LUKLA TO NAMCHE BAZAAR
So we landed in Lukla at around 10:00and we were more than ready to start going. The fresh mountain air was a nice change of pace from the Kathmandu haze. Plus the delays had given my fever a chance to subside, so now I only had a hacking cough to deal with. I made a few last minute purchases, as prices would only be getting higher the further into the mountains we got. Although I decided not to buy the bottle of Nusco, which is this half hazelnut, half vanilla spread that is absolutely delicious. I had memories of three years ago when I bought it for the first time before doing the Annapurna circuit, in which I ate the whole bottle, dead sober, in just a few hours of recklessness indulgence, and then had to lay in bed the whole next day to recover. So I stayed with the more practical supplies like toilet paper, chapstick, and a wool hat.
With bright blue skies and white-capped mountains in the distance we started the hike. The trek is initially downhill, which is probably a good thing as we had already gained 4500 feet of altitude on the flight alone, and it is good to give your body some time to adjust. The first couple hours of hiking were very pleasant with nice greenery, many villages, and bright-faced children running around. I find the Nepalese infants especially cute, all bundled up in their down jackets, squinty almond shaped eyes and the rosiest cheeks you’ll ever see. I’m not exactly sure what it is, but I find white babies particularly less aesthetically appealing than their Asian counterparts.
Anyway after a few hours we passed Phakding, which is the usual stopping place for most trekkers, and continued uphill to a village called Mongla. We felt like could keep going but the weather had turned gray and cloudy, so we decided this was a good time to stop. Especially early on, there’s no shortage of guesthouses along the way, so you can basically hike till your heart’s content. For those of you that don’t know how the mainstream trekking in Nepal works, you sleep and eat in guesthouses along the trail, so there’s no need for tents, packing your own food, stoves, and the usual associated with the backcountry type trekking you might find in the States. The rooms are almost free, as long as you eat dinner and breakfast at your guesthouse, which is where the bulk of their profits come from. It’s a bit of monopolized system, as every guesthouse has basically the same menu and prices, but foreveryone but the cheapest backpackers, it’s not really a matter of concern.
The following day we made a steep ascent to Namche Bazaar at 3,400 meters, which is a relatively large village that is known as the gateway to the Himalayas. It’s got markets, bakeries, internet cafes, pharmacies, and basically anything a hiker could need before getting higher up into the mountains. This is where we would make our first acclimatization stop. This just means is that we would stay 2 nights in stead of 1, and use our free day to hike up a few hundred meters before returning back to Namche. “Climb high, sleep low” is the standard mountaineering motto for avoiding acute mountain sickness (AMS).
So the following day we hiked up to the village of Khumjung, a picturesque village at 3900m, before heading back down. After 3 days we’d noticed a pretty usual weather pattern of clear sunny mornings with the clouds rolling in every day at around noon or one. So it was important to get early starts. Back in Namche we went to a bar to watch the move based on the book, “Into Thin Air”, about the 96’ Everest disaster, which is a fascinating book, but god damn they turned it into one of the most hilariously bad movies I've ever seen. But hey, it was something to stave off the late afternoon boredom.
I enjoyed walking around Namche, as its somewhat bustling compared to most villages and has a picturesque Sherpa bazaar, with a beautiful mountain backdrop (well from now on there would always be a beautiful mountain backdrop!)After our two nights it was time to keep going up, into the meaty part of the trek. Next stop: The village of Pangboche at 4,000m! For now here's some photos from around town...