4.30am wake-up to leave the hotel at 5. What a way to start! We literally pile ourselves into Hotel Pilgrims’ curtesy car and head to the airport in Kathmandu. We’re going to Everest!!!
Or so we thought. After 8 hours waiting in the airport due to delays caused by bad weather we were told to try again the next day because all flights had been cancelled. Turns out this isn’t uncommon, because if the cloud is too low in Lukla (2860m) it is too dangerous for the planes to land.
I wasn’t too disappointed, I enjoyed my extra day in Kathmandu, but we did need to have a serious meeting about what would happen if the weather was bad again the next day, or when we were supposed to be coming back to Kathmandu. Worst case scenario options: ridiculous prices for helicopters in order for us to make our flights back to Melbourne, or doing Annapurna instead of Everest. Both things that I didn’t want to consider and, spoiler alert, both things that we didn’t need to consider in the end because the weather was fine after that first day! Which brings us to:
Day 1.1 – Kathmandu-Lukla-Phakding
This day started much the same as the previous one, déjà vu much? The biggest difference being that after just an hour and a half of waiting in the airport we were boarding the plane to Lukla! The flight was less than 45 minutes, and the plane was so tiny that we were actually sitting under the wings, which felt a bit odd.
The Tenzing-Hillary Airport at Lukla is known as one of the most dangerous airports in the world and some people are seriously afraid of going there. I didn’t even realise we were heading into land until the wheels hit the tarmac. I was just looking out the window thinking “wow, the side of that mountain is getting really close”.
As it was still only about 8am at this point we had breakfast at a tea house in Lukla before beginning our trek. This first day we only walked about four hours, with a tea break half way. It was mostly downhill and as we were following the river right from the start we crossed our first suspension bridges. These bridges are not for the faint hearted or those with acrophobia, and every time I crossed one I thought of Shrek. It was really tempting to make the bridges sway even more than they already do.
We arrived at our tea house in Phakding (2600m) in time for lunch and then – because we hadn’t done enough that day?? – a few of us opted in for an extra two hour hike up a mountain to see a monastery. It was really cool and the views from there were amazing. Coming back down from the monastery my knee started hurting. Day one and I was already falling apart – great.
Day 2 – Phakding-Namche Bazaar
The morning routine set in pretty quickly. “Breakfast is at 7” turned out to be us sitting at the table waiting until breakfast came out at 7.20, never forget to be wary of Nepali time.
Although it was only day two, this day made it clear to us already how lucky we were to be trekking with Take On Nepal rather than another company. We had a total of four guides with us as well as our two porters: one licensed guide plus three training guides, two of which were females. Not only did we benefit from the fact that we already knew all of our staff from when they worked with us in Batase during our volunteering (even our two porters had been in the village with us as our chefs), but the number of guides with us meant we had a very solid support base.
We could see people with other companies trekking by themselves and having to catch up to their groups on their own if they fell behind. If it turned out they were suffering from an illness or food poisoning or altitude sickness they had no one to turn to because more often than not there was only one guide per group and they weren’t always in sight. We never had that problem. Day two brought in our first case of food poisoning and Jeremy was well looked after during the trek that day. With four guides there was always someone nearby, no matter if you wanted to walk slow or fast or in the middle. We all really appreciated the support we had from Take On Nepal, we always felt really well looked after.
And we needed the support that day. The walk up to Namche (3440m) is just that: up. And up and up and up. By the time I reached Namche it was evening and my fingers were so cold I couldn’t feel them (an experience that would be repeated many times over the next week). But the hardest part of that day was arriving at the bottom of Namche and then finding out I had to walk up this basically cliff-side town to our tea house at the top. My legs had decided that we had arrived and they did not want to take me any further.
Stay tuned for EBC Part 2!