7 Days Everest View Trek
By: Pravesh Pradhan
It had been a long time since I last traveled out of Kathmandu valley. My earlier trip was back in December 2019, when there was no trace of Covid, at least in our part of the world. My friend Roshan invited me for a trek to Namche (scheduled for March 2020), a place near the region of Mount Everest and the other Himalayas. I had never trekked for more than a day nor at an altitude of more than 3000 meters and this was supposed to be a grueling one-week trek, as compared to the earlier short hikes. I then prepared myself for the trek by exercising, cycling/walking for the next few weeks.
As was the case for most of the people during that time, I immensely wanted a break. Due to Covid, most of us had been strictly confined to our homes during the lockdown. When there was no lockdown, we still were scared and were always cautious enough by taking necessary safety measures. Our travel plan was in one of the breaks of Covid waves. We had already passed by the second round of lockdown and it had been some time since the Covid cases were in a sharp decline. That was the reason I could convince myself and my family to go for the trek.
After all the preparations with stamina building, clothes, and other necessary things packed, we met in the early morning at the Koteshwor bus stop area on the first day of the journey. Since we could not find a flight ticket to Lukla on our planned day, we had decided to travel by road. The driver included, we shared a vehicle with three other passengers. At five in the morning, we embarked on our enthralling journey from the valley to the Himalayas. I was super excited and nervous about this trip due to a variety of reasons, which you will get to know by the end of this blog.
As there was no traffic during the morning hours, it was a smooth drive throughout our journey to Salleri. As it usually happens, when we head out of the city area, we start getting peaceful glimpses of nature with greenery around and rivers flowing here and there. Thankfully, the weather was also very clear for us to get clear scenic views. We made a few stopovers for drinks, lunch & nature breaks in between, and at around one in the afternoon, reached Salleri district headquarter of Solukhumbu.
The plan was to change to another vehicle there, as we required a different kind for the upcoming road journey. I was wondering as to why we were changing vehicles, aside from the reason that in various places, vehicles and drivers do share routes. The next vehicle in which we were supposed to travel took a long time to arrive at the place where we were waiting. The driver claimed that he was repairing his vehicle and once he arrived, we then had to go for a fuel hunt. Finally, after two hours of reaching Salleri, we headed for Bupsa, our destination of the day. During the course of six hours drive, I realized right away, why the earlier vehicle would not have been able to go ahead. The road was not pitched. Well, it was not a rough graveled or normal one either. It was almost a super bumpy road throughout the journey of six hours. The distance from Salleri to Bupsa was only around 80kms. I did not enjoy the bumpy drive at all, nor did my body, which was having all sorts of adventures due to the condition of the road. Tough steps lead to a beautiful journey they say though.
It felt so relieving when we reached Bupsa at around nine at night. Our traveling guide friend came to pick us up and took us to his home for our stay that night. He was to travel with us, so he had insisted that we stay at his place that night. He and his mother prepared dinner for us, also gave us Sherpa stew (a staple food in the region) and of course local alcohol (Chyang) before we finally called it a night. In no time, while being served with all that food and drinks, I had completely forgotten the experience of six hours of bumpy drive.
Early next morning, I woke up to a bit of noise in and around the house. I was the last one to wake up, as all the people at the house, including my friend, had already woken up. Our guide friend, Pasang, seemed to be a very friendly person and in no time, I felt comfortable talking to him. After receiving a cozy hospitable treatment from him and his family, we continued with our journey from there and started our trek. It was supposed to be a long day of the trek, as our target was to reach Phakding (a village in the Khumbu region). I have had this stomach issue since my childhood which had hardly affected me for some years but well the morning milk tea did not help it seemed. So began another trip of mine when I was traveling all day as well as visiting toilets (until the afternoon). It was not a huge issue for me this time though, as I was having a wonderful time during the trek. The mesmerizing views not only stopped to unfold as we walked but they also came in variations.
