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This was Nepal Kathmandu, Everest Base Camp and Pokhara

Oct 7, 16

It's 11:50 pm and I'm all done packing my stuff. I'm leaving tomorrow to Nepal for trekking to Everest Base Camp. After three years of failed attempts, hundreds of blog reads and countless stares at that unscratched item on my bucket list saying 'Trek to EBC',

finally, I'm going."

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I still remember that night when I wrote these lines in my travel journal. Overwhelmed with absolute joy. Excited to the bones. Staring expectantly at that 65-liter backpack in the corner, waiting to be picked. This was how my journey to the home of monks and mountains started.

Since the day I'm back, a lot of guys have asked me about the details and the itinerary of the trek and I have quite enjoyed explaining all this to each of them, reliving the whole experience every single time. But personally, words seem to be kinder to me when I choose to write them rather when I speak them. So, I'm taking this opportunity to gather all the tidbits of my journey and share them here with you.

Reaching Kathmandu, Nepal
Kathmandu

Out of all the things I love doing most in my life, travelling has always been my greatest love. And to reach Kathmandu, we had to travel almost 3 days. We started the journey by boarding an early morning train to Mumbai and then took another one from there to Gorakhpur. Then we hopped on a heavily packed bus to reach Sunauli, a small village on the Indo-Nepal border.

Crossing India - Nepal Border

The clock ticked 10:30 pm when we reached Sunauli and the border was still a kilometer away. So we hired the last available cycle-rikshaw and dealt with the awfully drunk border security officer, who asked us to either bribe him for 'Chai-Pani' or empty our crammed up bags on the streets for extensive luggage checkup. Not the kind of welcome we were hoping to receive. We stayed the night in a nearby hotel and next morning boarded another 8-hour bus ride, finally to reach Kathmandu.

Meeting the Crew
Ngawang, Our Guide

The night we reached Kathmandu, we met Peak Promotion's Keshab Ji and Ang Babu Sherpa. Peak Promotion, a travel and filming agency based in Kathmandu was our official trekking partners for the next 13 days. They have been organizing treks and expeditions in throughout the Nepal for last 25 years and are the other end of almost every Summit Expedition of Pune's own Giripremi till date.

We met Ngawang that day who was our Guide for the trek. He is 31 years old and in past 10 years of his career, he had simply forgotten the times he had been to base camp. So, thankfully we were in safe hands! Pasang, our Porter for the trek was already in Lukla, whom we were going to meet the next day.

Flying to World's Most Dangerous Airstrip
Lukla Airport

The next morning we had a flight booked from Kathmandu to a town called Lukla which is infamous for being home to one of the most dangerous airports in the world. At 9,334 ft, the Tenzing-Hillary airport is cornered by snow clad peaks from three sides and a steep valley at the take-off end of the airstrip.

Smallest Plane I ever boarded

The airstrip is just 300 meters long and that's the reason, only 18-seated planes are allowed to depart and land there. Our flight took around 40 mins from Kathmandu to reach Lukla. We were fortunate to have clear weather as the flight route was spectacularly scenic. The Lukla airport is named after Tenzing Norgay and Sir Edmund Hillary, the first people to reach the summit of Mount Everest, and flying to it was a different adventure in itself.

The Trek Itinerary

The plan for every day's trek was mostly same and simple.

  • Start early. Have breakfast.
  • Put on hiking gear.
  • Drink as much water as possible.
  • Go slow. Go safe.
  • Take awesome photos.
  • And reach the destination before 4:00 pm.
Day 1: Fly to Lukla - Trek to Phakding

( 1,400 m / 4,600 ft ) Kathmandu - Lukla - Phakding ( 2,651 m / 8,700 ft )

40 minutes flight. 7 - 8 km trek. 3 - 4 hours. Mostly downhill.

After the 40 mins flight, post tea and breakfast, we started trekking towards Phakding. It was first day of trek and we were pumped up to reach the first checkpoint. We walked along side the banks of beautiful Dudh Kosi river with cedar trees accompanying us all the way to Phakding. All day we were able to see the Kusum Kanguru mountain as a backdrop to the Mani stones, suspension bridges and the hamlets along the way.

