Another early morning. Another breakfast box. Another trip to the airport. This time however we were away. Up, up and away!! The trip felt different. We definitely had better weather. I was excited and confident. We were going to get there. We had been traveling for about 20minutes when I caught the flight attendant walking down the aisle of the plane. I was talking to my cousin and stopped mid-sentence “What is she doing?” She was heading down towards the front of the plane. All I could think was not again…. This could not be happening… And it wasn’t! She was just doing a quick check on us. Phew!
With our noses glued to the windows we were taking in the mountain ranges. They were so close, so green. And there is was the Lulka airstrip nestled inthe mountains. It really isn’t very long. We literally pulled up, turned around at the end of the strip (which just happens to be a rock wall…!) and alighted the plane. They chucked out our baggage, loaded the next flight on and took off. It was incredible. No mucking around here.
Having to change the date we started trekking we flew in ahead of the rest of our group as we were on a different airline. We chilled for about an hour watching the planes land and take off. That airstrip really is nuts. Its on a slope so the incoming planes can stop quick enough and the outgoing can get up enough speed to take off. When they arrived we had a cuppa, met our porter and had a run through of the day ahead.
I was convinced that the universe caused the delay in our first trek because on this one there was going to be an incredibly sexy man that just happened to be single, into me and live close… Ironically the rest of our group was females! My poor cousin! The only guy with the 5 of us. It was a great group. We all got on really well, were similar fitness levels and having a smaller group meant we all got to know each other really well.
Off we headed, Lukla to Phakding. It was a nice easy first day (30th of September). We actually lost some altitude, we landed at 2800m and slept at 2600m (perfect for helping to acclimatize). The track was nice and varied. We headed down at first. Gentle slopes, a few rock ‘stairs’ and nice wide dirt paths. It wasn’t overly busy either. The second half of the day was definitely tougher. More up. We had to cross the river twice during the day, which meant suspension bridges! These bridges our Sherpa Mingmar termed “drunk bridges” – the sway those things get. Now I’m not great with heights and the feeling of being unsafe. So this was something I was definitely dreading. I mean how structurally sound can something that was built and installed in the Himalayas actually be… The rest of the group were stopping, taking pics, I was straight across those things with a big deep breath, a hand steadying me and a focus on the other side. This was no time for my fear to get the better of me. Can’t be making it to Base Camp if I can’t cross the river. The highest one came on the second day. Luckily I had 4 others to practice on. I was ok until a group passing would want to pass me on the same side as I had my hand on, releasing that hand was terrifying!
We arrived at the tea house around 2pm so had the afternoon to chill out. The downside to having an afternoon free on a mountain – no napping! Our guide was very adamant that no naps were allowed, something to do with the acclimatization. So the theme of the afternoons were set early on. We would check in. Change out of our hiking clothes, meet in the dining room (which was often translated to Dinning Rooms), a round of tea, generally lemon and ginger would be ordered – this was recommended for altitude sickness, the lemon was actually warmed lemon tang! Scrabble would come out, cards would come out, I usually write in my journal and we would chill, talk and play until dinner.
The scenery was incredible! Trees stretching for the sky, mountains disappearing into the clouds, topped with snow. Waterfalls cascading down their sides, great views of rivers raging through them. The wild abandonment was so refreshing. The mornings would start out chilly, then the sun would warm up the world, making the dew on the trees shine like little gems. We walked around the sides of mountains, through forests, up and down the mountains, along the river and over the bridges. Locals and porters would pass with a Namaste for us. And the children – cuteness overload! Their little hands pressed together in a prayer with a little Namaste for us. Temples, painted white, with gold tops, coloured prayer flags decorating them littered along our trek. Prayer wheels, brightly coloured littered through the villages, all different sizes, for us to spin on the way past. It was like this for the first week. Everywhere we looked there was more to wonder at.
Third day in (2nd of October) was our first acclimatization day. The altitude was starting to effect our breathing and the climb was pretty steep. Luckily it was only just over an hour. And it was so worth it. The view from up there was incredible. I seriously felt like you were on top of the world. We were so high above Namche. We had a wander through the museum. So many interesting facts about the Himalayas, Edmund Hillary and the Sherpa culture.
The highlight of the day had to be finding free wifi in a café when we got back from our morning hike. Everyone in this café was huddled over his or her phones. We were a mix of trekkers heading up, using this last luxury to touch base with those back home and those returning desperately wanting to tell people how amazing it had been. This was the last of our touch with ‘civilization’. From here on up there would be no reception, no wifi, no hot showers and no electricity without paying for it. We definitely made the most of it all. I was extremely happy with the body wipes I purchased, nice and big, not like those little facial ones. I worked out that I could use two a day – total indulgence!
Leaving Namche on the 3rd of October we headed off for the second hardest day of the trek. It definitely started off nice and easy. The track was mainly flat. Well what we affectionately termed Nepalese flat – a little bit up, a little bit down. And the view was spectacular. As we were climbing higher the views across and down the valleys were amazing. We were in the tree tops that were disappearing into the sky the first couple of days. The rescue helicopters were flying at our level. The path to Tengboche was littered with temples. This path lead us to the oldest Buddhist Monastery in Nepal so was to be expected. We saw the tiniest glimpse of Everest today. The clouds were moving that quickly none of us could get our cameras out quick enough to capture it. After lunch saw the path get steep. Two and a half hours up. And not gently up. Zig-zag up. When Mingmar said zig-zag up we knew we were in for a hard climb. Porters would be heading straight up, with massive loads and here we were slowly zig-zagging our way up the side of mountains, resting regularly.
The climb once again was worth it. It’s like they have to put something cool at the top to help us appreciate the effort we have just gone through. The Monastery was well worth the visit. We arrived as the Monks began a ceremony, they were say crossed legged, drinking butter tea, wrapped in these incredible thick warm robes. One was reading from the Buddhist scriptures and the rest were chanting. It was both mesmerizing and relaxing. A feeling of total peace, lightness and freedom came over me. I never want to forget that feeling. It was so nice. Inside the walls were bright with pictures of the goddess – reds, blues, greens, yellows and gold everywhere.
Tangboche to Dingboche was a really nice easy day compared to what we had to do the day before. The scenery changed again. We started the day with leaves on the ground, it looked like you were walking along a country lane in autumn, Spanish moss hanging from the branches, and it really was magical.
By the time we reached Dingboche the landscape had changed. We had cracked 4000m and we were now officially above the tree line. It was looking more rugged. And to top off the adventure I spat my toothpaste into our squat toilet as we had no basin and then gave myself the giggles… So not in Kanas anymore…