Welshman Walking Blog: Returns Part 5
Welshman Walking Blog : Returns
My Own Bucket List
When Bucket List was in its infancy, Co Founder Andy, created a blog called Welshman Walking. This was about his first journey to Nepal where he was heading to Mt Everest for the first time. The writing took him from the busy Airport at London Heathrow, all the way to the foot of the tallest mountain on earth, Mt Everest, and back to Kathmandu.
As with any journey his was so much more than just reaching the destination. The realisation of a lifetime ambition, the friends he made on the trails, the hospitality he enjoyed from the Nepalese people and the life experiences he went through all added to the story. I hope you enjoy reading about this journey as much as Andy enjoyed living it. We will be posting each blog throughout the next few weeks, in the build up to some of our planned expeditions in spring & Autumn 2017! Keep a sharp eye on the horizon for more news.
Runways, Rivers and Reggae!
Finally it was the first day of my trek. After missing flights, having plenty of beers and meeting some really fantastic people whilst also seeing some amazing places it was time to get down to the reason for my visit to Nepal, the trek to Everest Base camp.
I woke up at around 5am to grab a shower and sort my backpack for the last time. We were due to fly out at 06:15 to the Notorious Tenzing Hilary airport in Lukla. I say notorious as its labeled as the most dangerous airport in the world due to the number of incidents that have occurred at the airport. The main cause of this was the frequent bad weather that surrounds the area of Lukla especially in the winter. My guide met me at the Hotel and we quickly made our way to the airport and i was raring to go although i needed a coffee to get rid of the cobwebs from the early rise from bed.
We dumped our bags at the check in desk which was scarily quick and we waited for the go ahead for the flight. Shishir, my guide called ahead to Lukla to check the forecast around 06:00 and all was fine. We were given the thumbs up from the Tara (Yeti) airways flight crew consisting of 1 attendant, and 2 pilots and off we went into the mountains.
The aircraft was a 12 seater place and my guide recommended that i sit on the left for the best view which i duly did and he wasn’t wrong by the way. As we were sitting on the plane with the Pilot doing the pre flight checks i was thinking of the ‘Most dangerous airport in the world’ tag that Lukla had. Although i should have been a little on the edge or bricking it as we say at home, however i felt relatively calm. It must be the excitement of finally starting my trek that was keeping my brain occupied i think.
We left the runway after the noisy engines spun into action as it was a twin propeller plane and took off heading directly to the lower end of the Himalaya region of Nepal. I know i was in awe of the Himalayas when i first arrived in Kathmandu but this was something else. As we were only just over 5000 meters altitude i had the best seat in the house watching the sun rise beyond the mountains as if the mountains themselves woke up to say good morning.
As we started to approach Lukla area it was clear that the weather was not good at all and
visibility soon became zero as we descended into the valley and this was a little unnerving. The pilot wasn’t having any of this and instead took the decision to make for an airstrip instead in the other valley where the weather was still fine. We landed on the dirt track with a bump and a half and my guide tapped me on the shoulder with a wide eyed expression that definitely said ‘That was interesting’.
We were told to just wait until the pilot was happy to attempt a landing in Lukla and took to wandering in the tiny settlement next to the airstrip. It reminded me of the sort of air strip where you would have some sort of drugs baron or James bond bad guy hiding out with quite a number of dodgy looking guards dressed in blue camouflagegear . Still, i had some spare time so wondered around saying ‘Namaste'(a Nepalese greeting) to some of the locals who were surprised to see a plane land. It must be a rare occasion to visit this place.
I got chatting to 2 dutch guys who were sitting at the rear of the plane and we discussed the landing and if we were going to make Lukla when out of nowhere came a shout from the pilot who had just received a phone call that there was some clear air and to go for it. We all hurriedly entered the plane and we soon took off not long after as we only just had enough runway to take off. Jesus!
As we entered the Lukla valley it was definitely clearer now and the pilot dropped us in on the clifftop runway and he absolutely nailed it. I and a few others clapped with excitement and probably also just to be happy to still be breathing.
So here we were, Lukla the start of the Everest Base camp trek. We met my porter who would be carrying my trusty rucksack and he seemed pretty pleased that mine was not that heavy at all. He spoke very good English which is common for the guides but unusual for the porters and just like my guide he had a great sense of humor.
We were now at 2800 meters and it was significantly colder than Kathmandu and i soon opened the rucksack for my warm hat. We headed for brekkie at one of the lodges in the village. I was starving and i almost inhaled the food whilst also helping myself to a couple of cups of coffee before we headed off.
The target for today was to head to a village called Phakding where we would be staying the night and the first day was a relatively easy day of ups and downs on the trail. It was only around a 6km walk but took around 2 and 1/2 hours of decent pace to get there. Among the way we passed donkey train after donkey train coming down from the higher passes and had to cross a rickety looking suspension bridge over a deep ravine, it reminded me of something out of an Indiana Jones movie and couldn’t help but go selfie mad on this bridge.
As i was walking and getting my lungs used to the altitude i got thinking about the Sherpa life in these mountains. Although a simple life, it is a tough and hard life and i could see the difficult years and the mileage etched on the faces of many of the residents of the villages. They all happily conversed though and were pleased at my attempts of the Nepalese lingo when i said Namaste. The Khumbu region which is the region from Lukla all the way to Everest is apparently the richest in Nepal due to the trekking tourism and you could definitely see that the villages were getting back on their feet after the earthquake damage, even more so than Kathmandu.
We made our way along the side of the mountain until at last we reached Phakding. A small village which is nestled next to a glacial river. A torrent of white water meandering through the valley like a giant snake. As we approached the village i could hear the soothing sound of the water among the racket of hammer on wood where a few builders were repairing a house.
It was fair to say that my senses were open and i was loving the trek already. It had only been a few hours hiking but even now i understand the draw to a place like this. I know there will be tough times on this trek where i will be in pain and wanting to stop but there is something special here that will drive me on, i’m sure of that.
As the day moved towards the end we made it to our lodgings for the night, a place called ‘Beer Garden Lodge’. I do like a good beer garden as you may well know and although basic as most accommodation is in the mountains, it seemed cool enough!
The host met me with a huge smile and the hands clasped together Namaste greeting and showed us into the main lodge room where a log fire was burning away to keep our hands warm whilst we had the traditional warm tea.
Not long after, an icy cold beer followed and a few games of snooker in the local reggae bar which was definitely a random surprise. I do like a good Bob Marley song but I think its the only music they have as it was on repeat and although i love Buffalo Soldier, hearing it 3 times in an hour was enough for me and after some dinner i headed off to catch some rest before a long day of trekking ahead to the next target, Namche Bazaar.