A Trek to the Everest Base Camp – Part I – Days 1 to 2

The trek to the Everest Base Camp had been on my bucket list for a long time. Sometimes you need to kickstart your life, & what better way than a climb to almost 18000 feet to do that!!

They say travel changes your outlook towards life. If that be true, the experience of staying in plywood cubicles, using sleeping bags, wet wipes & toilet paper, drinking chlorinated water & eating Nepali dal, bhaat & sabzi for close to 2 weeks certainy did!! So here’s a pictorial snippet of my journey to the Everest Base Camp & back for all of you to enjoy. May it inspire you all to travel & seek adventure.

Khumbu region of Nepal
A Panoramic View of the Upper Khumbu Region, Nepal

The Planning

The tickets to Nepal were booked 6 months before the planned departure period of Oct 2017. Indigo was the only Indian operator flying to Kathmandu at that time but I decided in favour of Royal Nepal just to get a ‘feel’ of that airline. What I didn’t know at that time was that they had only three A-320s which were deployed from India to Singapore & their flight schedules were prone to frequent delays/cancellations, an oversight which almost left me stranded on return! You are advised to check the current fleet strength of Royal Nepal & their punctuality before booking with them.

What followed then was extensive research on Youtube for the trek videos, on Tripadvisor for all related information & sifting through many travel websites for the do’s & don’ts which all culminated into prepration of exhaustive lists of clothing, equipment & accessories followed by multiple visits to the Decathlon stores to buy the necessary gear.

Based on a recommendation I decided on https://www.trekkingtrail.com/, a Kathmandu based operator specialising in high altitude treks all over the region. Mr Apar Dutta from the company lost no time in connecting with me on whatsapp & thereafter was a handy source to answer all my FAQs & assuage all doubts & worries right uptill the day of departure. I even managed to find a buddy Sanjay from http://www.trekkingpartners.com/, a young Indian man settled & working in Chicago. I was all set!

Day 1 DELHI – KATHMANDU

Thankfully the aircraft took off on time, or so! A can of Everest beer (the obvious choice!) on the flight set the tone for the next 2 weeks! I was returning to Nepal after a full 30 years, the last visit being in 1987 with parents & sisters just before joining NDA. The excitement was palpable. I was embarking on ‘the mother of all treks’.

Can of beer in hand
So that’s how it all began…

 

Aerial view of Kathmandu
Kathmandu as seen from my aircraft window

I was received at the airport by a representative of Apar & driven, in a rather old contraption which went by the popular name of a car, to Thamel where we were to be put up overnight. The room allotted was on the 3rd floor & there were no elevators! Do trekkers & mountaineers need one? Apar soon reached the hotel as well. After freshening up & having lunch we sat down for a round of briefing where we got an idea of the activities envisaged over the period of the trek. We were to take a local flight to Lukla the next morning & then commence our trek on foot from there.

Map of the Khumbu Himalayas
The route from Lukla to EBC. I picked up this cloth map from Namche Bazar.

Later we stepped out in to the street to check out our sleeping bags, trekking poles and buy some still missing stuff.Β  The narrow lanes of Thamel are crammed with shops selling trekking/mountaineering related equipment & if you don’t want to spend a bomb on something branded back home then this is a good place to pick up a decent workable alternative. The next most important items on the agenda were to exchange INR for NPR. Though INR are accepted (with a grudge) in Kathmandu, in the higher reaches of the Khumbu region only NPR or international currencies like USD or Euro are preferred. The exchange rate was fixed at 1 INR=1.6 NPR (check the current position). Taking an estimate of the anticipated expenditure over the next 10-12 days from Apar, I exchanged INR to get about 10000 NPR which were sufficient to see me through the payments for hot water showers (yes!), mobile/camera charging (yes!), any extra food items & finally the tips.

I also picked up a local Nepalese sim card which I was told would work well for most of the route though in the higher reaches they also have another arrangement which works like a satellite phone & can be used at a cost. I don’t remember exactly but I think I paid about NPR 500 for the sim with some domestic calling & a good data plan which saw me through till the end of my trek.

DAY 2 KATHMANDU – LUKLA – PHAKDING

We reached the domestic terminal of the Kathmandu airport early in the morning. The airport was full of trekkers and locals waiting for their flights to Lukla, Pokhara & elsewhere. There are a number of domestic airlines which service these routes. Flight delays due to weather were common in the Nepal mountains & we were told that no Kathmandu-Lukla flight had taken off in the two previous days! We prayed & waited for good luck.

Kathmandu domestic airport
The airport was brimming with trekkers and locals

A 4 hour delay in take-off for Lukla didn’t dampen our spirits. At least we were leaving the same calender day! Before long we were seated in our small Dornier aircraft & excitedly exchanging notes with fellow EBC trekkers.Β The Kathmandu-Lukla flight is a short hop of about 45 mins & we soon began our descent towards what appeared more like a largish helipad than a runway. No wonder that Lukla is called the most dangerous airport in the world!! With a prayer on the lips & trust in the pilots’ skills we were soon on terra firma to a round of applause from the ‘shaken but not stirred’ passengers.

Lukla Runway
Wait! Is that a runway?

We were now met by Lokendra Rai, our guide who was also to be our friend, philosopher, saviour, doctor & much more till trek completion. After watching in awe at a few landings & take offs of the constant stream of aircrafts making full use of the small good weather window, we moved to a small hotel for a light snack & some refreshments. We were now introduced to Jeet Rai, our porter for the trek, a young, frail boy probably in his teens but who would effortlessly carry the weight of our two full rucksacks like a yak on the entire trek!

As we commenced the trek from Lukla we were soon to be greeted by sights of beautiful Stupas & Manis, & before long we were at the first (of the many) hanging bridges.

All along the paths the rocks were engraved with inscriptions in the Buddhist language. Tradition required that one passed from the left of such Manis or rocks, wherever possible.

A rock inscription near Lukla
A buddhist inscription on one of the numerous rocks on the trek route

The route was also dotted with prayer wheels & it was customary to rotate them.

Buddhist prayer wheels
Buddhist prayer wheels

 

Rocks with Buddhist inscriptions
A Rock Art gallery with my trekking poles marking my presence

We reached our nominated guest house for the night by early evening. It took a while getting accustomed to the small room with hardly any space to dump the backpacks or move around freely. Don’t expect luxury on a high altitude trek! After freshening up (no showers for today!) we hit the restaurant where Lokendra was waiting for an early meal. It had been a long & tiring day & we retired to our beds by 8.30 pm.

To be continued…

 

 

 

16 Comments

  1. Articulated superbly. Can visualise your experience so clearly. A future trekker can benefit a lot from your description.

  2. The best piece of information regarding Trekking Trail to Everest Base Camp 5,364 m. This Blog is a complete boost for every trekking adventure seekers to reach the Base Camp of Highest Mountain of the planet, Mt. Everest.

  3. Indeed Information! This is one of my dreams to visit Everest Base Camp.. Great help for solo travelers!! Thanks πŸ˜ŠπŸ‘

Leave a Comment