Day 3: Lukla to Phakding
September 29, 2014
Today started early as we were to meet our driver at 6:30 and head to the airport to fly to Lukla. Things got off to a slow start, but I’m starting to realize this is just how things go in Nepal. Everything just runs a bit slower, which probably comes from the traffic and everyone’s laid back personality. I’m totally cool with it.
Two other people joined me for the drive to the airport. They are on the same trek. Sue and Ash, both from Singapore. I found out the 5 Australians are on the 15-day trek, not the 16-day trek like me. We will hike together for the first four days, and then we’ll part.
Everest Base Camp Trek Day by Day Index
The airport was organized-chaos which I think is just how things go here. The flight was delayed due to weather in Lukla. Lukla is one of the most dangerous airports in the world due to the short runway and the short cliff at the beginning and the very abrupt mountainside at the other end.
It requires very technical flying, and the weather makes a huge difference in whether or not they will take off and land in Lukla. So due to some clouds and rain, our flight was delayed and so was the other six flights to Lukla that morning.
We hung out in the airport patiently and got to know our group better. After about 4 hours of waiting, we began considering the option of hiring a helicopter. Helicopters can still get into Lukla and can hold up to 6 passengers who could split the $2000 fare. The problem is if we weren’t able to make our flight the chances of catching another flight tomorrow isn’t that easy. The Lukla flights are all booked for the next two months. They can’t just squeeze you in.
Long story short a small miracle occurred, and we caught our flight to Lukla. The view was gorgeous with some of the most amazing clouds I’ve ever seen. We didn’t get a glimpse of Everest unfortunately, but it was still a fantastic view. Landing into Lukla was an adventure all on it’s own. I had a seat right behind the pilot and had a perfect view of the whole thing. It’s such a tiny runway, and with the sheer drop into nothingness and the sheer cliff at the other end, we all held our breath and hoped for the best. I mean if it were our time to die, this would make for a good story. Better than choking on a bagel in your cubicle anyway. Anyhoo…the skillful pilots nailed the landing, and if ever a landing deserved an applause, it was this one.
We had lunch before heading out. Veggie Mo Mo was a first for me. Mo mo’s are dumplings, and they were pretty tasty. I’m afraid I’ll be eating vegetarian pretty much the rest of the way. The people in the villages are Buddhist and don’t kill animals, so any meat that is in the dishes is brought up by either an unrefrigerated yak or porter. So…it’s just better to skip the meat. 🙂
The trek was breathtaking today. It was about 3.5 hours, and the trail was a good one to break us in slowly. My traveling companions are from Singapore, and I’m afraid at the 8,000 or so feet we’re at here is already taking its toll on them. Hopefully, they’ll adjust quickly. I felt strong and was still breathing easy. Tomorrow could be a tough one for all of us though. Namche Bazaar is a steep climb and we gain a lot of altitude tomorrow. They said the secret is to go slow and drink lots of water, so I’ll do exactly that.
Our guide is Raj, and my porter’s name is Pesil (rhymes with special). I’m not sure how I did it, but my bag is heavier than the others, so this young Pesil is having a darn time hauling up my bag. He’s crazy strong, but I still feel a bit bad about it. I will be reevaluating my stuff and leaving a few things behind to lighten the load.
So much to see today, but I won’t be able to share all of it. But a quick rundown would be lots of yaks and cow/yak hybrids called dzo. Superhuman porters ranging in ages from maybe 9 to 70 for both men and women. We passed over two suspension bridges which were sturdy but was a lot like walking on a trampoline because it would bounce up and down as other people walked. Gorgeous views of waterfalls, steep green cliffs, and villages nestled into the side of these mountains.
So happy and excited to be here. I was giddy for most of the walk today. I’m so glad it worked out to fly in today. So happy the weather has been decent. Truly a blessing.
Until tomorrow, Namaste!
P.S. If you ever get a chance to try Buffalo yogurt, do it. It’s very tasty.
P.P.S. If your guide says the next 30 minutes is Nepali flat, that doesn’t mean flat. At least the type of flat we’re used to.
Day 4: Phakding to Namche Bazaar aka Ultimate Stair Master
I slept like a rock last night. It must be the clean mountain air, the hot lemon drink they serve in the tea houses, and the crazy hiking we’re doing. 🙂 We met for a hearty breakfast at 7 a.m., and we were all packed and ready to go by 7:30. It was a little chilly this morning, but we soon warmed up.
Today we were on our way to Namche Bazaar. This part of the trek is a tough one because much of the trail is very steep and you’re gaining a lot of altitude quickly. I was nervous about this part, but figured I’d take things one step at a time. Because my duffel is heavier than my guide would like it to be, I’ve tried to take some stuff out and carry it myself. My porter is quite young, so I figured I’d help with the load.
It was a gorgeous day for hiking. The mornings are clear and crisp and the afternoons get misty which turns to rain later in the evening. We started with a good pace but had to be reminded to slow down. To avoid altitude sickness, going slow is one of the best things we can do. That and drinking lots and lots of water. I’ve been doing both.
Prayers and angels were with me today is all I can say. I felt strong and had more energy than I normally do, even when I’m not hiking. Altitude wise we went from 8,563 feet in Phakding to 11,289 feet in Namche Bazaar. My traveling companions from Singapore struggled today. We took lots and lots of breaks. They were having a hard time catching their breath.
I know being from Utah helps. Salt Lake has an elevation of 4,226 feet, and I’m able to get up into the mountains often with elevations above 8,000 feet. I also work in a highrise building with 29 flights where I’ve been walking stairs to prepare. I think walking stairs is one of the best things I could have done to be physically prepared for this trek.
Let’s talk food for a moment. I love it! I’ve been eating mostly local stuff that I know the Nepali people know how to make. There’s always Dal Baht on the menu. It a traditional dish that includes rice, curry, and lentils. It fills you up, tastes great and gives you the energy needed to keep walking up those steep steps. It does help that I’m one of the least picky eaters you’ll ever meet though. A few in our group are, and there’s some interesting stuff. For example…Garlic soup is something they’ve encouraged us to have at least once a day. They say the garlic is very helpful in the mountains because it helps with the altitude. At this point…it’s all about the altitude, so you eat what you gotta eat.
A fun highlight is the kids we see in the little villages we pass through each day. They are so cute and friendly anyway, but they especially love trekkers. Several times we’ve been walking through, and they want us to give “high fives” or fist bumps as we pass by. One little boy kept picking flowers and giving them to us as we walked by. So so sweet! We also hear them yelling “Namaste” to us from a window sometimes. This has been one of the memories I will want to hold onto.
Tomorrow is a “rest day” in Namche Bazaar, though we will get in about 4 hours of hiking to get some altitude gain. We should be able to see Everest tomorrow if the skies are clear. Super excited!! I’ll send pictures tomorrow if it works out. 🙂
P.S. A few more things I’ve discovered not to take for granted… toilet paper that is perforated, bathrooms that lock, trekking poles, good hiking boots, and good strong knees. 🙂