We awoke at 4am on Tuesday to depart Hotel Moonlight at five in the morning. It wasn’t a problem as I was awake at 2am rearing to go. Paul and I had packed the night before so I had a shower and met the rest of the Base Camp team in the foyer. We were all infected with nervous anticipation and couldn’t wait to start the adventure properly. Bishnu, our mountain guide, promptly met us and we headed to Kathmandu airport. Check in went smoothly and after sitting in the departure lounge for about 2 minutes we were called to embark the plane. It was too soon, I hadn’t psyched myself up and got myself all nervous yet. This was probably a good thing and before I knew it we were taxiing down the runway in a small plane that seats around 12 people.
The flight went smoothly as we flew above the clouds. After 30 minutes the hills rose to meet us and a thin strip of asphalt appeared very quickly. We charged at it and banged down hard onto the runway, the engines screamed as loud as all the passengers, who cheered in celebration at surviving the most dangerous airport in the world.
Lukla is a small bustling airport. Trekkers who had completed their journey were lined up waiting to take our seats on the aircraft and return to Kathmandu. They looked tired and tanned and weathered. This would be us in just over two weeks time. Our porters were eagerly waiting to uplift the gear and get us on our way. We spent an hour acclimatising and getting our day packs organised and then we were off! The trail was relatively quiet, mostly filled with young and old porters carrying everything from sacks of potatoes, to chairs, to back breaking freshly cut timber. Dogs, cows and bullocks also shared the trail lazily watching us stroll by. Bishnu kept us at a steady and easy pace explaining about various features and structures on the way.
It was hard to believe we were actually here after all the anticipation and delays. The Duhd Kosi River roared alongside us and after 90 minutes we crossed our first swing bridge. Lots of photos were taken. They are actually very sturdily built and gave a great view of the bubbling river below.
After a lot of climbs and descents, and skilful sidesteps of intermittent yaks droppings, the small village of Phakding appeared and our accommodation was allocated. The rooms were small and basic and we unexpectantly had the luxury of an electric light in our room, albeit glowing very faintly. Today has whet my appetitive for much more. It was a good easy start to what will be a long day tomorrow. Bring it on.
Monday had seen us on a guided tour of old Kathmandu town and then on to see lots of shrines (including the famous Monkey Temple). The old town was badly affected by the recent earthquakes. If the buildings hadn’t completely fallen down, they were often streaked with large cracks and on strange leans. We’d left early in the morning and got back late in the afternoon in time for some last minute trekking purchases in the chaotic shopping district of Thamel in central Kathmandu. This was an interesting place but my feet were wanting to head into the mountains and start the climb to the dizzy Himalayan heights. This would soon be happening.
I write this from Namche Bazar after a very tough day of climbing. Everyone is exhausted and affected by the altitude to various degrees. I’ll post more tomorrow. The internet is very slow here. There was no internet in Phakding at all. Need sleep and recovery now. More tomorrow.