A phenomenal journey filled with adventure in the beautiful Himalayas
I have always loved traveling. I love the freshness a new place brings each time I move, I love exploring the cities and going through old and small villages and towns and I love the people. But, I think, most of all- it’s the whole experience of travel being fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness and the need of it among many of our people sorely on these accounts that makes travelling such an important part of my life. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of people and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime after all. As Terry Pratchett said, “Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.”
Mount Everest- the highest place on Earth had been on my mind for the longest of time throughout my travels. There was something about the Himalayas that seems ethereal, heaven-like almost. In order to have my wanderlust be filled, I headed off to Nepal on the December of 2016 to finally see for myself the wonder of the snowy peaks. Nepal as it turns out, is quite a country. And I don’t say that lightly. Kathmandu- the capital, is a sprawling city that seems like it is moving all the time. With rapid modernization, the city somehow still has its grips on its history and its roots. On one side, the temples lie in their serenity and the other, you can see the young ones jovially enjoying modern music at various bars and clubs. The amount of ingenuity feels like it’s too much in the beginning but then, it turns out- you sort-of get used to it.
For my Nepal trekking, I decided to go with Nepal Hiking Team– an agency I found online that had excellent testimonials and reviews. They are a local travel agency and when I first started my correspondence with them, I found them to be quite prompt and reliable. The information that was shared with me regarding all of my queries and questions were very detail-oriented and the correspondence itself was a pleasure. Thus, this remarkable attribute of theirs was a green light on my part. With rapid e-mail exchanges and in-depth communication, my arrangement of the Everest Base Camp Trek commenced its first step of the journey.
My flight landed at the Tribhuwan International Airport in the late afternoon. I was greeted by Mr. Ganga Raj Thapa- the managing director of the agency at the airport. Draped with a white silk scarf, a garland of marigold flowers and a hospitable greeting of Namaste from him, I was taken to my hotel at Thamel. The place is a centre of tourist industry that probably started from the hippie days when many artists came to Nepal and spent weeks here, getting high. When I arrived at the hotel, I saw cars, cycle rickshaws, two-wheelers and taxis plying the narrow streets alongside hundreds of pedestrians. Boasting a wide range of mountaineering gear shops, foreign money exchange booths, mobile phone shops, pubs, clubs, and nightlife along with numerous guest houses, Thamel was a bright display of various shops and vendors selling goods like food, fresh vegetables and fruits, pastries, trekking gear, walking gears, music, DVDs, handicrafts, souvenirs, woolen artefacts, gems and clothes. I spent the rest of my time there that day when I arrived and then headed out to have a drink in the late evening. Rajendra- who was going to be my guide for the trek, was also present and he proceeded to explain my program to me in detail.
The next day, I was given a tour of the city. I visited the Pashupatinath Temple, the Swayambhunath Stupa, the Boudhanath and the Kathmandu Durbar Square- all of these are listed under the UNESCO World Heritage Site List. The tour went well and by the end of it, I got more information about the country’s past and its religious history which was very fascinating. The Kathmandu Durbar Square was hit pretty hard by the 2015 earthquake and it was truly sad to see so many of the former temples destroyed. What remained however, had great artistic quality to them. The intricacy on the windows and the wooden pillars around the temples were very beautiful. The lion statues on the entrance to the temples and the huge statue of Kal Bhairav at the courtyard presented the picture of what it was like in the city at ancient times. When I returned to my hotel for the day, I was also accompanied by Rajendra who was there to make sure that I had packed properly for the trek and that I had all the right equipments. I was given complimentary Down Jacket and a sleeping bag by the agency too.
The very next day was my flight to Lukla. This was officially my Everest Base Camp Trek kicking off. I was told about the concern regarding flight cancellations to/from Lukla due to bad weather, but fortunately, no delays occurred on that day. The weather was nice and it shone throughout the day. The sun was sometimes obscured behind clouds but it came back out again pretty quick. It was a day that it if I really had to describe it would be “a day of lazy somnolence”- perfect for a short mountainous flight. As I watched the city fade away and the terrain below replaced with sights of beautiful hills and natural environments, I was very excited. The airport at Lukla, as it turns out, was renamed as the Tenzing-Hillary Airport in honor of Sherpa Tenzing Norgay and Sir Edmund Hillary, the first people to reach the summit of Mount Everest and also to mark their efforts in the construction of this airport in the January of 2008. You can immediately feel the crispness of the air once you land at Lukla. The huge hills that surrounds the valley provide a different environment than the capital. Lukla is situated at an elevation 2,860 meters and is a popular place for visitors to the Himalayas near Mount Everest to arrive.
