The Expedition – Day 1
City – Phakding
Elevation – 2,800m (9,200ft)
Trekking Time – 4.5 hours
At 4:30am, my alarm goes off on my mobile. It’s “Rise” by Eddie Vedder. Some might wonder why I would use a song that I like to wake me up from my peaceful sleep, but come on, it’s perfect. We shower and get ready and then there is a knock on the door, it’s our guide Kumar. He’s going to be with us every second of every day for the next 2 weeks. Poor guy has just returned from a trek just yesterday, and now the company sent him out on another right away. Zita has already come up with a nickname for him. Komar in Slovakian means mosquito, so Kumar will be known as mosquito.
Driving through the streets of Kathmandu, it is utterly quite, contrary to all that we have experienced so far in the city. It is rather nice. We arrive at the airport at 5:30am, our flight is at 6:30am. The most common airline used in Nepal is Yeti Airlines with a fleet of 12 planes. Because we booked our flight yesterday, we were flying with Sita Airlines with a fleet of 2 planes. After an hour of waiting around, we board our shuttle bus to our plane. The bus takes off and then stops a minute later with a ground crew person running after us. They had forgot to attach the trailer, containing our luggage, to the back of the bus. That would be useful. We all have a laugh and continue our short ride to our plane. I could see the glow of excitement in the eyes of everyone in the plane, some from Germany, some from Russia, along with their Nepalese guides and porters. Here we are a Canadian and Slovakian who met in England.
Lining up for the flight, our guide advises us to take the left side of the plane for the mountains views when we approach them. One by one we board this 18 seater plane, with all the tourist taking up the seats on the left, and all of the guides and porters along with myself sitting on the right. We are handed a mango mint and some cotton balls. “What is this for?” I asked the flight attendant. “It’s for your ears because it’s gonna be loud.”
Taking off, I can see the dust and pollution of Kathmandu that we are leaving behind and we immediately fly over mountainous ranges and hills where villages begin to shrink in size the further we get. With the flight lasting only 40 mins, we soon enter the mountains. And before we could even get a grasp of what lies in front of us, the plane has landed. That was easy. I was under the impression that it would be a windy and rough landing, but I barely even felt it. Getting off the plane, I immediately notice the difference of air quality. It’s clean and refreshing mountain air similar to what I am accustomed to in Vancouver. Over by the arrivals, there is a crowd of locals, probably porters and guides, watching each passenger get off, hoping to get pick up some work. We grab our bags and head into the town of Lukla (2860m).
A 5 minute walk around the corner brings us into town where there are stores, restaurants and bars all lines up on the one street through Lukla. We stop at a tea house to have breakfast and I order a chicken soup, which was powder based, and then we decide to unload some of our unneeded luggage into a bag to be left here until we return. With our stomach semi satisfied, we begin our trek.
The skies are clear, the sun shining through, and the temperature is warm, all I’m wearing is a t-shirt and my backpack. We descend down from Lukla for an hour towards Chablung (2,660m) to join up with the main trail coming from Jiri. Looking across the valley, we could see little towns on other mountains range just waiting for our arrival. To get over rivers and valleys, we cross a number of suspension bridges, shared by hikers, porters, and animals. From here it is a slow and moderate 3 hour climb towards the town of Phakding (2,800m) where we have lunch and where will be staying for the night. I ordered the vegetable fried potatoes.
With the flight, we’ve gained a lot of elevation for the day, so day 1 is kept as easy as possible to help us acclimatize. Our guide had suggested to take us up to see a monastery as well, but when rain began to fall, that plan was withdrawn. Instead we relaxed, lied in bed, and played ukulele until dinner time. For dinner I had a simple spaghetti with tomato sauce. Afterwards, we took a stroll through the town that consists of 20+ tea houses and seems like a pretty big stop for tourists. We returned back to our room to relax with some ukulele and whiskey. Zita doesn’t have a sleeping bag, but we are able to get 2 blankets each to keep us warm along with the whiskey. Tomorrow will be a tougher day.