Lukla with Love
Just a couple of weeks ahead
of Visit Nepal Year 1998, my friends and I did something that is
still fresh in my memory today and hopefully, remains fresh for
ever. Yes, I and my friends took a plane from Kathmandu and Lukla
and embarked on a most memorable trek to the Sagarmatha (or Mount
After a long wait at the domestic airport of Kathmandu,
finally I felt my steps approaching the plane via Gate 2, non smoking
zone. Forty-minutes later flying in the sky, I had an adventurous
hair raising landing in the pebbled Lukla airstrip – the trekker’s
delight at 2800 meters. Emerging from the plane, I could see numerous
trekkers waiting for their flight, to board the plane to take them
back to Kathmandu. In another direction, cluster of porters, Sherpas
and the hotel representatives were clamoring for the attention of
the newly arrived tourists.
Had we planned for a long duration
trip, it would have been wonderful to retire at one of the many
lodges in Lukla. But our target was Namche Bazaar. With the scouts’
motto, and the backpacks weighing about seven kilos each, I and
my friends, G-5 (or the Group of Five) hurried towards our destination.
The few paces of trek made me feel as if I could trek that way for
centuries. The temperature was rather cool and sometimes the breeze
hit us, but still we felt hot and had to take off our down jackets
and thrust them to the already loaded sacks on our backs.
Walking along the stone-paved path, the steep slopes and hills and
crossing some of the historic log bridges, we reached Chablung.
Trekking through the trails of Thado Khola acquainted us with Phakding.
By this time our legs fell and our heavy heartbeats needed a break.
Phakding is a stop over for many trekkers ad there
were numerous lodges and tea shops. I personally named Phakding
the “transit point” between Lukla and Namche Bazaar.
Throwing all the loads from our bodies and feeling free like a bird
ready to fly, we leisurely retired after a continuous walk for about
three hours and had our lunch. Some trekkers ended their day’s
quota and checked in one of the lodges. But, for us we still had
to move further and the most difficult route awaited us ahead. After
an hour’s rest, we started to re-function. With much vigor
and strength, we continued with our trek and on the way witnessed
a lovely waterfall cascading down in all its glory.
November is one of the finest seasons for trekking
in Nepal. We could see lots of trekkers passing by and the naturally
muscular porters carrying loads and loads of goods. Likewise, the
other reliable load carrier, the shaggy yaks with big eyes and bells
hanged around their necks blocking the roads, were a big threat
at first sight. But within seconds, we befriended them as we started
giving ways to each other in the narrow trails to prevent severe
traffic jams. The scintillating flow of the running river Dudh Koshi
– which apparently looked like the boiled milk spilling from
all direction next to the trekking trail and the chilling calmness,
had a mesmerizing effect on us. With the picturesque view of the
village and the people residing around, we reached Benkar. Manipulating
our steps in the steep rocks we reached Chomoa. Then came Monjo,
another beautiful locale.
Few steps away from Monjo was the entrance of
Jorsalle Sagarmatha National Park, covering about an area of 1148
square kilometers in the Khumbu region. Placed on the right side
of the entrance gate, a big colorful yellow wooden board is engraved
with “WELCOME TO SAGARMATHA NATIONAL PARK. JORSALLE ENTRY
FEE RS. 650/-. This fee is exempted for the Nepali travelers. Few
footsteps away from Jorsalle, the two rivers, Dudh Koshi and Bhote
Koshi meets each other. Walking through few more dizzying suspension
bridges and two beautiful long bridges construed by HELVETAS, the
Swiss organization, altogether six, we reached the concrete rocks.
By this time we must have reached an altitude
of about 3000 meters. From this elevation, the trekkers could be
afflicted with the symptoms of Acute Mountain Sickness, also know
as high altitude sickness, like nausea, vomiting, dizziness, breathing
problems, a heavy heart and a heavy head. In such circumstances,
the trekker should immediately be brought to lower elevation. Altitude
sickness could happen even to the healthy of the healthiest people
so there is no any such hard and fast rule to avoid it. The best
way to prevent it is to trek slowly. Altitude sickness comes more
with exhaustion. But thanks to God, our G-5 were still going strong,
may be because we knew the trekking “mantra”.
Sometimes it was too depressing looking up the
rough hills, so all of us decided not to look up but just look around
and concentrate our steps one after the other, which to some extent
helped us to harness our confidence to reach Namche Bazaar, sooner
or later. Singing was a great company. We could also hear some trekkers
singing, may be their National Anthems. Antakshiri (the singing
game) was a great recuperation as it took our constraints away,
though we heard more of our hearts pounding than the songs.
With added enthusiasm, we geared up and pushed
ahead and it was almost dark by 5:00 pm. The cold wind blew and
the sky looked cloudy. We were afraid of possible thunder showers.
After a strenuous trek for about eight hours, the patience and the
will and the torch light led us to our destination, Namche Bazaar
at 3440 meters.
“No, sorry, the lodge is full”, this
catchword of couple of the lodge owners was too disappointing, not
the kind of welcoming gestures we had expected (perhaps we were
local tourists) but the final retreat at the Camp De’ Base,
a cozy stone built house with perfect wooden interior was much more
than what we could have asked for. The warmth of the Camp people
instantly reminded me of the bitter cold that had been forgotten
in our trek.
