seated. Initially the mountains only seemed to move up and down. Then they began to move left to right and top-left, bottom-right and so on in many interesting combinations. It was a bumpy ride to say the least and scary. I imagined as if we were riding in a small bus on a somewhat bumpy road, so everything was okay.
I looked back to see how Tserring was doing as he has been on this plane several times. I found him working on his rosary. The air hostess was seriously engrossed in sorting out the cotton earbuds for the next flight.
There is just five of us in the plane including the air hostess and some cargo.
Safe landing at Lukla. The landing was effortless and perfect, the pilots make it look very easy, they do it many times each day. I was very glad to have my feet on the ground again.
This is what makes the Lukla airstrip very unique. Planes use the incline to break their speed as they land. The length of the airstrip is about 500 meters. The terrain begins to drop just after the runway and a river flows down below. Youtube has many interesting videos on the Lukla airport.
We meet up with our other Guide at Lukla. His name is Tserring too. We quickly repack, put everything into the duffel and Tserrings backpack. Both the Tserrings share the weight of what we have brought with us. On this trip we choose to trek light for two reasons:
One, this is a high altitude trek. The highest point where we would have to lug gear is over 5000 meters.
Two, the duration of the trek itself which is 15 days. One could wear out very easily over 15 days.
Some people think it is not fair to employ a porter. What one should know is that there are no motorable roads here, there is no other way of carrying anything. All goods are carried up the mountains by people or the yaks. Its part of daily life here. As long as one is paying a good wage and shows respect for the invaluable support they provide, I think its perfectly okay.
We wait at a bridge waiting for the zoe (a yak like animal which is more comfortable at lower altitudes) to cross.
Some of the lodges look very pretty and are built entirely out of stone that is finely cut
We pass by a village vegetable garden
The dining room at our hotel at Phakding. This is where we stayed the night. They have an electric heater here in the dining room, the room is unheated.
After a cold night, we are ready to go to Namche Bazaar
Mt Thamserku. It is about 6618 meters tall. The river is the Dudh Koshi river.
They check our permits at Monjo. That is Tserring getting us through with the permit check in the building behind.
A lot of hikers relax here while their guides sort out the formalities.
This is an interesting board. If you have doubts about what month you should be trekking to the EBC, the numbers should tell you.
AMS is a serious issue which can ruin the entire trip. Some people like to push their limits and trek up in a sort of a haste. They are probably risking falling sick on the trail. The guides tell me that the people who go up slowly with minimum exertion are the people least likely to fall sick. This is a hypoxic environment. The body is doing its best to pump more oxygen into the blood. One must not over exert. At higher altitude in the night I could feel my heart beating faster than usual even though I was very still in my sleeping bag. Since one is gaining elevation everyday it is advisable to trek slow and take the recommended rest days.
We stop for lunch. The fried potatoes with cheese was good.
It appears to be the local practice that the guides bring your food from the hotel kitchen. At the numerous hotels we ate we hardly interacted with the hotel staff. Both the Tserrings took care of everything we wanted from breakfast to dinner. Sherpas are known for their hospitality. I'll write more about my experiences with trekking with both the Tserrings. They are extraordinary people. Tireless in what they do and such fine gentlemen.
Sherpa power !!!
Tserring catches up running along the trail with that heavy pack. When all of us are struggling to put one foot in front of the other up a trail, Tserring can run up that trail.
This is the Larga bridge. Of all the bridges we crossed this was the tallest.
Ascending the stairs to get to the bridge
Just before we reach Namche Bazaar, there is a viewpoint from where you can see Mt Everest. We were totally surprised to see Mt Everest on the second day of our trek. I was expecting to see the mountain much later. It was a great feeling and I felt very happy. Needless to say, Mt Everest is a very large mountain. It appears quite big even from this distance. The wide angle of the camera makes it look small. To see that its peak is so high in the sky when it is still 5 days walk to its base camp is a feeling that takes a while to settle in.
I used my zoom lens to get the closest picture that I could. The ridge running horizontally is Lhotse which is the 4th highest peak at 8516 mts. So we are seeing two mountains here. The Lhotse wall and behind it, Mt Everest. Mt Everest is 8,840 mts tall.Between Mt Everest and Lhotse in terms of height are two other peaks, K2 in Pakisthan at 8611mts and Kanchenjunga in India at 8586mts
After a tiring climb we reach Namche Bazaar which is the largest town in the region.
At Namche bazaar, you can check your email, make video calls, call home or get your life back on social networks if that's where you live.
There are lots of such shops on the streets of Namche. Notice the Yak head also on sale.
This is a beautiful bakery in Namche. A must visit place.
We ordered a cheese pizza. A yak cheeze pizza to be more specific. In the Khumbu region, cheese is always yak cheese.
Meera is making some notes. His Holiness looks on.
Typically you would find stuff like this on sale through out the Khumbu. You can buy a Mars bar even in Gorak Shep. But the prices shoot up with the elevation.
You can get most of this stuff in Gorak shep too.
Liquor is something that you will not find beyond Namche. However, Everest Beer and San Miguel Beer is sold everywhere.
There is a viewpoint just above Namche. You can see Mt Everest and Lhotse. To the right is Ama Dablam, an amazingly beautiful mountain.
The view point is located in the Army Camp above Namche.
The white plume is snow being blown off Mt Everest
Sunsets are particularly beautiful. Do not leave your tripod at home.
There is more...
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