Back in the Latter-half of September 2017, I travelled to Nepal and embarked on an adventure within an adventure as I trekked to Mount Everest Base Camp (known as EBC) during my larger trip; which lasted several months. It is possible to do this solo (get the permits, maps, domestic flights etc yourself), however if you aren’t confident in your ability to do so, I wouldn’t recommend it. As I had next to no experience with a trek of this magnitude, I thought it best to book on to an organised tour group with G-Adventures – although there are other companies such as Intrepid Travel, and Exodus – as it ensured everything was taken care of and planned for me. They even provided me with information on what to pack, as well as advice on budgets for spending (food was not included). The prices vary from company to company, and then still change depending on what time of year I booked, and if I booked through a third-party website (which I did); the price that members of my group paid varied from £700 to £1300.
I arrived in Kathmandu tired and hungry after being up for 36 hours straight; flying from Goa, India by way of a long stop over in Delhi. I had the address for the Fuji Hotel, situated in the Thamel district of Kathmandu as this was where my group was to stay the night (included in the tour price), and then venture forth on our expedition the following morning. As I stood outside the arrivals gate at Kathmandu international airport (the only international airport in the country), I managed to negotiate a price with who I thought to be a taxi driver. We approached a taxi, only to realise he was actually not a taxi driver but ran a travel/tour agency and was actually trying to sell trips to new tourists. Still, he was friendly enough to bargain with the real driver on my behalf and managed to get me a fare of Rs.400 for a ride to Thamel; I found out later on that many people pay upwards of Rs.600!
So, I arrived at Fuji Hotel – Which is super fancy by the way, like hold-the-door-for you-and-carry-your-bags kind of fancy – where I checked-in and briefly met the leader of our adventure Sujan. Sujan spoke very good English and always had an up-beat tone to his voice. Which made it very pleasant to have him lead our group; informing and motivating us in a positive way that sounded in no way condescending – a very good attribute to have in a leader. I made my way up in the elevator to the fourth floor as the hotel staff insisted they would carry my bags (which makes me feel very uncomfortable, not being accustomed to such luxury). I got inside my room and let out a sigh of relief; it had been several weeks since I had my own room, and this one was super nice! There was air-conditioning, comfy beds, a balcony, and a bath/shower! I showered and changed into clean clothes, before heading downstairs and out into the Thamel District of Kathmandu to buy some last-minute essentials for the coming adventure; tea bags, peanuts, and toilet roll! Always have a spare roll of toilet paper on you; that’s general backpacking advice, not just for trekking
Later in the evening I attended a group meeting – where I met the other 7 people joining me on the adventure and introduced ourselves prior to we discussing the overall itinerary for the duration of the trip. After the meeting, we then proceeded to head out into Thamel where Sujan kindly took me to a pharmacy so I could buy some dressings (had a nasty hole in my Achilles from an ATM in India). We walked through the narrow streets, with colourful shops and street vendors lining the way as they tried to sell us their wares whilst underneath the canopy of brightly-lit signs and astonishing (not in a safe way) electrical wires overhead, all the while dodging the torrent of passing traffic (motorised and pedestrian alike – it all seems to move as one organism). Once I had my medical supplies it was well in to the evening, and so Sujan took all 8 of us for a group meal of traditional Nepalese Cuisine – unfortunately I cannot remember the name of the restaurant DOH!
05:00 the following morning, and we’re all in the reception of the hotel, day-packs on and our duffel bags packed in the mini-van. We had a maximum weight limit of 10KG for our Duffel bags as the porters are only allowed to carry a maximum of 20KG each (2 bags per porter). However, I would urge you to keep this to a minimum; to me having someone else carry all of your stuff feels a little like cheating almost?
We arrived to the airport within 30 minutes as there was practically no traffic on the roads of the capital city. As we checked-in, the terminal was rammed with other passengers eager for their own adventures to come. It was at this time I learned that the flights to Lukla (the typical starting point for the trek) is notorious for last minute weather changes and typically the last flight out it late-morning – During my time in Nepal I also discovered that the flights are frequently cancelled, sometimes for days at a time. But, there we were; flights confirmed and our luggage checked-in, stood on the asphalt as we awaited to take our seats on the 16-person passenger plane.
I work within the aerospace industry as a career, and upon discovering that Lukla Airport as well as the airline I flew with were amongst the most dangerous in the world respectively I was giddy with excitement – I am a little bit on an adrenaline junkie. So, we took off and the inside of the aircraft being barely five feet wide meant there were two single rows of seats separated by a single aisle allowing passengers to move up and down (really hard to do as its so cramped). The Cock Pit and Cabin were one of the same, much like a Kitchen-Diner would be in your home; all open and flowing seamlessly from one in to the other.
The flight lasted around one hour, during which my face was firmly planted against the window looking out at the beautiful views of the mountainous foothills of the Himalayas and the snow-capped peaks a gargantuan distance away where they were barely visible. As we approached our landing I realised why the airport had such a foreboding reputation. When landing, there is a wall of rock at the end of the runway; if the aircraft doesn’t stop in time, I am going to get a face-full of cliff. When taking-off, there is a cliff at the end of the runway; if the aircraft doesn’t take-off in time, I will plummet to my doom. all topped off with an incredibly short runway. This risk is reduced however by having the runway on a slope, meaning that as we land the incline will help reduce your speed. And the declining slop when taking off will help increase take-off speed – therefore making the required runway distance shorter.
After safely landing and feeling very happy with the little excitement I had garnished from the flight, we grabbed some breakfast at a Mera lodge. This was a beautiful place with big clean stone-steps as well as a homely, wooden interior with various pictures and souvenirs left by adventurers before us. We stayed here for an hour or so before embarking upon our first day of hiking.
Leaving the lodge around 08:00AM we hiked for roughly 4-5 hours as we passed through a beautiful forest. The day included a variety of flat, uphill, and downhill gradients to our hike as we passed over suspension bridges spanning rivers and streams flowing down the mountains to the villages below. The wild-dogs which lived up here were very well kept with their fluffy furs and surprisingly tame; although I would recommend being wary – being bitten and the ensuing worry of rabies wouldn’t be much fun!
We arrived at Phakding, where we were to stay for the night, not long before a procession of Yaks passed us. Heading up into the higher reaches of the Himalayas to provide villages with essential supplies. Being incredibly remote – this region is only accessible by foot or helicopter (even then only where the very few helipads are placed) – porters are often seen transporting supplies to villages by way of carrying on their backs in astonishing weights. It is not uncommon for a single porter to carry a 50KG load! Another way to carry a larger supply is by way of Yaks, as they can carry over 90KG per yak.
Whilst we spent the late afternoon and evening here, we also attended a buddhist ritual in the lodge opposite – the owners believed their home needed cleansing and a blessing as to bring good luck, fortune, and prosperity to their household and business in the busy season which was just beginning.
The next day was to be one of the most arduous of the entire journey so I happily crawled into bed where I slept soundly in eager anticipation of what was to come.