7 years and a 10 day trek to Everest Base Camp
Landing in Kathmandu was like transferring into a colourful, fumey delight. After taking an hour to get out of the airport, through 4 different queues to get our visa, we met our guide Kashi to travel through the city to our hotel. The hazy sunset and taste of car fumes really was like a Turkish delight to the face. We sat watching dusk become night from a stoop outside one of the local shops, guessing what was real or fake North Face from the milling hikers and locals passing by.
We tasted the local delicacies that evening with our friends we were joining on the trek, Madeleine, Manolis and Ed, before a day to explore the just some of this vast city before meeting with our Lead guide Shankar back at the hotel that evening. All thoughts of the trek were banished for the day before the utter panic of, how can 2 weeks’ worth of trekking gear weigh including plenty of snacks less than 10kg!!
Day 1: Going nowhere
One last sleep in a warm bed, before a quick, but thorough 4:45am shower and straight to the airport for our 6 am flight…… the day started sleepy and apprehensive. 6 hours later, we’re still at the airport. One lonely cloud hovering over the runway at our destination, Lukla, the worlds most dangerous airport and the gateway into the Himalayas. All flights were being cancelled. This was supposed to be the ultimate time of year to travel into the mountains…. but luck was not on our side. It was decided that we would head back to a hotel closer to the airport fly the next morning. The guides seemed to think we’d still be ok to make basecamp but would lose a day that we’d have to make up for on the way down. More walking in less days. Again, we had an early night, and a shower for good measure.
Day 2: Still going nowhere....
Back at the airport, 4 hours waiting, all flights into the mountains are called off again due to ice on the runway. We consider the option of paying for a helicopter, but even they can’t fly. Our hope of even getting to the mountains after months of planning and training were dwindling! The guides take us out for dinner to their friends local restaurant that evening. This is feeling like a waiting game.
Day 3: Kathmandu – Phakding (2,610m)
Another shower and a slower morning at the hotel. Just as we think it’s all over, Shankar gets a call, and we’re off! To the airport at least. We feel like veterans, we get prioritised, we’re straight in and then…… we wait. FINALLY they call us, we practically run to the gate, onto the bus, and onto the tarmac… where we wait.
The plane is tiny, a twin otter as a client had told me. We’re at the back of the plane, and I’m not a good back seat driver, even for a 27-minute journey. It felt like we were flying in a paper plane! The Himalayas were in sight, somewhere I thought only Michael Palin could go, and then the runway. We land with our guides heads in their hands. What do you mean this isn’t Lukla!?
We’ve been forced to land at an airport the guides have never been to before. A 4-minute flight, 2 day walk from Lukla. Practically round the corner and yet so far away.
So, we sit and wait again. Practicing our juggling skills, napping, playing horseshoes with some metal… and generally getting to know the group. After the longest 2 hours of all these hours, we’re back on the plane. “Jam Jam!” our top gun pilot shouts, let’s go! A weather window has opened and time is limited. Within minutes we’re landing in Lukla, the airport that my Dad enjoys watching planes take off and land on YouTube to pass the time, bet you’re not chuckling any more are you Dad!