15/01/2018 – Kathmandu to Phakding (2660m)
Into the Himalayas we go! Well… eventually.
A nice early start of about 5am, and it was off to Kathmandu airport. The trek to Base Camp starts in the small village of Lukla deep into the mountains and while a 7hr bus ride is an option, it is not really the done thing. Rather a small plane will get you landing in “the most dangerous airport in the world”. Or so they say.
So we got to the airport, checked in and were all ready to board out 6:45am flight. Sadly, the weather was conspiring against us. Fog in both Kathmandu meant we couldn’t depart. So we waited. And we waited. And we waited.Then, after about 3 hours it was go go go! We jumped on the bus to take us out on to the runway and… we waited. Sadly, it wasn’t go time so it was back into the airport we go.
The departure hall was packed with very few flights getting anywhere. This was an ominous sign to start. But then, another couple of hours later and it was go time. For real this time! On to the small 15 seater we went and take off! The flight was super smooth. Heading through the Himalayas can often be a bumpy journey apparently but ours was relatively calm. About half an hour in we were greeted with massive mountains out the left hand side. We were really heading into the Himalayas!
Lukla approached. Why it is often thought of as being such a dangerous airport is that the approach is between the mountains on to a runway that can’t be much more than a couple hundred meters, and on quite a high angle sloping upward. But it was all fine as there is not really anytime to think about it as you approach and then you have touched down in an instant! Our landing was smooth and just a little late (well a lot late) and we were in Lukla.
We were all hungry so we had some lunch at a tea house in town (potato pancake, yum) and with some food in our bellies, it was time to take our first real steps. First day was only just an easy one anyway, so being late didn’t really matter. We had about 3 hours of “Nepali Flat” to contend with. Pasang dubbed fairly gentle ups and downs as Nepali flat, with gentle being relative. So for 3 hours we strolled through the mountains, passing through tiny villages, crossing suspension bridges, and meeting the first of MANY dogs that would join us on our hike. They are amazing… you will be walking along and then suddenly you notice a dog at your feet. They will wander with you for a while (sometimes hours) and then just head back.
With spectacular views of the mountains at every turn, we came to Phakding, our first nights stop. Given the late start it was starting to cool down, but overall it was a little warner and less snow (i.e none) than expected. But beautiful blue skies were alright with me. Shangrila Lodge was our accomodation and the evening played out just as most would coming up. A little time to chill out, dinner, then some more time to relax before settling in to bed. We had all been advised that meat was probably not best given the locale and time of the year, so it was the first of many meals of veggie momos.
In most tea houses the common eating area will have a wood fire that will be stoked until after dinner when it will slowly burn out. It means we would typically hang out chatting and playing cards until the fire had gone out. Tonight was such a night, all of us being weary after an early start, and so retreated to our cold rooms for a good nights sleep before a longer day of hiking tomorrow.