Our day started super early. We woke up at 4:15 for a 6:15 flight. We got dropped off at Kathmandu airport only to learn that the domestic terminal is located about a quarter mile away without good signage. But we didn’t miss anything as the terminal didn’t even open until 5:45am.
Taking the first flight of the day in and out of Lukla is a good idea. Lukla airport is built on a hillside in the midst of high mountains. The weather can change rapidly but we saw many more clear mornings than afternoons (clouds tended to move in around 1 or 2 in the afternoon on our trip). It’s no surprise that early flights are more likely to be successful and afternoon flights are more likely to cancel. Our flight was a little over 30 minutes and we landed in Lukla before 7am. Since our hotel packed us breakfast, we had no need to linger and started hiking almost immediately after getting our bags.
From Lukla to Phakding was almost all downhill. Our initial plan was to stay overnight at Phakding, but we got there before it was even 10am. We saw no reason to stop there. From Phakding to Monjo was more undulating. A notable stop was Benkar which is a little village next to a beautiful waterfall. We stopped there for a short break and a bite to eat.
At Monjo, we bought our entrance ticket to Sagarmatha Park which was $33.90 after tax for solo hikers without a guide. After crossing two bridges in the 20 minutes after Monjo, we found ourselves in front of a monster climb and two more cable bridges up high above the canyon. We only had to cross the higher of the two bridges. After crossing this bridge, it was another hour of climbing before we finally saw Namche. Notably, there was a TIMS card/entrance tickets check point before Namche, which was super slow. I think the guy was trying to register us on his computer which took forever. I suspect it’s common for trekkers to get stuck at this point for more than 30 mins.
At the entrance to Namche, there was a giant banner advertising an ultra-marathon that was about to take place in 3 days. By this point, I’ve carried my 35lb backpack for over 9 hours up 4000 ft elevation and it was raining pretty hard. It’s funny to remember my thoughts as I was reading the banner: “who in the world are so masochistic?” I found my answers in the following days on my trek. There were many extremely fit participants and it was inspiring to see what the human body can do in such extreme environments.
Namche Bazaar is a sizeable town of a horseshoe shape. I was told there is strict permit requirements for construction here. I am not convinced that people followed any construction regulations, however. There seems to be houses strewn on top of whichever lot that was convenient to erect a structure. The town was getting quite crowded with lodges and shops. Since Namche was the largest town in the region, it was the best place and last chance to pick up your supplies. We found plenty of shops selling clothes, gears and food in case we forgot to pack anything. There are also at least a few ATMs, money exchanges and banks in town. I ended up exchanging another $300 on top of 40,000 NPR I already had with me. It was a good decision in the end. We used up all the cash by the end of our trip.
We stayed at Kamal Hotel in our first night. We were greeted by a twelve year old boy when we were checking in. He was smiley and pleasant and replied yes to all of our questions. We later learned that he probably didn’t understand half of what we asked because his answers were mostly untrue. The guy behind the counter was inattentive at best and occasionally looked at us as if we owed him. It was just unpleasant. There were two college age English hikers at the end of their EBC trek who were even less pleased with the service at Kamal than we were. According to them, Kamal was probably the worst lodge in their entire trek. I was glad to hear that we should expect better service elsewhere and was also regretful that we settled into this place on our first night. Needless to say that we had no interest to stay another night there.
One positive thing about Kamal was that it only required us to have one meal at their lodge. So we ventured to Dipa Restaurant downstairs for dinner. It was actually really good. The service was a bit slow but we later realized that they were trying to bring out all the dishes at the same time. Considering that they made noodles and momos from scratch in front of us, they were actually not that slow. We were just really hungry.
The first day of our trek was long and arduous. We didn’t want to ascend too quickly out of concern for altitude sickness. Our second day was a planned resting day. We strolled around Namche and walked up to Mt Everest View Hotel. Keep on following our adventure in day 2 – Namche Bazaar and acclimatization day.
Interested in reading about our food adventures in Kathmandu? Click here.
Are you planning a trekking trip of own? Check out my packing list.