Sunday, September 29, 2013

Nepal, Everest Base Camp (EBC) Trek - Days 1 - 2 (Kathmandu, Lukla, Phakding)

September 11 - 13

We arrived in Kathmandu, Nepal on the evening of September 11th eager to explore this country and culture that is so new to us and to experience trekking in the Himalayas.  

We met up with our trekking guide, Govinda, at the Kathmandu airport.  After a short debriefing about the hike and 18-day itinerary, we had the rest of the evening to ourselves to explore the Thamel district of Kathmandu.  We walked around the touristy district, checking out the shops and restaurants.  So many of the shops are geared towards backpackers, selling every kind of hiking clothing brand you can imagine at really cheap prices (North Face, Columbia, Mountain Hard Ware, etc).  We found our way to this awesome restaurant for dinner where there was a live band. 

The band at the restaurant we ate at in Kathmandu our first evening in Nepal.

We woke up the next day excited to start the Everest Base Camp trek!  Here's Govinda and Gene preparing to board the plane to Lukla where we begin the trek.  Lukla is at about 10,000 ft elevation.

This is the runway at the Lukla airport.  Lukla's airport is notoriously known as the 2nd most dangerous airport in the world.  Lukla is a tiny mountain town embedded within the Himalaya mountain range.  The runway is literally located on the side of the cliff.  The only planes that can enter the airport are tiny prop planes that seat about 12 people total due to the small size of the runway.  Needless to say, it was a very nerve-racking flight!

Here's a plane on the Lukla runway preparing to take off.

Going... Going...

And it's off the ground!  Look at the very end of the runway as the plane lifts off into the gap off the side of the mountain!

The Tenzing Hillary airport in Lukla
(named after the first two men to summit Everest)

As we begin our hike from Lukla, we begin our immersion in Buddhist culture.  This is our first experience with Prayer Wheels and a local woman turning the Prayer Wheel inside.  You can only turn them with your right hand, and you turn them 3 times.  They have Buddhist mantras written on the outside of the wheel.

Stupa that houses the prayer wheel

Our first of many scary bridge crossings!  These sherpa-made suspension bridges hang over ~200 ft above a huge river with massive rapids.  And even the bulls, yaks, and mules walk over them, so they're pretty beat up!


 Phakding is the small mountain town where we stayed in after day 1 of trekking.  These guesthouses are the accommodations along the trail for the 18 days.  Guesthouses are usually run by the family and kept in the family for generations.  This is the kitchen of our guesthouse in Phakding.

Dinng area and furnace (where they use yak dung mixed with wood chips to fuel the fire)

All of the supplies for the guesthouse are carried by porters, sherpas or animals.  There are no roads along the trail.  Helicopters will bring things into the towns if they are doing an emergency evacuation of a trekker (which we saw very frequently, at least once a day!).

 One of the family farms in Phakding.  The guesthouses are pretty self-sustainable growing all their own vegetables, getting milk from the yaks and making yak cheese, raising chickens for eggs.  There's a market every Saturday in Namche and Friday in Lukla where they can buy additional supplies if they need.

Our cozy Phakding guesthouse

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