We really had no idea what we were getting ourselves into when we signed up for this trek.
Our flight to Lukla was at around 7am but due to fog the flight didn’t actually leave until 11am from Kathmandu’s domestic airport. Nick had told me once about a documentary he saw about the most dangerous airport/runway in the world. Little did he know or remember that that’s the airport we were heading for. As we finally boarded the cramped & cozy, tiny propeller-driven, old school 50’s looking plane, the air hostess handed out cotton and candy in a little basket. Nick told me the cotton was to put in your ears because it would get very loud after the plane would take off. I did just that, and as the plane started it was an “oh shit” sort of feeling that came over me. Eventually I gained the guts to look out and there was great scenery of the hills and step farming. After 45 minutes or so, we neared Lukla and straight ahead was the runway…after a huge mountain there’s a dip down and the runway is on an incline of about 25 degrees and incredibly short. The pilot has to position the plane on a weird take off angle to touch down. As soon as the tires hit the runway there’s a stone wall that you think you’re going to ram into but the pilot makes a quick right turn and just pulls the break. At the airport we were supposed to meet our guide cum porter. We decided to get the guide/porter because we knew we aren’t at our physical best so we needed all the help we could get! Our porter Bhim bhai, was a short Nepali guy that knew very little English and very little Hindi. Either he was too smart or we were too soft because he insisted on just carrying our backpack and Nick ended up carrying his backpack plus the sleeping bags (far more weight). We decided to see how it goes…we had a quick lunch and started on a 3 hour trek for Phakding. It was a cloudy day, but the views of the clay thatched houses on the green hills were a beautiful sight. Along the way there were many mani stones and walls that trekkers have to walk to the left of for good luck. A few suspension bridges and rocky trails later we finally reached Phakding. The trek wasn’t too bad but it started to get cold. Bhim took us to a guest house that was basically stone on the outside and ply wood on the inside. This is usually how all of the guest houses are along the entire way. The toilets are usually community ones and since the pipes are all frozen at this time of year, you need water to flush…same with the water taps, there’s always a big bucket of water with a frozen layer of ice on top and a mug to use for your washing and flushing needs. One thing we learned about the hills, it gets dark early, and people close up early. So we ordered dinner of veggie chow mein and fried rice (standards across the trek that can either be kinda good or just plain bad!) and ate around 6pm. From here on out, we would go to sleep at 8pm because there was really nothing else to do! Tonight we would need the rest as things were going to get even tougher the next day!
The next day we were supposed to trek to Namche Bazaar. This trek ended up taking us 8+ hours…it was mostly uphill and we passed through all kinds of terrain…forest…stone steps…ice covered with dirt…just plain ice…suspension bridges…river beds…it was tiring and really tested our patience and stamina. By the time we reached Namche Bazaar we were spent. The views were great all along the way, but coming into Namche we realized that we had crossed over into the ‘real’ Himalayas…there was no turning back! Our lodge ended up being all the way up the hill, which made us feel that Bhim was torturing us on purpose. As soon as we got into the lodge and lugged ourselves to the warm oven in the center of the dining hall (this is the community heater in this part of the world), a little girl with bright red cheeks came and dumped all of her toys in my lap, insisting that I play with her. I ended up spending two hours playing with the little girl…making fake daal bhaat, chai, and doing the washing. It actually kept my mind off the cold and how sore I was. Eventually it was time to sleep and we decided to sleep in as we would be spending another day in Namche Bazaar to acclimatize. Our standard was to push the two twin beds together, spread out our sleeping bags, and spread 4 blankets on top of us and huddle together for warmth. Eventually we’d sleep the second half of the night…it was just too uncomfortable, it’d either get too hot or we’d feel ourselves gasping for breath. Sleep would only get more scarce as days would go by. The next day we spent lessening our luggage load, walking around Namche, and playing with the little girl. We also lessened our load so Nick wouldn’t be bogged down and ended up working it out so that Bhim would carry his share. We really wondered after being so tired the day before, how would we truly make it to EBC.