We came across packs of mules throughout the journey and at times horses, donkeys as well. They carried loads and walk almost non-stop for a lengthy duration. After all, they are known for their stamina and agility. In some narrow trekking routes, we had to be cautious to give space to the mules heading in our direction. I love to travel but at the same time, there are a few things, which scare me a bit. I had already googled the number and kind of suspension walking bridges we would have to come across on the trip and I had even been clear to my friends beforehand. Finally, the first one of the trek came and I had a good time crossing it, by ensuring that I was in between my two friends. Aside from that, I also ensured that I would wear my jacket cap, which would help me walk and see straight, not looking down at all! Unfortunately, I get curious as well. It is human nature after all. At times, when I would look down; damn, it would make it so difficult for me to reach the end of the bridge. Thankfully, for me, there were only two bridges that day. At around eight at night after the usual mini stopovers, we reached Phakding after 12 hours of the trek! My earlier treks that never lasted more than a day hardly used to be of two to four hours.
I had a wonderful first day of a trek though, despite stomach and bridge issues. It was a lifetime experience to have walked that much on a day, not to forget the scenic and peaceful views throughout the journey. After reaching a lodge in Phakding, we took the much-deserved rest, food, and local alcohol, served by the lodge owner. Sitting next to a traditional heating system, we had a lovely time there before we finally called it a night.
Early next morning, we left the lodge for our second day of trek to reach Namche Bazar. After leaving Phakding, we were soon to enter Sagarmatha National Park, a UNESCO world heritage site covering an area of 1148 square kilometers and our trek ahead would be inside the region itself.
Normally, when one travels, the questions raised to the local people or guides would be how many hours to certain destinations, how is the road and all. For me, the only question at that moment was the number of bridges, their height, and their kind. Well, my friend would have asked those basic questions after all and I had to ask what others would not, right? I got my answers and they were quite scary as well as exciting ones. Trust me, I tried my level best to get rid of the bridge anxiety from my mind and was able to do it on many occasions, at least until right before I could see the bridge from nearby. Those bridges never stopped coming but the best thing was that my anxiety subsided later on and slowly I got used to it.
No, it still scared me but the fear did not last long and I think I was able to handle my anxiety in a better way. On one occasion, while we were crossing a bridge, a pack of mules from the opposite end was heading in our direction. I really tried my best to stop myself from overthinking to imagine what would happen if the mules would hit us and we would fall from the bridge. Thankfully, what I had imagined at times did not happen at all and we were heading to our lunch place by afternoon. The view from the place where we were having our lunch was beautiful, as the river was passing close by us, we could also view a bridge. Unfortunately, for us, that is when it started raining as well. We had to climb a good uphill from there to reach Namche. Thus, we decided to pace our walk from then on, or else the weather would not have helped us much. It started raining and as we were hiking uphill, the wind started to show its colors as well.
As we were heading uphill, something was awaiting me and I was able to see both wonderful and frightening sights in one glimpse. The name of the bridge is Tenzing-Hillary. Tenzing and Hillary were the first ones to climb Mount Everest, the world’s highest mountain, and that suspension bridge, which we were supposed to cross, was named after them. Therefore, obviously, it could not be a simple and normal one. Normally, when you see a suspension walking bridge, it is supposed to be one and at a certain height. Not in this case though, as the main bridge was located much higher than the old bridge and they were kind of aligned. I told myself if it was possible to take the old bridge but no, I did not utter a word of it to my friends. As time went by, we soon were at the start of the bridge. Damn, we had really hiked uphill a lot, and then there was rainfall and wind! As I started my baby-like steps in the bridge, ensuring that my friends were in between me, this time, I got frightened! Yet, I kept on walking. I really wished my curious mind would not be wandering around there but no, it did not. I looked down and around in a robotic manner! I was told to walk straight which I tried to do but damn, my inner fear was at another dangerous level. I even asked my friend to take a photograph of me there and trust me it was like something you so want badly (photo) and at the same time, you are dead scared. Somehow, I crossed it and was so relieved and excited. I felt like I had won a medal after crossing the bridge. The photos I took there show how nervous, I had been. I still get to brag about crossing the bridge until this date though.
