EVEREST BASE CAMP DIARIES - DAY 3
Everest Base Camp Trek, Day 3 - Phakding to Namche
Quote of the day: "Oh bloody hell, where's this damn hotel???"
Ok...forget everything the itinerary tells you. This. Is. One. Long. Day. It takes me around 10 hours to finish this trek. 80% of the route is uphill and boy is it a killer! But I jump the gun.
By the second day of the trek, our group has split into two. The "Supertrekkers" are way ahead of us and it makes no sense for them to wait for the "Stragglers." Despite the cold you're sweating and the moment you stop, the chill winds begin to bite into you, so it's best to plod on. Today is also the day we get our first view of the real mountains - Tham Serku stands out majestically, almost daring us not to stop and take in her beauty. The ice on on her peaks glisten in the sun....oh gosh, almost makes us all poetic!
Our guide Khudam Bir had also told us we may get our first glimpse of Mount Everest today - if the clouds and mist didn't play party pooper. Unfortunately, the long trudge slows us all down and it is not meant to be. Today we actually enter the Sagarmatha National Park...as you enter the "gates" the view of the valley ahead of you is as unexpected as it is awesome! It's almost like the whole mountain range opens up to give you a bear hug! No camera can ever capture the panorama in front of us. I just switch mine off and stop and stare. At that moment, I feel all alone in the world and nothing and no one matters.
The most amazing part of this entire route is how clean it is. With the thousands of trekkers in the area every season, there isn't a packet of chips or a plastic bottle or a can of coke on the trail. At every step of the way there's little drop boxes where you're supposed to deposit your plastic and tins. Something our trekkers in India could really learn from.
This is a hard day - especially for trekking beginners like I. We do stop for tea and some rest on the way - there are a lot of little tea lodges that serve the yummiest lemon ginger tea! But after lunch on this route, there's no tea lodge at all. Which is what makes the last five hours of the trudge harder. Even if you decide to halt and take a breather, the cold winds begin to do their nasty biting. There's six suspension bridges to cross today and Neema Sherpa, our assistant guide, points at these two huge suspension bridges way ahead of us. "That's where we go" he says. I look at him stupefied. How the hell were we ever going to reach there?! It's uphill all the way, and our feet are barely moving by the end of this long haul.
We've gained 600 meters today and the altitude does slow you down. I have a headache later in the evening which a tablet takes care of, but the night is restless - we are at an altitude of 11,352 feet now, so some of that is expected. As always, dinner is served at 6:30 PM and I am in bed by 8:30 PM. Can't ever imagine doing that in city, but then, that is the magic of the mountains!
PS: The beds at Hotel Namche have an electric blanket layer - it's fantastic, especially if you're back and legs have taken a pounding that morning. They also have the amazing Hermann's Bakery on the top floor - head for the apple crumble, apple tarts and the cappuccino. And hey, there's an Ayurvedic massage place just round the corner - 250 NRS for a half-hour foot massage. What a "feat"!
Tips for first time trekkers to the Khumbu region:
1. This is a grueling day, let no one tell you otherwise. Choose a tea lodge with an attached bath - as you go higher up these are a rarity.
2. Get all your regular medicines with you - standard medicines are very expensive here. You'll balk at paying 200 NRS for a strip of Digene, but that's the reality when you want to buy this innocuous antacid at 11,352 feet!
We reach Namche Bazaar powered by sheer will power! "Welcome to Namche Bazaar" says a board - a more welcome sight there never has been! We all pose under the board - all the Stragglers, delighted that we actually made it. We turn around to head to our tea lodge only to be confronted by an endless flight of stone steps - hundreds of them, reaching up to...nowhere it would seem! "Oh bloody hell!" says Pavane. "Where's this damn hotel??!" It's another 25 minutes before we see the friendly face of Neema Sherpa our assistant guide. We have reached!