Hiking in the Himalaya Mountains was definitely a significant destination when I brainstormed places where I wanted to go on my around the world trip. The day before heading to the Himalaya area, I prepared the hiking gear and booked the flight to Lukla. Only 2.5 hours sleep the night before my self-organised adventure. It started with landing at one of the most dangerous landing strips in the world. Read on to get the first part of a detailed hiking story through the Himalaya Mountains…
Today, I got up at 5am because I had to drop off the stuff I wanted to leave behind at the reception. This was possible for an additional cost of a few rupees a day. Before heading to the airport, I wanted to get more money out because it seemed like I had spent a lot on my trekking equipment, but since I forget to transfer money from my savings to my credit card account, I was unable to get money with any of my cards – how bad is that ? I tried all of them ! I expected my English Barclays credit / debit card would work here because I was sure I had enough funds on it but it didn’t work in Nepal. This hopefully shows you that you should always be aware of managing your money properly, checking online banking and taking care of what you need. I failed, but I didn’t have time over the past few days because I so preoccupied organising this part of the adventure.
Kathmandu’s Domestic Airport
Continuing on, I caught the next taxi on the corner. The driver seemed like he had just woken up. He asked for N500 Rupees (5 USD) to the airport; I counteroffered N300 Rupees (3 USD) and he agreed – sweet. Domestic airport, here we come. I had a good feeling about it as we caught a nice sunrise on the way.
Kathmandu’s domestic airport is so small, really an old industrial shed. When I entered the airport when a cheeky monkey stole someone’s food – I’m actually not a fan of these monkeys because in my opinion they are unpredictable and very daring – they scare the s**t out of me. Funny thing about the following two photos: 1. monkey in the background, watching someone’s food, 2. eating the food – lol. Mission accomplished ha ha.
Then I checked in my bag: I basically just handed it over and it was put on a trolley with all the others. No security checks (ha ha), not a big deal and no signs of safety procedures like you find in proper airports. I guess everyone was here for the same reason with no bad intention – fingers crossed. I was really not sure if I would see my bag again but I had hope. Funny though, everything was handled with fewer restrictions, i.e. more laid back, which I didn’t mind at all.
The interesting thing about this airport was the exciting and good vibe people were radiating. You could refill your water bottle at the gate to be perfectly prepared for the upcoming trekking – so nice.
I met a group of Australians and we got into a conversation. My flight was supposed to leave at 8:45am but they put me on the 7:30am flight, which I found out 10 minutes before leaving – no complaints. However, I was the last person to get on the shuttle bus to take us to the propeller plane and the first to get off. I boarded first and took a first row seat, just behind the pilots – sweet !
The landing at the most dangerous landing strip experience
Lukla airport has one of the most dangerous landing strips in the world and is in the Mount Everest region, the starting point for my trekking trip. The altitude is 2,840m. The journey with this little propeller plane, operated by Simrik Airline, was an amazing experience because we were flying between the mountains, had stunning views and I was just sitting behind the pilots – awesome.
Before landing I could feel my heartbeat beating faster – bobo, boom, boom, bobo, boom. The moment we landed, we literally hit the floor really hard and the pilots pushed the brakes to the maximum. I could even see them sweating on their forehead – just kidding. Who wouldn’t be when landing on a 450 m long runway with a 12% incline 12% – it was crazy !
Wow, I can tell you this was something everyone should experience in their lifetime at least once – so awesome, absolutely loved it, especially with my premium seats. They quickly dropped us off and picked up other hikers who had finished their hike and were waiting to fly back to Kathmandu – lucky them I guess. We were quite lucky ourselves because the weather was good today to fly into Lukla. Most of the time, if it is too windy or the weather is changing suddenly, they have to cancel some of the flights.
After arriving from the 40-minute flight, I was still wearing my flip flops, so I put on my trekking gear and started the trip – I was still so nervous not knowing what to expect. The people from the UK I had met on the plane were on a guided tour and therefore left before me – I thought it smart to walk behind them to see where I have to go.
Met a local from Israel
I walked for around 5 minutes and bumped into another guy from the plane, who I believed was one of the English group, but he was not. His name is Shay, 29, from Israel also traveling by himself, in his case for around 14 days. We both just said simultaneously: Let’s do it together. It couldn’t have worked out better for each one of us !
