Tricia and I have been talking about a trekking trip in Nepal for a long time. We initially wanted to trek the Annapurna Circuit. For years, we’ve envisioned our hike over Thorong La pass which was the initial plan of our trip this fall. As we dug deeper into the details of the trek, it became clear that Annapurna Circuit was no longer what we envisioned. It seemed that the years of popularity among massive number of tourists have lead to segmented road building over the original trail. The new roads brought resource and wealth to these once remote villages along the old trail, but they also destroyed the off-the-grid kind feeling that Tricia and I desire. We had to look for an alternative.
Fortunately, Nepal has no shortage of mountains and remote treks. That’s when we discovered Gokyo Lakes and the traverse to Everest Base Camp (EBC). My vacation was 19 days long. Excluding the international travel and buffer days, we figured that we have 14 days on the trail. Even though we hike often in Washington State, we still live in a city at sea level. We are not sure how we will perform in high altitude. So we planned plenty of resting days and short days in the trek itinerary.
Here’s our original plan:
Day 1: Kathmandu
Day 2: fly to Lukla, hike to Phakding
Day 3: Hike to Namche Bazaar
Day 4: rest
Day 5: Hike to Dole
Day 6: Hike to Machermo
Day 7: Hike to Gokyo lake
Day 8: Summit Gokyo Ri in the morning, hike to Tragnag
Day 9: Cross Cho La Pass, rest in Dzongla
Day 10: To Gorak Shepp
Day 11: Summit Kala Patthar + EBC
Day 12: Resting in Lobuche
Day 13: Tengboche
Day 14: Hike to Namche
Day 15: Hike to Lukla
Day 16: Fly back to Kathmandu
Day 17: Fly out of Kathmandu
We figured this plan is safe and conservative. Well, the plan was broken starting from the first day of our trek. We made it to Namche Bazaar from Lukla in one day instead of two. We then hiked from Dole to Gokyo lakes in one day instead of two. So by Day number 4, we were already two days ahead of schedule. We re-wrote our plan several times during our trip. I will talk about our actual trekking itinerary in details in subsequent posts, but let’s start with some logistics of this trip:
- When did we go: 10/1/2017- 10/17/2017. Our flight actually left Seattle on 9/30 and returned to Seattle on 10/18/2017.
- What’s on my packing list: Find out here
- What’s the conversion rate between NPR and USD: 1 USD is a little more than 100 NPR as of 2017. Make sure there is no surcharge before you exchange your money.
- How much are the permits and where to pay for them: $73.90 total
- TIMS card: this is the traditional fee for this trek. It’s $20 per person in 2017. You can get this permit either in Nepal Tourism Board in Kathmandu or in Monjo. You will be required to provide 2 passport photos for your TIMS card.
- Sagarmatha Park Entrance Fee: $33.90 PP (after tax for solo hikers w/o a guide). I paid this at the park entrance in Monjo.
- Solukhumbu Area Entrance Fee: $20 PP (starting 10/1/2017). An office opened up at Lukla where they will demand you to pay this fee.
4. How much should I budget for teahouses on this trip:
Here is a list of services and their prices in a typical teahouse:
- Room: 200-400 NPR if you have two meals at the lodge.
- Food: 350-750 NPR/dish
- A small pot of black tea: 500 NPR
- Wifi: 600NPR/card of 200MB (this Everest Link card is found everywhere north of Namche)
- Charge: 150NPR/phone; 300NPR/battery
- Shower: 500NPR/person
If you stay at a teahouse, have two meals, take a shower, use the wifi, charge your phone and drink a small pot of tea, you are looking at 200+500×2+500+600+150+500 = 2950 NPR = $29.5 per stay. Remember that’s if you don’t eat your lunch at the teahouse.
- We each took one shower in the ten days after Namche due to my concerns of catching a cold in high altitude and her concerns of drying her hair.
- I tried the Everest Link wifi card a couple times. It is important that you turn off all your accessory functions before connecting to your wifi card. I had automatic downloads of podcasts and periodic syncing of my photo library to icloud set up which means the wifi card lasted no more than a couple minutes before getting maxed out. It’s a waste of money unless you fixed all your settings.
- We discovered that a small pot of tea for breakfast and a medium pot of tea for dinner to be the optimal amount of tea we need at each stay. It meant that our bill was bumped $5-6 each stay but our quality of life was significantly improved.
- I brought an external battery that provided four full charges to my iphone. I didn’t pay to charge my phone the entire trip. Instead, some lodges provided free battery charges and I took advantage of that whenever I could.
In the end, we came out to averaging $45/day between the two of us. We paid for our two nights of stay at Pyramid by credit card.
5. Was this trek crowded for us?
Short answer is no. But let me explain why.
- The monsoon season lasted longer than expected this year. We actually left for this trip prepared to be rained on everyday. We got lucky, however. The torrential rain stopped a few days before our arrival. But many tourists either delayed their trip or canceled it altogether.
- The flights to Lukla on the days before our flight were cancelled due to weather so people had to take choppers or reroute to Phaplu airport (2 additional days of hiking to Lukla). So when our flight landed in Lukla, few tourists had been in Lukla for a couple of days.
- Our route is clockwise going to Gokyo lake first and cross over to EBC which is the less traveled as Cho La pass is more difficult to cross in this direction. As a result, we encountered few people on the way up.
By the time we started to head down from Lobuche, however, it was apparent that the tourist season was in full force. We passed many groups of hikers eagerly fighting their way up the mountains as we headed down.
Any other questions regarding the logistics of our trip? Alright, let’s go over my packing list next!
Interested in reading about our food adventures in Kathmandu? Click here.
Are you planning a trekking trip of own? Check out my packing list.