Up at 4:00
and on the bus to the airport with a team of very sleepy teenagers at 4:30am. Finding the entrance to the domestic terminal of Katmandhu airport is a challenge, particularly in the dark. They are building the shell of a new terminal around the old one, which meant that we had to pick our way across what was, to all intents and purposes, a building site.
Despite warnings that there could be many delays, we actually found ourselves fast tracked through ticketing, security and on to the bus to the airplane within twenty minutes of the doors to the terminal being unlocked. Scarcely enough time to eat the packed breakfasts we’d been given by the hotel, even if we’d actually started them, in the time honoured tradition of school trips, on the bus.
The ten seater twin propellor plane was ready to go promptly and we enjoyed an amazing flight out of Kathmandu and towards the Everest valley. Before we knew it we were banking sharply left, a little too close for comfort to the mountain on the left hand side and landing at what is known as the most dangerous airport in the world.
Breakfast of omelette, chapatti and lemon tea at the guest house overlooking the runway, the chance to watch a couple of planes landing, to fill up our water supplies (with grave warnings about the need to keep hydrated), a few drops of iodine to sterilise the water and we began our tramp.
We made a brief, unfulfilled, detour to see if the monastery was open. It wasn’t. So we began the journey down into the valley. The going was tricky. The paths are hard and paved with ragged large rocks, which meant I needed to watch my footing all the time. It was also impossible to get into a rhythm of walking. The teenagers were very, very excited. Several seemed to be able to scamper down the steps and pathways like slightly demented mountain goats.
Every 500 metres or so we passed a shrine or prayer flag, taking care to leave it on our right. Our porters, amazingly strong (and equally amazingly young looking, though I’m assured they’re all over 18) are not so pious and take the shortest route. I guess they do the journey so often their sins were washed away many tracks ago.
We pass oncoming trains of yaks, heading up the hill, and mules carrying empty gas containers to where the road starts beyond Luckla. We keep to the upper part of the track and give way to these animals, whose eyes all glint with steely determination.
There is much amusement in the party about having a whinging Pom in the group. But actually, there are two. Olly left the UK when he was three but still has a strong British accent. He has been christened “Little Pom” – and he did make the fatal error of whinging a little bit too, which led to him having to wear the “idiot of the day” hat for a short period.
Every time we went up a slope I noticed that my breathing was already quite laboured. If it’s like this already, I wonder what it will be like when we start climbing for real tomorrow. Or get to moderate altitude later in the week.
I did conquer one fear today. We had to cross a couple of suspension bridges, which wobble considerably. I found them really quite scary and I wasn’t the only one.
We reached our guest house in the early afternoon and after a lunch of noodle soup we spent the rest of the day relaxing. This evening’s meal was chicken and rice with, hooray, copious amounts of milky coffee.
We have a seven hour treck ahead tomorrow. I will remember to put sunblock on my legs in the morning…