It’s obvious why Nepal is known as the “roof of the world” – it boasts 8 of the world’s 10 highest mountains, including of course the daddy of them all, Mount Everest. Although climbing to the peak of the legendary mountain is strictly for serious, hardcore mountaineers, trekking in the Everest region and enjoying spectacular views of the mountain is accessible to most keen trekkers and can be done in just a few days. I finally got round to achieving my ambition of visiting this stunning part of the world recently – here’s my account.
Flying into Lukla from Kathmandu was one of the most exhilarating flights of my life. I had read that it is one of the world’s most dangerous airports due to the angle of the airport clinging to the edge of the Himalayan mountains, but in fact dozens of flights go in and out of Lukla daily with no incident. Landing was very exciting and I was out of the tiny airport in a few minutes.
The town of Lukla is incredibly charming, and quite exciting as the gateway to the legendary Everest region which I had always wanted to explore. The thing that surprised me the most initially – although it shouldn’t have – is that there are no cars or roads. There are only narrow footpaths used by people and yaks. Yaks are beautiful creatures and they are the workhorses of the Everest Region, transporting everything from cases of beer to refrigerators up to the many lodges lining the path up to the mighty Mt Everest.
I was travelling alone on reconnaissance for Remote Lands clients, and I had a private trekking guide as well as a porter. When I told my brother about my trip he thought that a Sherpa is a job description, a person who carries bags. I explained that the Sherpas are an incredibly tough and fit ethnic group in the Himalayas who often work as porters and trekking guides, and I have huge respect for them.
On my first day we trekked up through Pakhding and on to Monjo. I passed through many adorable villages and through spectacular scenery before finally reaching Yeti Mountain Home in Monjo. I met trekkers from all over the world from Malaysia to Japan to the UK. I had a delicious dinner at the lodge and slept extremely well, before getting up early the next morning.
We trekked on to Namche Bazaar which is a relatively large town (population 2,000) with plenty of shops and restaurants and lodges. Again I stayed at Yeti Mountain Home which is the best lodge in town. I met so many interesting people at the lodge and it was a wonderful experience.
On my third day I trekked to Syangboche and then on to Kunde and Khumjung. I visited a tiny hospital, a school, a monastery and a Buddhist temple where the head of a yeti is supposedly enshrined. I did a circle and trekked back down to Syangboche where I spent the night at Everest View Lodge. I am fine with simple accommodations as long as I have a private bathroom.
The next morning I trekked down the Syangboche airport for my flight down to Lukla. In the interest of saving 2 days trekking back down to Lukla and re-tracing my steps, I chartered a small turbotrop plane to fly me from Syangboche to Lukla. I think I paid around $4k for the experience, which was very exciting,
Syangboche airfield was not your typical airport. There was no building and no tarmac, but just a simple field where some flags are planted to show the “runway”. They had to chase the cattle out of the way for the little turboprop to land, and then for us to take off again. My porter had never flown on a plane before so it was very exciting for the three of us to do this together. We flew through a GORGE/TUNNEL of mountains that reminded me of scenes from Star Wars. We landed in Lukla about 20 minutes later and I took a commercial flight back to Kathmandu. A more efficient but more expensive option is to charter a helicopter straight from Syangboche to Kathmandu, and many of our clients spring for that. Some also skip the trekking part and just take a day trip helicopter from Kathmandu to Everest Base Camp and back in a day. That is the ultimate luxury!