22 May Best Hike in Nepal – Everest Base Camp Trek [Part 1]
The trek to Everest Base Camp is totally worth the tiring climb. Not only the view is breathtaking, the journey is a rewarding one.
Far far away from the land of skyscrapers sits the highest mountain on earth – Mount Everest (8,848m), located in the Mahalangur mountain range in Nepal and Tibet. I know that I will never have the chance to summit the mountain myself, therefore, I promised myself that I will one day hike to the EBC (Everest Base Camp) and see the mountain with my own eyes.
Mike and I did quite a lot of reading and research to check if we are fit for the adventure before we plan for the trip. However, the more we read about all sorts of incidents that could happen on the mountain, effects of altitude sickness and etc, we became extremely worried which had temporarily suppressed the adventurous fire in us and almost thought of dropping the idea of hiking EBC.
After some good discussion and thinking, we launched straight to book our flight ticket and confirmed our participation in hiking EBC with the Nepal Hiking Team – Nepal’s best hiking/tour group. We know for sure that if we don’t hike, we will never get to see the charm of Everest Base Camp and its surrounding beauty. All we have to do is to train our body, build up our stamina, and prepare well for the hike so that we will not regret later.
Ring… Ring…, “this is a wake-up call, madam.”
Our journey begins on April 11, 2016, when we received a wake-up call at 4.30am from the front desk of our hotel – Apsara Boutique Hotel, strategically located at the busy yet lively street of Thamel, Kathmandu. After freshen ourselves and filled our water bags with drinking water, we headed down to the lobby to meet our guide – Deepak from the Nepal Hiking Team, who waited for us with sleepy eyes together with his driver. The sky was still pitch dark as we depart from the hotel, crossing quiet streets of Kathmandu to Tribhuvan International Airport.
To our surprise, there were many people with huge duffel bags and backpacks queueing to enter the airport as early as us. Since the airport is very basic which does not have the latest technology (no conveyor belts to transfer passengers’ belongings), everything runs manually. Workers were seen transferring duffel bags, backpacks, and boxes one by one, behind the check-in counters.
The 30-minute flight from Kathmandu to Lukla via a small aircraft is quite an experience itself. The beautiful mountain range can be seen from the small window of the aircraft and it is one of the most amazing bird’s eye view I have seen during the journey. We landed at the Tenzing-Hillary Airport safely. By far, it is the most breath-taking yet craziest airport in the world as the runway is just 60 metres long at the cliff of the mountain. But, worry not!! The pilots are really experienced to perform a smooth landing and take-off! 😉
Upon touching down, we headed straight to the exit of the airport where lots of locals were standing. We then understand from our guide that most of them are porters who are waiting for their guests to arrive. Everyone moved so fast that we do not even realise our porter was there, picked up our duffel bags and walked down the narrow cobblestone path to our resting point / tea-house.
After getting a good rest and big breakfast at the tea-house, we set out our journey with much excitement. The first day of the hike is rather easy whereby we have to hike downhill for about 3 hours from Lukla (2,800m) to Phakding (2,652m), crossing lively yet humble town, bustling market streets of Lukla and green landscape along the way. Although we were very thrilled to have seen so many interesting stuff on the first day of our hike, we maintained a slow pace as we took our time to enjoy the view and capture those beautiful moments with our brain, and, of course, our camera.
As we reached Phakding, we were greeted and welcomed by a herd of jokyo – the crossbreed of yak and cow, which the locals often use them to transport heavy goods, such as gasoline tank, rice and construction materials. These jokyos are much bigger but shorter compared to a normal cow, hence, they are very strong.
Our room at the guest house is very simple and basic – a room with two single beds, ceiling light, and window. Honestly, we are satisfied with the room, although it’s very minimal, I appreciate the effort of the locals in building guest houses on the mountain without any road to transport the construction materials. Every single material needed to build a house will be transported by animals and porters. It is one of the many reasons I respect the locals and porters.
Speaking of the porters, if you have never met any of them before, you might think they have superpower strength. But they – the mountain porters are just a normal human like you and I. Our porter – Chiran can carry both of our bags which weigh more than 20kg on top of his own bag – I guess it totaled up to about 25 to 30kg, by using his forehead strength. Their energy is ridiculously amazing, which we later learnt that the mountain porters start to train to carry heavyweight items since young. They can literally run up or down the hill with heavy items. Honestly speaking, such encounter really opens my eyes towards life and people.
Woke up fresh the following day as we managed to catch a 9-hour sleep, which is very normal during the trip as we do not have many things to do once the sky turns dark unless you brought a book to read or play card games with other hikers.
From the village of Phakding, we followed the Dudh Kosi river – also known as the milk river from Mount Everest, crossing small villages and ascended through Himalayan pine forests and Doedar cedar forests, to our next destination. The weather is nice for a good hike – clear blue sky and breezy wind complemented with friendly hikers along the way – all the best things a hiker will ask for. Did I also mention that the scenery is amazing as well? Yes, it is, especially the view from the suspension bridges.
Yeap, that’s us stopping in the middle of the suspension bridge to take a selfie. 😛
The 6-hours hike for the second day is quite tiring as we ascended for about 788m, in which the hardest part is the final one hour on a steep dusty and stony path. We soon realised that pushing ourselves through exhaustion creates a special kind of satisfaction!! On top of that, the spark of motivation kicked in when we caught our first glimpse of Mount Everest and its neighbouring peaks on our way.
Finally, we arrived at one of the mountain’s most lively villages – Namche Bazaar (3,440m), which is known for its historic trading market where the Nepalese and Tibetan traders exchange salt, dried meat and textiles. Now, it remains the central trading post in the Khumbu, attracting Himalayan and lowland merchants. As much as we wish to explore the market, we headed straight to our guesthouse which is located at the lower side of the village and grabbed our lunch. I am so happy to see there is a bathroom inside our room – that is a luxury on the mountain! Therefore, we quickly took a hot shower before the sun sets as the temperature will drop drastically after that.
Namche Bazaar is a happening village with lots of shops, cafes, internet cafes, guesthouses and even some local banks! It is really a good place to shop for traditional crafts, souvenirs, hiking gears and clothes before continuing the journey to the Everest Base Camp. As our guide told us, Namche Bazaar is where you do your last minute shopping.
We spent two days at Namche Bazaar – the second day is our acclimatization day, where we hiked the very steep hill behind the village to the Sherpa Culture Museum, Everest Photo Gallery, Everest View Hotel and Syangboche Airport (3,700m) – it used to be the highest airport in the world; now no longer in use due to safety reasons. Clear sky and weather permitted us a great panoramic view of Mount Everest, Lhotse, Amadablam, Tawache, etc. It’s very motivating to see the size of the mountains getting bigger as we hiked day by day.
Namche Bazaar overlooking the beautiful KongDe Ri peak.
Coping with the rising altitude, we started to take Diamox (pills to prevent acute mountain/altitude sickness; one pill per day before bed). It has its own side-effects, such as numb/tingling fingers, headache, etc, but we thought that adapting to these side effects will be a better choice compared to the fatal mountain sickness of not taking Diamox.