As we hiked uphill from there, it started to rain heavily and on top of it, hailstorms started as well. There was no choice for us, other than to take cover in the shades at regular intervals whenever it rained heavily. It was a steep uphill hike from there and at a few places; Pasang helped me with my bag at times, which helped me immensely to walk. Finally, after nine hours of one hell of an enthralling trek, we reached Namche Bazar, a town in Khumbu Rural Municipality (in Solukhumbu District). As it was getting very cold, we went straight to the restaurant block of the lodge to sit next to the fire to warm ourselves. In no time, it started snowing as well and the place started to change its look as time went by. We started with our drinks (alcohol, garlic soup) to make ourselves warmer and later had dinner; then we went to bed to sleep on time in order to wake up early the next morning.
As per our plan, we woke up early the next morning, since we had to go to the Sunrise viewing spot of Namche Bazaar. We walked a bit uphill towards the location and as we reached the spot (there was still time for sunrise), the stunning view simply caught my eye. From there, we could see the beautiful Himalayas range, including Mount Everest. There were maybe 15-20 dogs playing in the snow-filled ground and few people started joining us there (we were the first ones to reach). Slowly, it was time for sunrise and the already beautiful view got amazing with the combination of sunrise and Himalayas all around. We were there for around an hour or so and every minute there was of worth.
Namche Bazaar is also a pit stop on the way to Mount Everest Base Camp and many mountaineers spend time there to party and celebrate on the way down after the completion of their hike. People also spend a few days hereafter or before heading to the Base Camp to acclimatize, relax and enjoy.
We headed back to our lodge to have our breakfast. Then, we went to a cozy café (Beans Bucks Bakery Café & Bar) to have our coffee, whose owner we had met the earlier night. The owner, Nyingma, is quite an entertainer and a very jolly person. From there, we started our day hike to Khumjung (around 3kms far away). As we hiked uphill and due to the snowfall, at times I even felt like I was climbing the Himalayas. There were many small Buddhist stupas on the way and from some places, the view of the Himalayas looked magnificent. In a few of those spots, we took breaks to relax as well as to take pictures. After around three hours of hike, we finally reached Khumjung, and damn, the village looked so beautiful. Yet again, as it happened a lot of times during the trip, I was glad and felt fortunate to have joined my friend to be in that part of the country. The Himalayas were just a mere distance away, structures of the houses were nice, stupas around, children playing in the school ground, the sky was clear and blue and the ground was white filled with snow. Thus, a mix of everything made the place like heaven. We rested in a cozy local home-stay restaurant to have tea and snacks and to bask in the sun for around an hour. We also visited one stupa to see Yeti’s skull, which they had preserved in a glassed box. As I have already mentioned, Khumjung provided me with all kinds of wonderful and exciting experiences within an hour or so.
From there, we hiked uphill for an hour to reach Hotel Everest View, which is famous for being at one of the highest altitudes of 3880m, providing a 360-degree view of the Himalaya peaks. Due to Covid times, the hotel was quite empty though and I guess we were the only guests there at that particular moment. We relaxed there for more than an hour or so sipping coffee and viewing the mesmerizing Himalayas. After we were done there, we finally headed downhill to hike all the way back to Namche Bazaar to our lodge. The weather was perfect throughout the day despite snowfall earlier at night, as we could view the stunning sunrise, Himalayas and no issue during the day’s hike. Instead, it was wonderful that in a span of two days, we could view Namche Bazaar in two different aspects – the first one was a rainy/snow-filled white village and in the late afternoon, it was a sunny bright colorful village.
No wonder the locals told us how lucky we were with the weather to arrive in the village at the perfect time. We strolled around the market area in the evening and at night another group, who were heading to the Base Camp, joined us at the lodge’s dining area. All of us had dinner together, and then the three of us again went to the café. My journey was about to end here, as I had to return home early, whereas the other two friends were heading to the Everest Base Camp. Thus, arrangements were done for me to find a guide to hiking down halfway to Lukla the next day. I think that I could have hiked on my own but due to a few factors that thought did not once come across my mind.