Reaching Namche was an exhilarating experience.
The pain which ached our legs throughout our trek nowhere seemed
to prick us. Basically in our normal life we say happiness is short
lived and what remains more is the pain, the anguish and the suffering.
But at Namche, everything was topsy-turvy. The pain of the whole
day’s vigorous trek gave way completely into pleasure and
relief. We felt very hungry and we gorged everything displayed on
the dinner table, leaving all the plates absolutely clean. The fun
was so much that no one hardly slept for more than three hours.
The next day in the early morning we first saw
a mind sweeping view of
Mount Thamserku as we set out for Shyangboche – the most beautiful
part of our trek. (Trekking in the early morning is recommended
as the sky and the peaks could be clearly visualized. As the day
approaches, clouds overcast the sky and darken the mountains and
above all, the weather in high places is highly unpredictable).
On the way we met lots of simple and friendly Sherpas, the main
inhabitants of Namche. Ascending towards Shyangboche was easier
as our tamed legs seemed to have acclimatized to that kind of trail.
The inspiring panorama of Mount Thamserku, 6623
Mount Kwangde, 6187 meters tempted us for spotting more mountains
and boosted our lethargic steps. The surrounding and scenic grandeur
hooked us as we tried to capture all of them in our cameras. Walking
along for another hour landed us at Shyangboche airstrip where we
luckily witnessed a lovely Pilatus Porter landing and take off in
a span of fifteen minutes. The runway of Shyangboche is safer and
more spacious as compared to Lukla.
Reaching Shyangboche, 3900 meters,
I felt myself at the top of the world. The sneaking view of icy
pinnacles brought floods of blissful feelings. A couple of minutes
later, climbing up fifty staircases we found ourselves at the doorsteps
of “Everest View Hotel”, situated at the highest altitude
in the world. The one and only hotel which could probably serve
the best unexpected cuisine in the world – the host view of
the snowy peaks including the tallest peak in the world –
Mount Everest, 8848 meters. The pure white tables and chairs set
at the hotel terrace merged well with the serene scenery. The ecstatic
view of Mount Ama Dablam, 6812 meters, Mount Everest, the sacred
peak Khumbila, 5707meters, Mount Lhotse, 8516 meters and Mount Nuptse,
7804 meters clustered together left us dumbstruck and awed by the
sheer grandeur of the panoramic scene.
Infront of Mt. Amadablam
I was terribly excited to find myself
so near to the soaring summits. It was an illusion, an un-dreamt
dream come true. I got so much engulfed with the unique vistas and
exotic view that I completely forgot of returning back. Mingling
as much as we could with the nature, with a cup of hot chocolate,
a bowl of hot mushroom soup and some sandwiches, a moderate breakfast
that we ordered from the moderately priced menu of the hotel, we
proceed on our trip back to Namche. It was painful to part with
such a magnificent extravaganza.
One thing we desperately desired at Shyangboche
was to play with snow balls. But unfortunately, snowy season starts
from December – February. We had to satiate our desire feeling
jovial at the sight of some piled snow, protected from the gazing
sunny noon by the green, big and wide trees. While returning, we
met lots of tourists on the way, who had landed straight at Shyangboche.
If some could be seen enjoying their trek, others were doing the
same while riding the mules.
Since Shyangboche is situated at the high elevation,
some of the tourists flying directly there could be troubled by
high altitude sickness which could even prove fatal if precautions
are not taken in time. It would be more practical to fly first to
Lukla, acclimatizing oneself there with the elevation and later,
ascending for higher terrain.
Returning back to Namche Bazaar was more fun,
as we wished good luck to some tourist participants preparing themselves
for the Everest Marathon to be held in the end of November. Namche
was also having the haat bazaar – the weekly Saturday market.
From this haat, the people residing in the neighboring villages
purchased their daily wares. The bazaar was full of people. The
crowd and the wares exhibited a colorful look which so engrossed
us that we could not squeeze in the time to visit the National Park
Museum, a few minutes walk away.
Namche is the main settlement and has good electricity
and telephone facilities. Also, there are many gifts and bakery
shops, including movie shows – except adequate water supply.
The next day, carrying the same backpacks, we
descended for Lukla, mostly by walking down the steep slopes. Looking
back, we felt proud for scaling such nose-poking cliff on our way
to Namche. With a couple of breaks in between, we reached Lukla
within six hours. To catch the next day’s flight back to Kathmandu
on time, we decided to stay in a nearby lodge – Trekkers Cabin.
The warm hospitality of the staff of the Cabin provided a delightful
climax to our trip.
The next morning the cozy flight brought me back
to my sweet nest. When everyone asked me about my trip, I usually
found myself in a speechless situation. I could hardly convey what
I saw, except repeat the phrase “it was too beautiful”
many times over. Even the pictures I took couldn’t actually
reflect what I had captured with my eyes – my own zoomed wide
This trip has made me to realize that the majestic
mountains of Nepal are truly the “Abode of Gods and Goddesses”.
Nepal is a beautiful paradise for trekkers including for local trekkers
like me too. My trip to Lukla will always remain a life time experience
and it can be yours too.
By Binita Joshi Shrestha (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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