Mani Stones, Suspension Bridges and the beautiful countryside outset
Day 2: Phakding to Namche Bazaar

( 2,651 m / 8,700 ft ) Phakding - Monjo - Namche Bazaar ( 3,440 m / 11,284 ft )

11 km trek. 5 - 6 hours. Moderate uphill climb.

Phakding to Namche Bazaar was one another beautiful day. The walk was easy and pleasant with short uphill and downhill climbs with magnificent views of Thamserku mountain. This was a relatively busy area and was full of trekkers, porters and yaks. After a 20-30 mins of uphill climb, we reached a village called Monjo, which hosted some of the most colorful and cozy restaurants available in the region.

Just past Monjo, we had to check in at the Sagarmatha National Park. Here our trekking permit TIMS was checked. The officials there keep a record of all the trekkers trekking in the region. Along the way, we saw those two suspension bridges one above the another shown in Everest movie. After a gradual walk, we came across a short upward turn from where we got our first view of Everest, just a glimpse of the summit between the tree branches and the clouds. A half an hour walk and we reached Namche bazaar. Here we got a chance to do some closeups and portraits of the beautiful Sherpa kids who were playing outside their homes.

First view of Everest from trail to Namche

Namche Bazaar

Having fun with kids in Namche Bazaar.
Day 3: Acclimatization Day - Namche Bazaar

( 3,440 m / 11,284 ft ) Namche - Syangboche - Namche ( 3,440 m / 11,284 ft )

3 - 4 km trek. 2 - 3 hours. Moderate uphill climb.

This day was reserved for acclimatization as we had gained considerable height the last day. In any high altitude trekking, it's advisable to take an acclimatization day after every gain of 600 m. Namche Bazaar, being the center of Sherpa culture, is a good place to shop and avail most of the modern communication facilities. We hiked a small hill which frames the entire village in a U-shaped bowl and hosts the unpaved and currently unused Syangboche Airport. The vantage point offered some spectacular views of the snow clad mountains including the two Eight-thousandersEverest and Lhotse. We spent almost 45 mins in the outset with me playing around with my tripod to get a good and steady picture.

Me, Nikhil and Rohit with Everest and other peaks in backdrop.

From left - Everest, Lhotse, Lhotse Shar and Ama Dablam

When we checked back in the hotel, we met a couple from Google, Zurich. We got along pretty well being all IT people. And surprisingly, Nikhil had just gone through couple of interviews at Google, Banglore. So, Ishika from Zurich and Nikhil had a good chat over how things work at Google. In the evening, we did some local market shopping and photography and met this crazy 18-year-old, Ahaan from Banglore, who was doing solo trekking with 14 - 15 kg on his back and without any prior trekking experience.

Local Market at Namche
Day 4: Namche Bazaar to Tengboche

( 3,440 m / 11,284 ft ) Namche Bazaar - Tengboche ( 3,870 m / 12,694 ft )

10 km trek. 5 - 6 hours. Short descend followed by steep climb.

As usual, we started hiking towards the next desination around 8 am. The weather was superb and we were excited to go to Tengboche. Amidst the enormous Himalayan peaks, Tengboche hosts the largest Monastery in the Khumbu region. After 20-30 mins short climb out of Namche, the trail descended to the level of the Dudh-Koshi river, passing along small settlements and crossing several suspension bridges. Post lunch, the trail became significantly strenuous for around 2 hours. But having Everest, Lhotse and Ama Dablam in the scene, we were able to reach Tengboche in time.

A shooting crew from Denmark was staying in the same hotel we were staying and when we entered the Monastery, they were filming a scene where the actor was sweeping the floors and the monks were passing by. Back in the hotel, we met Paul and Tatiana from Texas, USA who later accompanied us to Kala Patthar and Base Camp.

But the most surprising event of the day was meeting fellow trekkers from Pakistan. They all were jolly good people and sat with us over dinner to discuss on topics ranging from K2 Base Camp, Baltoro glacier, Trango Towers and other treks in Pakistan to the beautiful travel destinations in India.