The next morning, we packed our bags and freshened up, then had our breakfast, headed to our café spot, and prepared ourselves to separate to head to different destinations. My guide came there as well and right away, he was curious to see my trekking bag, as he was also supposed to carry it, for me to make my downhill hike easier. To his respite, he was cool after checking the weight of my bag, as it was nothing to other bags he would carry. All of us finally departed from the café, along with the guide downhill to Lukla, a small town in Solukhumbhu District.
As we hiked down, I started getting along well with the guide. Since I was alone this time, I asked him about the possibilities of taking the other bridge, in lower height compared to the scary Tenzing-Hillary. He informed me that the traveling distance would be longer if we did that and he would help me cross the bridge (he was well informed beforehand about my relationship with suspension bridges, mainly this one). He also gave me a piece of bonus information saying that in the afternoon time, the wind might swing the bridge a bit! Well, from there on, I simply hiked down in a brisk space (I could also walk easily without the baggage) and in no time, we reached the bridge. As opposed to the first time we crossed the same bridge, there was no one this time, except us, even though the weather was beautiful this time around. Well, we crossed the bridge! It was like reaching the top of Everest for me (holding his hand and without looking down this time). The level of excitement had reached sky high for me because I knew that the pending bridges that awaited thereafter were not so scary. From there, we hiked downhill and I was having a wonderful time, as there was no fear awaiting. We made stopovers for tea at a place (next to a bridge), crossed a few bridges, even asked the guide to take my photographs in the midst of crossing bridges (the huge fear had gone downhill as well).
After hiking for around three or so hours, we reached a spot for lunch, from where another guide friend (Lhakpa) would come from Lukla to give me company and my currently accompanying guide was to return to Namche Bazaar. Another great thing during the entire trip was food, as may be due to weather, soil, altitude, nature, water and all, the taste of the food was always superb (mainly the traditional Nepalese cuisine Dal Bhat). To date, I keep on telling other people and mainly at my home, how I miss the Himalayas food (at times, I have been told to return there if I loved the food and nature that much!). My parents and relatives always used to say how food in their generation, decades back used to be so tasty and how things have changed with food and everything with the use of fertilizers and chemicals. This trip finally gave me an answer as to what my parents and relatives were talking about while comparing the food of then and now.
Just in time for lunch, Lhakpa arrived from Lukla and the three of us had our lunch – another wonderful Himalaya meal for me. From there, Lhakpa and I started our hike to Lukla. Here again, after greetings and all, I had asked him about the bridges (for detailed information & confirmation) and I was glad about his responses when he said it was only small bridges and nothing compared to “my Everest” bridge. Yes, the bridge crossing fear had subsided but that still did not mean that I would happily cross all of them, mainly the ones that were at higher altitudes. Enough of my bridge complaints (I had scary but exciting experiences as well). We started our hike chitchatting, taking a few mini breaks and after three hours or so, reached Lukla. This was an uphill hike; so it was not an easy hike, as opposed to the one from Namche Bazaar to the lunch spot. I also wanted to carry my baggage on my own, as I desired to have the true feeling of trekking. Hence, I really felt the trek experience again and got quite tired by the time we had crossed a few bridges and reached a lodge in Lukla.
I was to take a flight from Lukla to Kathmandu the next day and that airport is world-famous for being one of the most dangerous airports. We went to the airport area, as I was a bit nervous and wanted to view the world-famous airport with my naked eyes beforehand the flight. The weather was clear and so was the view of the airport. The name of the airport is “Tenzing-Hillary” Airport, so one should already wonder that the airport must be an interesting and adventurous one for sure. The airport is located at an elevation of 2846m, surrounded on all sides by steep, mountainous terrain. The very short runway of only 527m is alighted on little more than a mountain shelf, with a wall on one end and at the other a steep drop into the valley below. Once any aircraft starts its approach on this runway, it must touch down. No wonder, only helicopters and small fixed-wing propeller planes are allowed to land here. Then, not to forget the weather, which is highly unpredictable in the Himalayas, with the possibility of frequent changes that can happen anytime, while the airplane is on its way from other airports. Hence, after the bridges, my fear now diverted to the flight journey of 25-30minutes back home.
