Monday, 12 December 2011

Lukla to Phakding

The surprising thing about the beginning of our trek toward Everest Base Camp was that it was much easier than we were expecting. After mentally steeling ourselves for about two weeks of hard uphill slog, it certainly felt strange to be ambling leisurely downhill for a good hour once we had set off with our porter. In fact, we were so eager to head off our guide told us to slow down from time to time.

The scenery was the very embodiment of 'picturesque', with quaint stone huts, fields of vegetables and plenty of prayer slabs and wheels for that cultural touch. Much later on the walk we would find less and less of these, no doubt due to the fact that carrying huge heavy slabs of stone uphill probably lost appeal after a while, especially when the much lighter prayer flags probably sufficed just as well.

We crossed a lot of bridges on the first day, but these were sturdy steel affairs with plenty of support, so wasn't actually that scary. Festooned with rows and rows of colourful prayer flags, each bridge presented fantastic photo opportunities. The only off-putting thing was probably the well-trodden remains of yak poo between the bits of metal, but at least there weren't any fresh ones - unlike much of the rest of the trail.

After a mere two and a half hours of walking we were already at our destination for the night, Phakding. Given the numerous warnings about not going too high, too fast, it was probably best we didn't try to press on. Upon arriving at our hostel we were greeted by a mute yet highly exuberant guy who gave us a local hot orange drink called 'Tang' on the house, and took our lunch orders.

The highlight of the afternoon was discovering that our guide, Binod, had recently starred (well, featured as a backup dancer) in a Nepali folk music video. Luckily the hostel had a TV and we were able to witness him in action. I have no idea what the name of the song or singer was, but it was a bit like a Bollywood song in a Sound of Music setting - dancing in the grass, picking flowers, mountains in the background - awesome. 

After the sun went down we quickly discovered that the place to be was as close to the wood burning stove in the middle of the living area as possible, with the other travellers who had arrived during the day. Given the lack of entertainment we turned in for the night pretty early at around 8pm, which would become routine over the rest of the trek. Our rooms felt like fridges already and it was only the first night, so that was a bit of a worry - but at least once we got in our sleeping bags it was nice and toasty - we didn't even need the extra blankets they provided.

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