Ama Dablam, on the way to Tengboche.
Day 5: Tengboche to Dingboche

( 3,870 m / 12,694 ft ) Tengboche - Dingboche ( 4,360 m / 14,300 ft )

9 km trek. 5 - 6 hours. Short uphills but mostly flat. Crossing Treeline.

Witnessed hundreds of rescue operations during the trek.

The trail was relatively easier than all of the previous days trails. But it was way too much windy. We hit the tree line along the way. More and more choppers were flying over our heads suggesting the increase in rescue operations. Ngawang told us it gets difficult from Dingboche and most people start giving up from here.

The previous night was difficult for Rohit and Nikhil because of cold and running nose. Even Ngawang and Pasang ( our porter ) were having cold and were struggling. This was my fifth day of continuous trekking. Previously, I had been on numerous one day hikes, but never had trekked for more than two days in succession. But surprisingly, I was the only one in team who wasn't having any health troubles.

Day 6: Dingboche - Acclimatization Day

We continued our stay in Dingboche as the day was reserved for acclimatization. We hiked the nearby hill to gain a substantial height and took some stunning photos of the valley and mountains surrounding the town.

The evening was delightful as we had plenty of time with us and nothing much to do. After taking hot shower for the first time in last seven days, which needless to say, cost us 500 NPR per person, we took out playing cards and started playing in the common diner. Later on, Jasmine from Sydney joined us and beat us all in almost every single game.

Day 7: Dingboche to Lobuche

( 4,360 m / 14,300 ft ) Dingboche - Lobuche ( 4940 m / 16,207 ft )

7 - 8 km trek. 4 - 5 hours. Gradual uphill and riverside flat terrain.

After leaving Dingboche, our trail diverted towards the north and was easier for the next hour. Walking the trail surrounded by Seabuckthorn and Juniper trees we reached a place called Thukla and stopped there for lunch. With every passing day, we were gaining altitude and losing appetite. And some of the nights, head ache would give us the undesired company.

From Thukla, another one hour of steep climb and we reached the Memorial Place, where hundreds of memorials are built for the people died on top of Everest. The place is situated on a shorter cliff surrounded by magnificent peaks in every direction. After paying homage to the fallen, 2 hours of trekking time and we reached Lobuchedown the corner of the hill.

Memorial Place, Thukla

We reached Lobuche in time and just after checking into our hotel, we met Tatiana and Paul again. Tatiana asked whether they could trek with us the next day to Gorakshep as she was in need of a porter to carry her backpack. As we were already one man short, Pasang, our porter was more than happy to carry her luggage and so he did the next day.

Day 8: Lobuche to Gorakshep and climbing Kala Patthar

We were way too much excited in the morning as that was the day we would be reaching Everest Base Camp. The plan was to reach Gorakshep around 11 - 12 pm and then hike for 3 - 4 km to Everest Base Camp. But when we reached Gorakshep, we decided to hike to Kala Patthar instead. As the weather was clear, we thought we would get a clear view of sunset over the Everest summit.

On the way to Gorakshep

Gorakshep

( 4,360 m / 14,300 ft ) Lobuche - Gorakshep ( 5,164 m / 16,942 ft )

4 km trek. 2 - 3 hours. Gradual uphill and steep climb with constant wind.

The trail from Lobuche was easier for first hour and then gradually became steep. The altitude and cold was killing all the energy we had, lowering our speed considerably. Once we reached Gorakshep, we decided to grab a quick lunch. We met two beautiful Swiss girls, Dana and Nicole in the diner, who were on Asia trip from last three months. Post lunch, we headed out to Kala Patthar, the highest point of the trek and every mountain photographer's dream destination.

From left - Mt. Pumori, Kala Patthar ( brownish colored hill with trail marks ), Gorakshep village, Khumbu Icefall with moraines and ridges of Everest and Nuptse.

Kala Patthar

( 5,164 m / 16,942 ft ) Gorakshep - Kala Patthar ( 5,643 m / 18,514 ft )

4 - 5 km round-trip climb. 4 - 5 hours. Continuous steep climb. 52 % oxygen level at top. Windy.

