Tuesday, October 7, 2014

EBC: And here we go!

Get up at 4:30 am, pack bags and leave for airport at 5:15 am to catch the 6:15 am flight. We did this for two days - first day we couldn't land in Lukla but we finally made it on the second day inspite of rain gods thundering all over Kathmandu the previous night. 

Lukla airport is considered amongst the top most dangerous airports due to short runway length and fully manual/visual landing. Overall a very basic airport where passengers move and not the luggage belt :) (not that Kathmandu domestic airport is worth writing anything about except that it opens at 5:30 am and is more like a bus station)

Our guide had met us at Kathamandu and flown with us to Lukla. He was instrumental in getting us on the first flight out the second day without which we wouldn't have made it to Lukla. We met with rest of the group - 3 porters and 1 assistant guide at Lukla luggage "belt" and walked to Tara Lodge and started with what was to be first of many cups of masala tea we consumed over the course of the trek. We even got exposure to the "common" toilets that we would encounter later in the trek

After about an hour, we started our trek to Phakding. Phakding is lower in altitude than Lukla but apparently one needs to go down before one goes up :) Infact that was the routine every day, we would lose altitude till lunch, have a full meal and then make up for lost altitude and gain some more. Post lunch trek was always very grueling. I had to cut down on lunch consumption because of same.

Since we were losing altitude and it was a short 3 hour trek, we didn’t feel it much. We took pictures along the way, had lunch some place en route, reached Phakding around 2:30 pm and “checked into” a lodge named Beer Garden. Since we couldn’t have beer, we had more masala tea! However, before we got to the tea, we had to get through negotiation of price for getting rooms at single occupancy. Our trek organizer had budgeted the trek on double occupancy. (Infact, I have lots of learnings to share in terms of budgeting that I will share in the last post)

We managed to get rooms at a reasonable price of NR 500 a day for two reasons - Sep is not peak season and because no flight landed in Lukla after ours. So they were running empty and were all too happy to give us rooms at an additional cost of NR 300 per head.

This place has attached toilets with running water. Some of us even got hot water (thanks to solar power) in the bathroom. As most lodges on this trail have, there was also a paid hot shower (that uses LPG to heat water) if one so desired. So, overall the stay was not bad. I would, however, look for a better place next time. The bed linen at this place was probably the dirtiest of all places we stayed in and rooms were not very well lit. 

If you have trekked at high altitudes before, you can skip the night halt at Phakding and go to Namche first day itself. But if you don't know how you will react to 11,000 ft+ height then its better to spend the night at Phakding the way we did - happy that the trek had finally begun, not too tired because it was a short day and content to be inside the lodge as it was pouring outside!

View from flight to Lukla

Lukla runway

"Starbucks" at Lukla
River that we crossed multiple times en route to EBC

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