Everest Base Camp Trek – Day 3: Off to Lukla and Phakding
In my previous post about my Everest Base Camp Trek, you were able to read how I managed to get to Kathmandu. This journal entry describes my travel to Lukla and how I experienced my first day on trail towards Phakding.
My alarm went off at 5.45 am this morning. I got dressed and after brushing my teeth, I took all my luggage down. I would leave my suitcase at the hotel until I would get back after my Everest Base Camp trek . Raju was already waiting for me in the lobby. To my surprise, he was wearing my dad’s hiking shoes! I got a breakfast package to go as we had no time to eat at the hotel.
We put our bags into the car and driver took off like he was in some kind of car race. He seemed to know all the shortcuts through the city to get us to the domestic terminal of the airport. I got the impression that we were under time stress in order to catch a flight! There was a big queue at the security check. A couple hundred people were trying to squeeze through just 1 metal detector.
You don’t need to be a rocket scientist in order to know that that doesn’t work well. Eventually, we made it through and then went looking for the check-in desk of the airline. There were two ladies behind the desk and Raju started talking with them. By doing this we actually jumped the queue as we left our bags in pole position. Sorry people, I was just doing what my guide told me to do 🙂
I handed over my passport to Raju and he kept on talking to the ladies. He told me to have a seat somewhere and eat my breakfast. It didn’t take long for me to figure out that it would take a while before we were going anywhere. I realized how lucky I was to have a guide as he took care of all the paperwork and other arrangements. At the check-in counters, I saw several tourists that were trying to figure things out themselves. They all looked like they didn’t have a clue what to do or where to go.
After a while Raju appeared and he had our boarding passes in his hand. Woohoo! On to the plane, euh no. We could go to the gate after passing through another security check and then wait again. Apparently, Summit Air only has 3 flights per day to Lukla. We spend some more time in the waiting area. I just went with the flow, got something more to eat and made sure I stay hydrated.
All of a sudden Raju came up to me and scrambled me to get up on my feet. We got the green light to get onto the bus and head to the plane. Yaaay! We drove to where the plane was supposed to be, but it wasn’t there? The bus driver told us that due to the busy air traffic around Kathmandu airport, it would take a little while longer before the plane arrived. Once it had arrived, it got unloaded and new bags were put onboard.
The plane was a small 2 engine turbo-prop plane with room for about 20 people. The looks on the faces of most passengers told me that most of them were scared. Even Raju, who flew this route plenty of times before, wasn’t happy to fly. The flight would only last 27 minutes according to the stewardess. I found it to be a great flight actually, as once we took off from Kathmandu you get an overview of just how big the city is. After that, the landscape starts to change and you start to see more green. Hills and smaller mountains start to appear.
For a while, you don’t see anything but clouds until the descent starts. It felt like being on a plane which was about to start an air raid! Sharp turns, deep dives and skim the top of a mountain. The plane bounced on the runway of Lukla airport and due to the incline, it slowed down quickly. Raju shook my hand, he was relieved we landed safely.
We went around the side of the airport building. This is where I was introduced to Suman, my porter for the hike up to Everest Base Camp. He did not speak English, but I got a gut feeling that we would get along just fine. He was happy to see that my Osprey Transporter Bag could be converted to a backpack. This made his life easier to carry it the next days to come.
I followed Suman until we reached Sunny Garden Lodge, just on the other side of the airport in the small village of Lukla. This village is the starting point for most treks in this region. As the sun was shining, we sat out on the terrace. I double checked all of my gear and had some tea and lunch before we set off.
This afternoon we would walk to Phakding. It’s a walk of just over 7 km. This would give me the chance to adjust to the altitude. The trail would be going downhill for most of the afternoon. Phakding is located at a lower altitude than Lukla.
Here are some more picture I snapped along the trail to Phakding.
I unpacked most of my gear, hung up my clothes to dry and put on some fresh clothes. Clouds started to gather over the village and it wasn’t long before we could hear thunder in the distance. Raindrops came down and I decided to take a small nap. I still felt fresh but just wanted to give my body some rest for the days to come. Afterwards, I went down to the restaurant and ordered a pot of black tea. The temperature had dropped so the tea was welcome. For dinner, I had a huge portion of rice with dal bhat followed by a platter of fresh fruit.
I gave my mom a call to let her know I was doing alright and went out for a quick pitstop. The toilet was no more than a hole in the ground. I went to bed early but it took a while to fall asleep. Probably because the sleeping bag was way too warm. Eventually, I managed to fall asleep and had good night rest.
I’m working on getting the next day of my diary processed, so watch out for the next part that will be published soon!