The hike towards Kala Patthar from Gorakshep started with a 10 - 15 mins of walk in the sandy fields. Then there was this steep climb for next hour or so. This Kala Patthar, which translates to Black Rock, is so bad-ass for ascending that I had to summon every ounce of energy within me. We were taking baby steps as we climbed up and up. Half an hour of gradual climb, then an hour of a steep one and finally we reached the top of Kala Patthar.

View from Kala Patthar. From left - Ridges of Everest, Mt Everest, Nuptse ( being closer, looks higher than Everest ) and Ama Dablam.

The sun was about to set and we were enjoying the view of Everest standing tall amidst the chaos of clouds and other neighboring peaks. The treacherous Khumbu Icefall at the base of Everest added a bit of a drama to those clouds hovering above it.

Witnessing the valley behind Kala Patthar and Mt. Pumori.

Ama Dablam, as seen from Kala Patthar. You just can't take a bad picture of Ama Dablam!

The Sunset

The clouds had already gathered up but since we were at 18,000 ft, technically we were standing above them. All the mountains in vicinity were covered by the clouds but we could see the peaks and summits rising tall through the blanket those clouds formed. We even a saw a rainbow out there. Although the photographs from this vantage point, when sold earn a lot of money to the photographers, standing there for real and witnessing the chaos and the bliss with our own eyes, was an earthly pleasure above everything else.

Everest and Nuptse
Last rays of Sun over Everest Summit

After spending the sunset at Kala Patthar, we headed back to our hotel in Gorakshep for staying the night. It was one of the coldest night of my life as I had to wear every piece of clothing I had brought along with me to be able to sleep. Next morning, we would be hiking to Everest Base Camp and then back to Gorakshep, only to continue the return journey towards Lukla.

Did I mention that there's a statue of Shivaji Maharaj in Gorakshep at almost 17,000 ft? Thanks to Giripremi from Pune for this great deed of devotion.

Statue of Shivaji Maharaj, at Gorakshep ( 17000 ft ). courtesy: GiriPremi, Pune.
Day 9: Gorak Shep - Everest Base Camp -Pheriche

Everest Base Camp

( 5170 m / 16,961 ft ) Gorak Shep - Everest Base Camp ( 5364 m / 17,594 ft )

3 - 4 km, 1 - 2 hours. Walking over rocks and moraines.

This was the day we reached the base camp. Crossing a lot of loose rocks and walking over the glacier moraine, we reached base camp around 9:30 am. The final destination of the trek. Paul had accompanied us to Kala Patthar and he was still with us for trekking to Base Camp.

The feeling we all got after reaching base camp, after all the hardship and the efforts, it just can't be expressed in words. Rohit was screaming towards Everest with all his guts calling by its name and I was just lost in the moment. Looking towards the mementos people have left over the years; towards the treacherous ice-fall, the beginning of another hell of a journey, which has lured a millions of people all over the world to spend their entire lifetimes. An affair which started almost a century ago!

At Everest Base Camp. The khumbu Ice fall and a bit of Everest Summit.
The Team after reaching Everest Base Camp. From left - Ngawang ( our guide ), Me, Rohit, Pasang ( our porter ).

Pheriche

( 17,594 ft ) Everest Base Camp - Gorakshep - Lobuche - Pheriche ( 13,780 ft )

14 km trek. 5 - 6 hours.

With Kala Patthar and Everest Base Camp been checked off the list, our return journey to Lukla started the same day. After trekking back to Gorakshep, we had quick lunch and then started hiking back towards Lobuche. The trek was reaching end and the feeling was saddening my heart. But we didn't have any other options other than to keep moving. It was the longest day of entire trek as we walked for almost 9 - 10 hours, covering a total distance of around 21 km.

Day 10: Pheriche to Namche Bazaar

( 4,200 m / 13,780 ft ) Pheriche - Namche Bazaar ( 3,440 m / 11,280 ft )

20 km trek. 7 - 8 hours

The next morning we started descending towards Namche Bazaar. The trail was mostly downhill with the altitude decreasing by every step. Our appetites came back to normal and we started sleeping like a baby during the nights. Just before the short ascend to Tengboche, we met Hemant, Manasi, Hiren and other people from Gujarat, whom we had met several times during the trek.