We were both pretty clueless as to where to go and very stunned at the tiny city Lukla, the people and the scenery, so it took time to get going. After taking a lot of pictures, however, we followed the crowd and it was impossible to get lost.
Carrying 35kg stuff of a porter
I realised very quickly that there were a lot of groups with guides and porters who carried the stuff for them – lazy people. After some wandering, we got into a conversation with some of the porters, and I asked them how heavy their luggage is as a rule and how much they get paid. In order to get the full experience, I decided to give him my backpack (about 20 kg) and carry his instead (35 kg) for about an hour. If you have never tried it, I don’t think you can imagine how much hard work it is, especially since the tension on your neck is killing because you have a rope that goes around your head.
The initial plan for today was to get to Namche Bazaar. We had a relaxing break after hiking for a while to refill our body with some energy. Oops, one time we got a little bit off the track but thankfully an old lady walked passed and put us back onto the right track towards Monjo. So, I recommend if you don’t know where to go just ask for the destination and someone will point for you.
TIMS card fees for their pocket money
We had to get a TIMS card, a tool they use to make money basically. It is the official permission to trek in the mountains. Cost: 30 USD. This really annoyed me because we both saw how they put the money right into their pockets. I don’t think the money does any good to the national park. Then one of the guides waiting behind us at the registration had a go at me; it developed into a big argument – other hikers got involved, oh dear. The guide told me if I don’t want to pay I should turn around and go back. I totally understand that some villages need money but seeing it go straight into the guides’ pockets or to the government doesn’t help these villages – tough times ahead. Inside the registration there was a missing sign with a photo, which made me really sad.
Arriving in Monjo at 2,835 m
We finally arrived very exhausted in Monjo at a height of 2,835 m, so not yet at Namche. It would have been possible but we would have rushed it and we were both of the same opinion to enjoy our time. I recommend taking it slow.
When we arrived in Monjo, we first checked out some rooms, asked for the price and surveyed the menu prices – this is something you have to do because it helps saving some money whilst negotiating. I never stay in the first place that comes up, but this was the best value and decorated in the Nepalese style. The guest house owner asked for N200 Rupees (2 USD), which I said right away was too expensive, so he offered N100 Rupees (1 USD) for both of us with the condition that we have dinner there – that’s how most places here do it, apparently, sometimes even for free: it’s all about negotiation.
I remembered that I should have brought my recently printed I TRAVEL FOREVER brand stickers – I was gutted !
Last night we went to bed after dinner around 7:00pm. Even before that I probably fell asleep while waiting for the food. Dinner was good; we both had garlic soup and a Nepalese traditional meal, Dal Bhatvegetables, which is a mix of rice, potatoes, pickles and lins soup. They even gave us a refill, which apparently is standard, so it’s basically all you can eat. That’s good value for money N400 Rupees (4 USD). People told us that the higher you get up on the mountain, the more you have to pay and the smaller the portions get – sounds horrendous.
That night, it was pretty cold so Shay organised another blanket for me. Did I mention that I don’t like the cold ? Well yeah, I don’t like being in the cold. I still must buy wind block pants and a thermal shirt. I don’t have a sleeping bag, either, which I probably need, but I’m not concerned. I fell asleep around 7:00pm and woke at 9:30pm. I believed that the night was over and we had to get up. Ha !
Later, I woke up constantly every other hour at 11:30pm, 1:30am, 4:30am and then at 6:30am. One moment during the night I was shocked because I when I woke up Shay was up too. I must have fallen asleep right away but then there was this big noise in the room like someone had fallen down. I was like Shay ? It was really dark and I used my torch to see what happened but he was nowhere to be found. It freaked me out. The end of the story is that he came back into the room, having scared me for a second, and told me he had just gone to the toilet.
I TRAVEL FOREVER’s VIEW & RECOMMENDATION
The landscape along our 7-hour-15-minute hike was really beautiful and stunning, crossing bridges above rivers, seeing Nepalese yaks and horses, meeting people from all over the world and enjoying the beautiful sunshine – trust me, this is the life of no worries (Hakuna Matata).
The first day of hiking was beautiful but exhausting, so we fell asleep quite early and it was probably the altitude that we were both not used to that made us wake up constantly through the night. I really, really felt good on my first day of hiking and was so happy that everything had worked out. I was so lucky to have met a travel buddy. I was actually quite surprised how many people were hiking and the trails seemed very busy.