The trek began with me and Rajendra and my Sherpa- Aang, walking on a track that slowly moved towards the Cheplung Village. I could see the view of the lovely Mount Khumbila from the village. My guide told me that it was a sacred village and that it hadn’t been climbed yet. Then, as the trek continued, I reached the village of Phakding, walking across a landscape that was beautiful and daring. Because the day was so clear, the Kusum Kangraru Mountain loomed in the distance like a cerulean giant. My first day of trekking the Everest Base Camp Trek was a success. It was Namche Bazaar next.
Namche as it turns out, is an extremely popular village in the Khumbu region of Nepal, and understandably so. I moved through the Sagarmatha National Park as well on that day to reach Namche. The trail on which I walked was the epitome of wild and amazing. Not only was the environment a pretty shade of chartreuse with alpine trees, there were many small mani-stone wall carvings and chortens with swaying prayer flags at intervals throughout the trail. My guide informed me that Mani stones are inscribed with the six syllabled mantra- a form of prayer in Tibetan Buddhism. The Khumbu region had a majority of ethnic people following the Tibetan Buddhism religion.
When I arrived at Namche, it was nice to see the liveliness of a busy settlement again. Namche was brimming with beautiful displays of artifacts and trinkets on sale and yaks and mountain goats. The sight of the landscape at Namche is also something that demands attention. Immediately west of Namche is the Kongde RI and to the east is the Thamserku Himal. The view of these mountain peaks is something that I cannot do justice putting into words. They were utterly resplendent!
The Everest View Hotel was next. Hidden on a ridge overlooking the Everest Range, the Everest View Hotel is a remarkable establishment that blends gracefully with its spectacular Himalayan surrounding. It’s even listed on the Guinness Book of World Records (2004) as the Highest Placed Hotel in the world at 13000 ft. When I trekked to Tengboche afterwards, I visited a holy Buddhist Stupa there. The Tengboche Monastery, as my guide told me, is the largest Gompa in the Khumbu region. The panoramic sight of the mountain peaks of Tawache, Everest, Nuptse, Lhotse, Ama Dablam, and Thamserku from Tengboche was one of the most excellent part of my journey.
Finally, on day ten of my journey, it was time for the anticipated moment- the trek to the Base Camp of Everest. Passing through the trail at Gorekshep and walking on a path that seemed like it was something that was taken out of a book because of its snowy envelopment and the view of the mountain peaks in the near distance, I finally arrived at the Everest Base Camp. The Khumbu Icefall and the prayer flags that decorated the place lifted my spirits. I had finally crossed off this achievement from my list! The Khumbutse and the Lingtren peaks from the base camp seemed like celestial sights. It was very beautiful.
I visited Kalapatthar as well. It’s a popular vantage point from where I saw the most gorgeous views of Mount Everest. The entire journey was just beautifully rich in natural diversity and amazing mountainous landscape. Mix that with a rich cultural influence that makes its presence known throughout the journey and you’ve got one adventure that includes it all!
The thing about my trekking adventure is that a large majority of the success lay in the hands of my travel agency- Nepal Hiking Team. And the entire trek was just fantastic- not only in the sense of the beauty the mountains possessed but also with regards to excellent services. Like I said, my very first welcome here was a prime example of a warm Nepali hospitality. Then my guide Rajendra and my Sherpa Aang went well beyond their way in making sure I was comfortable and well-taken care of. The agency’s services regarding the transportation, the accommodations at the mountains with lodges and guesthouses and the planning and arrangement of the entire trek was done with the best implementation. Memories of my trek very fondly include me drinking a warm cup of buttered tea with the view of the ivory peaks right in front of me. Little children at the villages came running and asked for candies and chocolates. The warm and cordial Namaste greeting of the people in the villages and their beautiful smiles made the trip a journey that encompassed spirituality. It was everything I had hoped it would be and so much more. I was sad to leave the place and was sad to leave the mountains behind when it was time to finally leave.
My recommendation is that anyone who loves the Himalayas, or just the simple fact of experiencing a culture so diverse and unique and going through a journey that is eternally beautiful definitely has to do the Everest Base Camp Trek at least once in your life. The journey is cheap and affordable, the destination is prepossessingly mesmerizing. My adventure with Nepal Hiking Team was a dream come true. It was beautiful, breath-taking and extraordinary. It was filled with people who were willing to help and left no room for disappointments. Overall, it was an adventure that truly holds the title of “the journey of a lifetime”. With various factors coming into play regarding trekking elements and aspects Nepal Hiking Team delivered on their services with eminent grace and geniality. Another one crossed off the bucket-list!