As I’m not the best with directions and occasionally get lost driving the eights minutes to work in my hometown, and I decided to do EBC with a tour group, Gecko had the best deal at the time and they turned out to be pretty fantastic. There were four of us (me, and three Aussies), one guide Tekay and our sherpa, Mingmar who was truly awesome!
|Me, Karen, Mingmar, Hugh, Tekay and Jack|
The group met in Kathmandu for a group dinner and left early the next morning for our flight to Lukla; the world’s most dangerous airport. The runway is a mere 460 by 20m with a 12% gradient – that’s quite a slope and there’s no room for error, it’s a short runway with a stone wall at the end.
|Looking through the cockpit windscreen at the very short and steep runway.|
Fortunately the landing was smooth and after breakfast we set off. It was wonderful to escape the busy, loud and face-paced city of Kathmandu for the quite mountains – no pollution, or car horns, just the sounds of the river, the bells around the necks of the donkeys and dzo* and the occasional cell phone! There’s reception for almost half of the trek.
Our first night on the mountain was in a lodge in Phakding, and visited a beautiful monastery.
|Prayer flags at the Phakding male monastery.|
In hindsight I can now laugh at how Karen (my awesome room mate) and I thought it was SO cold on our first night… I joked that I’d be sleeping in my puffer jacket by the end of the trip! Little did I know that a mere five nights later in Dingboche I’d be sleeping in thermal pants, tights, PJ pants, Jack’s track pants that he kindly lent me, 2 pairs of woolen trekking socks, a t-shirt, a long-sleeved polyprop, a polar fleece jersey, that puffer jacket, gloves, a beanie, a buff (like a circle scarf) with two aluminum drink bottles filled with boiling water, a sleeping bag and a quilt! I also slept with my camera batteries; torch, iPhone and iPod to prevent the cold from draining their battery life.
On the second day of trekking we walked uphill for six hours (it’s meant to take an average of eight but we’re awesome) and I got my first real life look at Mt Everest! As a New Zealander I’ve heard a lot about this mighty mountain, it was our Sir Edmund Hilary (and Sherpa Norgay) that first reached the summit. It looks truly majestic framed by evergreens, but it seems rather far away, much further than I’d imagined, it’s also rather high up… It was a strange moment of such excitement to see the mountain and an “oh sh*t” to realise how far on foot I had to go!
|Crossing a river on one of the many suspension bridges.|
Arriving at Namche Bazaar was spectacular, not only because it was beautiful but because the next day was a rest day. The term “rest day” is actually very misleading, this one involved walking about 15km to a big white Buddhist monument, but you sleep at the same place in order to acclimatise.
We decided to chill and watch “Into Thin Air” a fantastic film but maybe something best viewed on the way back from Base Camp. After stocking up on necesites like chocolate, trekking poles (pink ones!), a buff and more chocolate we headed off to Khumjung!
|The view from our room in Namche Bazaar|
*dzo are half cow half yak , smaller than yaks with shorter here they are better at handling the warmer climates at lower altitudes and it’s not until higher up in the mountains that you see yaks.