It was still dark when we arrived at the airport in Kathmandu which seems like another lifetime ago now. A group of rowdy Russian’s crowded the closed door marked ‘departures’ making jokes we didn’t understand. It was 5am and we’d been kept up all night by a combination of nerves and a pack of rabid dogs barking in the alley below our hotel room. ‘Be prepared for chaos’ our travel agent Funuru had warned us. When a local tells you it’s going to be chaos, you can be pretty sure it’s going to be chaos. So we slunk in line and tried to wake our tired eyes ready for the jostling and pushing to make sure we got on the first flight.
To be fair, the chaos wasn’t nearly as bad as we’d expected. The Russian’s piled through and we followed closely behind and soon overtook them as they were hampered by the pure size of their group. We were first through security and took a seat and awaited our minibus which took us to our plane (which looked like something they would have used in WWII) just as the sun was rising.
As we piled in and the engines kicked up the stewardess struggled up the aisle handing out cotton wool for our ears and sweets for the pressure. Debbie was feeling particularly nervous…
Jokes about the chaos in the departure lounge soon died down as the plane fell silent. This wasn’t a time for camaraderie. This was a time for prayer and reflection of our lives so far. Personally, I was taking this in good humour. I remember thinking to myself, if this plane does nose dive shortly after take off, or if the pilots don’t judge the landing and we run straight into the wall at the end of the world’s shortest runway, then at least I’ll die next to the woman I love, doing things that I love doing. Anyway, (before I make you all sick!) as the same woman gripped my hand we took off into the sky with a front row seat of our pilots actions;
The flight itself was pretty smooth and the views were amazing. We were often flying, not over the mountains, but between them as we passed over trees at times only meters from bottom of our plane.
Then after a fairly quick 35 mins in the air the pilots became more active and the landing strip which is Lukla airport lay before us perched on the edge of a huge mountain. As I mentioned before we had front row seats so we managed to take a cool video as our pilots expertly guided us on to the runway. You can check this out on my facebook wall.
Still buzzing from Adrenaline we got off and went to collect our bags. As we neared the security I noticed a Nepalese man pushing his way past the gates guarded by a Nepali Army Officer with a huge rifle which frankly would have been useless a point blank range and better suited to hunting Yak in the surrounding mountains. The man struggled past and then came towards us with a big smile. ‘Yak?’ he questioned me as he got closer. This was our first meeting with our guide for the next fortnight, Kami.
We spent the rest of the morning meeting various legends including Eoin, the Canadian retired fire fighter who had been giving us loads of help in the recent weeks from acting as a go-between with ourselves and Kami, to medication advice. Eoin is an all round great guy and general Himalayan Expert. This was his 24th trek around the Khumbu region! We also met our travel agent Funuru who had booked our flights for us making sure we were on the 1st flight. As it happens, Funuru is a good man to know in this region when it comes to getting flights or helicopters. We had breakfast in his cafe/guesthouse, The Hard Rock Cafe, before heading off to start our trek.
Our Porter had hit the road an hour or so before us carrying both our huge backpack as well as some other supplies. I kid you not, this man is no more than 5ft tall. Debs and I both looked on feeling guilty as he effortlessly slung our backpack over his shoulder and trotted up the road.
Our first experience on the mountain path was fast and furious but not necessarily taxing as it was mainly either level or even downhill. Our first stop for the night, and Kami’s guesthouse, was in Ghat (Altitude 2,200m), around an hour and a halves trek from Lukla. When we got there we had lunch served by Kami’s wife. We’d been warned by others to expect a lot of the Nepalese national dish Dal Bhat on our trek and sure enough it was the first main meal. Apparently 22m out of 24m Nepalese people have this twice a day! It was really good though and set us up for a nice afternoon kip.
We awoke at half 3 and went for a short trek in the local area stopping by a river for a quick photo.
Here is our guide Kami enjoying the view;
Back at the guesthouse we had dinner (Spaghetti and Tomato sauce this time) and spent the rest of the evening chatting to a fellow trekker from Derby, chilling reading our books, or, in my case, writing this blog. Bedtime comes early in the mountains so even though its 19:45 as I write this, I’m sure we’ll be putting our heads down soon. I’m expecting a better night’s kip tonight with initial nerves overcome and no more rabid dogs to keep us awake. Until tomorrow…