Before leaving Tengboche, uncertain of when we would be able to see it again, me and Rohit just kept staring at Everest for the better part of the time.

At Memorial Place, on our way back to Namche.
The Diner in one of the Tea House we stayed in Tengboche
Day 11: Namche Bazaar to Phakding

( 3,440 m / 11,284 ft ) Namche Bazaar - Monjo - Phakding ( 2,651 m / 8,700 ft )

11 km trek. 4 - 5 hours.

After a heavy breakfast and a hot shower, we started hiking for the day towards Phakding. On our way back to the downhill, we visited the local markets of Namche and roamed around the place to explore the local art crafts and handicrafts. The weather was a bit upset from that of the last time we stayed here.

Day 12: Phakding to Lukla. The Last Day

7 - 8 km trek. 3 - 4 hours.

It was the last day of the trek. Usually, most of the trekkers reach base camp on 8th day and return back to Lukla on 11 th day. But since we had one buffer day in hand, we decided to make it a 12 days trek, staying the extra night in Phakding. We met David and his son from London, who were just back from Mera Peak Expedition. His son looked barely 18. We saw lot of such fathers in their 40s partnered with their sons and trekking along together, a perfect Father-Son bonding activity.

After reaching Lukla, we checked into the same hotel we previously visited in the beginning of trek. We invited Ngawang and Pasang for dinner as the next morning we were to leave for Kathmandu. There was one group from USA in the same hotel and it was their last day too. Half way through the dinner and suddenly one guy stood up from their table and started dancing in the middle of the diner. Eventually, every one else joined, turning the diner into a dance floor.

Flying to Kathmandu. Chill out in Pokhara.
Sunrise over Mount Annapurna and Fishtail, Pokhara

After arriving back in Kathmandu, we did some local sight seeing and then left for Pokhara next day. Pokhara is one another marvelous city to visit in Nepal because of the attractions like Phewa Lake, trail to Annapurna Base Camp, Mount Fishtail and countless other adventures to experience. We saw two more Eight-thousanders from Pokhara, Annapurna I and Dhaulagiri. We stayed for three days in Pokhara only to relax; just to ease out of all the exertion our bodies went through during the trek.

I almost fell in love with Pokhara. The lake, the mountains, the people and the food; it all created an enchanting vibe that made us hard to leave the city. We would sit the entire afternoons by the lake shore, staring at the distant boats crossing the horizon till the disappearing sun turn the violet waters glow silently in its orange. Next day with a heavy heart we headed back home to India, still ambivalent about leaving Nepal.

Evening at Phewa Lake, Pokhara
A Hell of a Journey ...

We trekked for straight 12 days covering a distance of almost 130 km. But regardless of all the trekking and the exertion, we got a chance to see some world class views, a chance to experience a different culture and cuisine. We walked and dined with hundreds of amazing people, each one having a different story and a different background. When it all started, the goal was just to go as close as possible to the top of the world. But now, when I look back at those 3 weeks, seems like this was much bigger than just a trek. Rather, this was heck of an experience that I will cherish till the end of my days.

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I've stayed up late and spent countless hours, days and nights on writing and creating this. Certainly not to boast about my adventure. I believe, that we all live in a limited time frame; a time frame not enough to experience all those millions of amazing things out there. But after reading this, if at least one person gets the spark and moves his ass out of his comfort zone, sails away from the safe harbor just to live out his dream, I would say it was worth the time!

#Nepal #EverestBaseCamp #Kathmandu #Pokhara

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Hit the 'Appreciate' button with a little heart if you've liked it. If you have any concerns or queries about this post, please feel free to drop me a mail at iamporus@gmail.com

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Created By
Puru Pawar
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Credits:

Created with images by Rohit, Nikhil and Puru. Header graphics inspired from 'This was Paris' by Min at "https://textmewhen.wordpress.com/2015/07/26/this-was-paris-2/" and from "http://www.garancedore.fr/en/2013/10/10/this-was-paris/"

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