Memoirs of our Trek to Everest Base Camp: Day 1-3: Lukla --> Phakding --> Namche Bazaar
The Everest Base Camp (EBC) Trek is a 14-day to and fro trek from Kathmandu that does not require any major mountaineering skills or tools for the journey, but it just requires some sheer will to hike on for long hours in the oxygen-sparse air and freezing temperatures of the region. Doesn't seem difficult, right?
We were a lovely 4-member group who aspired to get to the base of the world's tallest mountain. A young woman from Germany, an experienced hiker from New Zealand and the two of us - the not so experienced hikers from India completed this group ;). We booked this trek with Himalayan Social Journey (HSJ) through Luxury Escapes and ensured that we enjoyed a memorable and awe-inspiring two weeks of our lifetime! A guide and a sherpa from HSJ accompanied us all along during the trek. We were allowed luggage of up to 12 kgs per person which was carried by our porters and we ourselves carried only some 3-4 kgs of essential supplies of clothes, food and water on our backs during the trek... Luxury at its best!
One has to fly into Lukla to start the trek and experience the amazing magnanimity of the Himalayas for the next two weeks! I still vividly remember the little details of our trek and here I am going to narrate my experiences till Namche Bazaar - the gateway to Himalayas. Come with me and catch a glimpse of my wonderful journey into this trek...
Day 1: Kathmandu - Lukla - Phakding
Distance covered between Lukla to Phakding: 7.5 kms
Time taken: 4 hoursElevation: 9100 ft to 8563 ft
Reaching Lukla from Kathmandu:
This is where we landed in Lukla, the most dangerous airport in the whole world! Yes, you heard it right. It is a narrow strip of an airport in a rugged landscape where one seems to fly right into the mountains. Unpredictable weather conditions which change by the minute and stories of previous fatal accidents on this route make this 30-minute ride all the more dangerous and exciting ;)
|A busy lane in Lukla|
This is the Phaplu airport enroute Lukla in the pic below. Our pilot had to divert the flight here due to bad weather conditions at Lukla. We waited for close to 4 hours here before we could again take off to Lukla. The highlight of this halt was the ubiquitous Maggi that we relished at the only open shop of the airport (yellow structure).
It was raining in Lukla when we landed. It was already very late in the day due to all the delays and we had to hurry to Phakding before it turned dark. Hungry, cold and tired, we reached Phakding at around 8 pm. We ordered our food of dal-bhaat-tarkari and enjoyed a nice hot shower - one of the still available luxuries in the trek! We fell asleep as soon as we hit our beds. The next day was going to be a long day to Namche Bazaar with us climbing close to 3000 ft in altitude.
Day 2 & 3: Phakding to Namche Bazaar
Distance covered between Phakding to Namche Bazaar: 9 kms
Time taken: > 6 hours
Elevation: 8563 ft to 11290 ft
After a hot and sumptous breakfast of bread, potato curry and eggs, we started our trek from Phakding at around 8 am. It was drizzling when we left Phakding and the cool mist had pervaded the morning air.
Our destination for the day was Namche Bazaar, popularly also known as the Gateway to the Himalayas. Namche is the most prosperous and bustling town of the Khumbu valley which holds a weekly bazaar to display its goods from the foothills as well as from across the border( from Tibet). It is the world's highest functioning bazaar today.
The trek is relatively difficult as we had to ascend close to 3000 ft in a single day. The initial walk of around 3 hours or so seemed a bit easy as we walked mostly on Nepalese flats (The term is used for a somewhat flat terrain). We crossed numerous hanging bridges over the Khumbu river which made the walk a bit more exciting. Here is a pic of us on the Hillary bridge below, one of the highest suspension bridges across the Khumbu river.
Soon the elevation kicked in which left us gasping for breath. Our lungs were screaming for oxygen as we kept on ascending steeply. To add to this, as we neared our destination, there were scores of mules and yaks carrying heavy goods on their backs, chugging effortlessly along narrow paths. A little push from these strong creatures meant a sure death by falling into the deep ravines below. Slowly but surely, we trodded along admiring the raw strength of these animals of transport who carried heavy loads on their backs in these mountainous terrains. Choppers and planes can get grounded due to bad weather and these animals are the only reliable source of transport in these regions where necessities considered basic by us urban dwellers are a luxury to these mountain folks. They carry food, water, cooking gas cylinders, goods, firewood and keep this entire tourism circuit up and running.
|Yak - A reliable means of transport @ Namche Bazaar|
We slowly our made our way to Yeti Mountain Home, our hotel for the next two days in Namche. The last 30-40 minutes of our trek were a torture for us as we were literally pushing ourselves to walk towards our hotel. A masseuse came to our rescue at the hotel and really helped us recover sooner with his expert hand & foot massages! We spent the rest of the evening in the hotel lounging in the game room. An unlimited supply of hot tea, popcorn and a nourishing Tibetan dinner of Thukpa helped us get ready for the next morning acclimatization trek.
Not surprisingly, Namche was our first acclimatization stop to Everest Base Camp. An extra day at that altitude helped our body to adjust to the elevation and low oxygen levels without the need of any blood thinners and medications. We were told that drinking lots of water and consuming copious amounts of garlic is the key to overcoming altitude sickness. However, we chose to follow only the earlier advice and kept on sipping liquids to keep ourselves hydrated :)
Day 3: An acclimatization trek was planned the next morning at 8 am combined with a visit to the nearby Sagarmatha National Park Museum. It was a morning well spent gazing at breathtaking vistas all around us.
|@ Namche Bazaar Acclimatization trek: The wind speed was so intense that it was difficult for me to stand and pose for a pic|
|On the Namche acclimatization trek: Our group|
Our afternoon of day 3 was spent in trying out pizzas and desserts from the popular German Bakery in town. We also spent some time renting some really thick, hooded jackets that we would need later in the trek. The day ended rather soon for us and we wished for some more cheery sunlight to explore the town before the night descended on us. One can easily spend a couple of days exploring this charming little exotic place tucked away in the lap of the mountains.
More coming up soon...till we reach the Base Camp!