Kathmandu - Lukla (2800m) - Phakding (2650m)
Alarm set for 0500. Wake at 0200, 0400, 0430...
Tings has left us some yoghurt, bread and bananas- dutifully consume with a cup of tea.
Dhana collects us in a taxi, strap bags on roof rack and we take a speedy 20 min drive in the (sort of) dark to the airport- the taxi has these weird lights in the back window that are attached to the brakes, every time he brakes (often) the blue disco lights flash maniacally. The only other light is that of fires by the sides of the roads- preferable at 0530 to blue disco lights. Go through the 2 obligatory pat downs at the airport and score the first flight out to Lukla, it's 0814 and i am strapped into the first row seat on the RHS of the plane- I am going to be in control of releasing the safety exit window and the AXE! I look behind me, the other 15 passengers (big, tough looking blokes- except for Mary) look like they would be much better at breaking windows with an axe than me. Nevermind- I am sure I will rise to the challenge.
The flight is awesome- hills, mountains, streams, rivers, snow, big mother peaks and then a short runway- very exciting. I knew we wouldn't have to use the escape axe. I loved the flight, seriously exciting with a great view out the cockpit. Not much turbulence and we're on the ground after only 40 mins. The process of unloading is super quick and the next passengers are on... it's a slick operation. It is so good to be back in the mountains again, it's chilly, a bit misty and I am so ready to get moving. We meet our porter- Chitra (he looks like he's well equipped - shoes, fleece, jacket, hat, proper straps to carry our bag, etc. We are off. Hit the cobble stones and arrive 2 minutes later (!!!) at Khumbu Lodge for a cup of tea (why??? I am ready to go). Meet a large Intrepid group here- Aussies, Jamaican, Irish by the sounds of the conversation.
0930- this time we really set off , the cobble stone steps through the town give way to stone steps that head down, down, down....
the first Russians - attractive, very speedy, not many clothes (and as
we discover later an interesting habit of continually getting changed along the track- not that I am complaining...)
the first mules begin
the first rhododendrons begin- there are buds anyway
the first flowers begin - fragrant, pink daphne and light purple primula
the first trees begin (not really, they were here already but why ruin my theme)- yew, pine, oak and various wintergreens
the first birds begin (if you read my Annapurna blog from last year you know that I like birds)- babblers, Nepali pigeon, sparrows and the ubiquitous crow
the first checkpoint is reached - we cross paths here with the big Intrepid group (aka Intrepideers). They are our intermittent companions over various parts of the trek for the next couple of weeks.
1118- lunch time at the Everest Summiter Teahouse. I have been craving an omelette chapati for 10 months and here it is in all its greasy glory. Small pot black tea - I am set. We stop here for an hour and resume walking toward Phakding. The rain starts and doesn't let up for the next hour. Mary who is prepared for anything whips out her new pack cover-
fluoro safety yellow, not only does her stuff stay dry she will definitely never, ever get lost. She resembles a West Australian FIFO (fly-in, fly-out miner); from the back, you can tell she's not though because she doesn't have a bogan haircut and tattoos (in joke).
After a reasonably comfortable few hills we reach Tashi Tagey (TT) Lodge
in Phakding (2650m). TT is empty except for us. Get a great room- pink, western toilet, very clean. Roll out sleeping bag, find liner- may need it having come from a 38 degree C Perth week. Another small pot black tea. Temperature starts to drop dramatically and we end up in our sleeping bags- it is only 4.30! Mr TT (lodge owner) takes pity and lights the wood fire for us. It only gets lit once though and when it goes out that is out = bedtime. First game of scrabble is played. I win. First dhal bat is consumed and we chat to Mr TT for a while. Interesting guy- speaks fluent Japanese, and has visited Japan several times. He goes there to do woodwork in the off season. Bed at 2030. Get a mild headache at 0300- it cannot
possibly be altitude related given that we are still low, take the first of many Panadol (Acetaminophen) and listen to the rain. Will the headache away. Despite it I am VERY, VERY happy.
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