After strolling around the market area, I joined Lhakpa’s friends to play table tennis. I used to play a lot back then until my university days and got to experience it after a very long time. I even won a few games and wanted to play for a long but there were other people waiting for their turns as well. Thus, we went to a restaurant for snacks and beer, my last one of the trips. Later on, we went back to the lodge and had my last Himalaya’s Dal Bhat meal of the trip. I had to sleep on time that day since I could not afford to be late for my early morning flight back home. For that reason and since I was on my own, I had requested the lodge owner to help me wake up on time. Thankfully, for me, the lodge owner worked at the airport and he assured me that he would not only wake me up but we would go together to the airport (he had his duty at the same time and he was to handle the same flight as well – lucky me).
The next morning, I woke up quite early on my own, as it happens during the trips and of course had to happen for another of the Tenzing-Hillary spot visits. We then headed to the airport. Lucky me I thought last night (not sure if I really felt likewise that morning), I could overhear all the phone conversations on the way to the airport about the status of weather and flight. Apparently, the plane had not taken off from Kathmandu since they were informed that the weather was not suitable for landing at Lukla airport. Then, I overheard the staff saying that all was good in Lukla. He informed them that even though there is a bit of fog and the weather is not bright, the mountains nearby the airport was clear and so was the runway. He verified with the tower and confirmed to them that they can land in Lukla. After further verifications with the concerned authorities, the plane left Kathmandu for Lukla. I was quite confused there and I had no idea whether I was lucky or unlucky to have known that information beforehand. I even started remembering the video of an accident at the same airport that was recorded some years back.
As time went by, slowly the sky and mountains seemed clear. I do not think that I have been that excited to see such clear weather. Two small airplanes landed at the airport one after another (the latter one that I was supposed to take) and all people there were excitingly watching all of the actions. They kept the engines on and in no time, we were taking seats inside the plane. Never had I ever taken a flight, which was that small and in that kind of scenario. Since I was alone, I tried to act a bit smart by not only sitting next to the window but also making sure that someone was next to me there. I looked at the person who was next to me and assumed that he was a local from the region who travelled regularly on these flights.
The woman flight attendant told me if I could move to the front seat (where no one was sitting) so that other passengers who were yet to get inside the plane would not have to move all the way front. I politely denied the offer, as no way did I want to sit in the front, close to the pilots and I had no assurance if I would be alone or not. We were all set and the other plane first went to the runway and took off. Then, it was our turn. To my dismay, as our flight’s engine went to a full-throttle and was about to taxi for take-off, the person sitting next to me grabbed my arm so tightly that all my fears of me taking mental support from him vanished right away. I let him grab my arm, I instead grabbed the sit in front of me, and in no time, we took off from the “Tenzing-Hillary” airport. The first 5-10 minutes of the flight was really an interesting one and my imagination kept on going wild. I had been counting minute by minute. There were only mountains everywhere and there was no name of descending even after 30 minutes (I did not care about the view at all, as my only concern during the flight was to land as soon as possible). It is obviously quite normal for flight times to fluctuate a bit here and there but I really cared every minute in this one. After around 40-45 minutes, we were finally descending and I was so excited to see the buildings close by the airport. When we landed, I was pretty excited and again felt that I deserved a third medal from the Tenzing-Hillary foundation (if they exist and have a provision of awarding medals). As we were taxing on the runway, I started feeling a bit sad after realizing that my wonderful Himalaya trek had ended. I am not complaining about getting back home but I was so much enjoying the enthralling and adventurous trip (as it often happens). From there, I took a cab and slowly got excited to be back home (even though I was still missing the Himalayas, villages, food and the bridges as well – except for one of course!).
I have to admit that this trip was exhilarating for me and I really hope that I get to trek to similar places in the near future as well.