Everest Trek part one, Landing at Lukla

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May 27th 2010
Published: August 29th 2010
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27/6/10: Up at 5:00am to catch a taxi to the airport. All unnecessary baggage was left at Pilgrims Guesthouse. We went through airport security and somehow Jacinta managed to get a Swiss army knife through; oops. It was time to weight the bags, Jacinta’s came up to 15kg and mine came up to a massive 23kg due to all the food. It turned out we had 14.5kg of food for our trek which consisted of more than 60 packets of noodles, 2 packets chocolate éclairs, 2 packs of cookies, packs of dried fruit, 2 boxes muesli bars, 1kg of carrots and 30 hard boiled eggs that I boiled with a hot wand water element, costing around 2400NRS. The weight added up to a surprising amount and I was way off when I guessed 15kgs. The flight was perfect and the weather with it, all up around 30min of the most beautiful and amazing scenery you could imagine, all from a dirty, sun crazed porthole window. It was great to fly 2km of the ground only to have a mountain suddenly rush up and meet you. I peered out the window like a little school boy, watching our small slow moving aircraft shadow wobble swiftly up the mountain growing in size with every shudder, we were now flying 100m from the top of the mountain across trees and highland grasses at speeds Michael Schumacher would have been proud of. Eventually the mountains rose up to high for us and we were forced to fly in between the valley of giants. We were only 10min out from Lukla and the view from the left hand side was breathtaking, it was just a pity we were sitting on the right. Doh!
The mountains rose high into the sky and instead of looking down I was now forced to look up. We hadn’t dropped any altitude while flying and we were on the approach to a runway that is 2840m above sea level. The pilot throttled engines down and adjusted the propeller pitch adjusted to suit the slow speeds and the thin air. The flaps came down and we were ready for landing. I saw the runway from the right hand side of the plane until we banked right to set up our final approach. I rolled camera and within a flash the runway appeared as if thought it was about to jump inside the plane. A split second later and we hit bitumen with a thud coming to an abrupt uphill stop. The runway slopes 60m from top to bottom, at first I thought all the houses were built on a terrible slant but it’s just your eyes playing terrible tricks. It all comes clear when we levelled off at the top of the runway and taxi onto the tarmac. Jacinta shit herself the whole way and she had the most fearful look on her face. Lukla airport was a busy little place; within minutes of arriving our plane was unload, loaded and skating back down the runway only to take off at the very last moment sailing right of the hill. The bags were unloaded and of course mine was the last to be given out. Soon we were walking through the streets of Lukla eventually joining up with the trekking trail at the end of town. It didn't really dawn on me until Jacinta mentioned that we haven’t eaten breakfast; I was all too eager to lighten the 23kg load on my back by tucking into some boiled eggs, carrots and a muesli bar. We got into a walking rhythm early but we felt breathless due to being sick; it also didn't help that we were at 2840m high, this represents only 69% of breathable oxygen compared to 100% at sea level; it really screws with your fitness. It was pleasant to walk in the 15C morning temperature but it soon warmed up over 25C, Jacinta had sweat all over her face as she suffered with every little rise on the hill trying to shake off her sickness. Our main goal was to get to Monjo which was around 5hrs walk away; this would also set us for a short but torturous day tomorrow. We immediately recognize the Everest Base Camp (EBC) trek was much more beautiful than the ABC trek. The milk river, named for obvious reasons was the strangest colour I have seen. We walked across several suspension bridges, two of which were longer than 120m. Most on the bridges were new after the Khumbu Ice Glacier burst its ice dam and caused massive devastation to everything in is its path down river. After roughly 5 hours of walking and 10km later we arrived at Monjo picking a lodge called Top Hill Lodge. It was also the only one we could find that actually had somebody in it; everybody seemed to be in other places than their lodges. It would have almost been a ghost town if it hadn’t been for the porters walking up and down the trails. The room cost us 200NRS and we were both happy to dump our bags. We were hungry so we had a tea and opened our first packet of noodles for the trek, mmm noodles. Tired after lunch we headed back to our room for some R & R, Jacinta read the Lonely Planet Guide book while I caught up on my blog. After a rest I wandered out the back to witness two elderly grandparents holding some prayer beads and chanting quietly to themselves. Before I realised that I might actually be intruding the old lady welcomed me in the back courtyard to show me her prized rose bushes, they were the most impressive I have seen; except for my own grandmothers of course. The rest of the garden was in full bloom with flowers I remember from my own childhood. The whole time I was occupied her husband (elderly gentleman) sat back in his chair while he spun his prayer wheel around and around. He chanted a deep prayer that was soothing to the ears over and over again. It was more like a mumble, the words must have been muttered so many times it was easier to just to mumble than say the words with any emphasis. Deep in his own world I decided to leave him be and return to our lodge room for some more rest. Boredom got the better of me when I still heard the same chanting reverberating through the walls. This was strange as our room was at least 15m away and separated by at least 4 walls. The low frequency of his voice travelled through walls including a 40mm thick stone wall. Once again boredom, more like curiosity, got the better of me; I walked back outside through the maze of rooms. Again, a strange experience as his voice never really got louder as I got closer. Intrigued about the man behind the wheel, I sat beside him listening. I took my time, trying best I could not to impose. I broke into his invisible force field and asked what he was doing, I was able to find out that he spins the prayer wheel, chants and thumbs prayer beads for 2 hours every day 7 days a week. I think he needed a watch because he had already been spinning, praying and thumbing for four hours since we arrived and god only knows how long before that. His wife, the elderly lady, could not afford the time or pleasure of spinning the wheel and thumbing the beads, she was born with only two hands; one to thumb prayer beads and the other to do the washing, cleaning, gardening and other household duties, she chanted in unison but in a slightly higher voice. Later on, trying desperately to get the addictive chant out of my head, Jacinta and I went downs stairs for dinner, mac and cheese, yummy.

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