From Kathmandu to Lukla to Phaking
12.02.2009 - 13.02.2009 5 °C
It was an early rise for our first day of trekking and there is nothing worse than an alarm failing to alarm at the given hour! Not a good start! Luckily our guide, Aspur, was ready and raring to go and paid a visit to our hostel just in the nick to time to shake us awake and get up to the airport. There was no real need to panic however, as a 6:30am flight here never really means 6:30am.
Our little 15 seater plane looked more like a tin toy than a flying machine, and for a moment I wondered if Andy was going to be able to squeeze in there. I was very surprised to find a smiley air-hostess inside handing out cotton wool and boiled sweets for the journey - not sure where she was going to sit though? From my seat I could pratically touch the left propellor and if my window had been open I would have been tempted to reach out to the awesome mountains as we nearly clipped them. My arm pratically turned blue from Andy's tight grip as we experienced slight turbulence, but I was too busy gazing at the tiny lego-like huts scattered below. The runway at Lukla (which I have named 'Lucky') is notoriously short and dangerous, so you have got to be quite lucky to land and stop in time. Even the Nepali women on our plane were praying and singing as we came clattering down! Now I know why these planes are so small.
The first thing I noticed when I stepped into the 2800m altitude air was the rather chilly wind, so I was relieved to find we were stopping for some warming tea and toast before we trudged on. I have named our team 'THE FOREVEREST GANG', because as we have started with a rest I am sure will be wanting many more as we climb the biggest mountain in the world. I am sure Aspur can probably do this whole trek in a day mind you. We actually call him Oscar because we don't really know how to pronounce his real name, and his English is minimal so we don't understand him half the time anyway. We get by though, and we all smile and nod most of the time even when we have no idea what is being said. Hilarious.
The first leg of the tail is a clearly marked path through several villages and fields. It is a relatively flat terrain and we barely met any traffic confronting us, apart from a few sherpa's or a couple of yaks. The yaks are relatively tame and well controlled, and they look so soft and fluffy that I could almost cuddle one, but that would probably mean loosing an eye from their wavy, pointy horns. So, I'll just take a few pictures for now!
As we plodded along we were joined by a fourth member of our team - Monty the Mountain Mutt, who unlike most of the mongrels we have seen he was plump and healthy and he really liked me. He plodded along in front or took up the back to ensure we were all in line. He brightened my day anyway and gave me a distraction from the cold.
Arriving at our destination village: Phakding (my name for it is 'Fat King' because I think it is important to change the names of places so you remember then! ?) was a bit of a shock because it didn't feel like we had walked far at all. It only took us two hours so we were there by 11am, which meant we had most of the day to acclimatise and ..do what we do best...rest! The Snowland Lodge where we were staying was our first experience of mountain accomodation and we were not surprised to find that it was very basic, made out of wood, and had gaps in every join for that chilly wind to seep through and bite you. I was getting a bit grumpy when the owners still had the door open at 6:30pm and they didn't put the fire on until 8pm! I have to admit now that I do get very grouchy when I am cold, so it's not looking good for Andy that I am freezing on the first day.
We had a nice hearty meal of the traditional Nepalise cuisine - Dhal Bhat, Rice and Curry before rushing to our sleeping bags to get cosy. ahhh!