Friday May 11.
Pohara to Kathmandu
A leisurely morning about the hotel. French toast with honey for breakfast and said goodbye to Daniel and the girls. It was another beautiful day with the mountains clear and looming large over the town. We had raided the ATM for the next part of the trip but after discussions with Sue decided to change some more money. Our last 10 days had worked out at just under $50.00USD per day for food, lodgings and incidentals. The Khumbu Valley is apparently a bit more expensive. The car collected us at 1100 and our plane, a Jetstream 41 was full with 33 passengers.
It was a spectacular flight with views over the mountains through the port windows. The Himalaya range stood up to flight level and the valleys looked deep below. As we approached Kathmandu the air quality dropped dramatically and visibility reduced.
The Indian Prime Minister was visiting so security was very tight around the airport. We gather there has been some strain in Nepals relationship with India. Not so long ago the borders were blocked stopping supplies of many things including diesel from getting into Nepal. Violence and hardship resulted. Hopefully this meeting will be positive.
2 taxis took us all to Pema’s house where we stayed for the night. Her nieces and nephews were there to greet us and help prepare food for us. A quick noodle and veggie lunch and home made momo’s for dinner.
We left Pema working hard in the kitchen and walked a few km’s to a big western style supermarket where we stocked up on snack foods for the next trek. Plenty to choose from and Lea and I repacked it all into zip lock day bags for the trip. Ended up quite heavy at over 2kg’s.
The power went out so we enjoyed a fabulous dinner by candlelight with a couple of beers. Pema reigns supreme as Queen of Momo’s. Desert included some sweet Indian delicacies with coconut rum punch. Said goodbye to Chris and Scy as they left for their hotel.
Lea and I repacked to remove excess weight from our luggage as weight restrictions were tougher for the next trip. Lea then helped Sue sort her stuff. Lea’s pack was 8.7kg and 4kg daypack. Mine was 12.5 kg (with all the snacks) and daypack 4.5kg. Sue and Jon were around 14kg each plus daypacks. We were only using 2 porters and had Pema’s pack as well.
KTM to Lukla 2828m. to Phakding 2625m.
0345 wake up. In the taxis by 0430. Not sure why Nima wanted us at the Airport so early as it didn’t open until 0530. Anyway the usual delays our first of the day 0615 flight finally got away at 0715 . Its a long wait then a mad rushing scramble once the flight is called. We realised later that Lukla airport is very often closed due to low cloud. As soon as a weather window appears they rush the flights in as quick as they can.
Our plane was a small Dornier 228-212 with seating for 16 passengers and 1 flight attendant who still managed to serve us lollies, a drink and some peanuts on the 24 minute flight.
Again we had great views of the mountains above the valley clouds.
The approach to Lukla is between mountain tops and ridges and the pilots were working constantly to keep us trimmed for the approach. A glimpse of the runway confirmed what we had heard. It’s the size of a postage stamp and ends in vertical black rock face hewn out of the mountain side. No room for error. Touch down and brake hard. The runway is only 527m long but it helps that it runs uphill at a 11.7 degree slope. We landed successfully and gave a round of applause to the pilots. We had left KTM in shorts and light clothing. Soon had to dig out some warmer clothing. We watched as our plane reloaded and took off again. Tight in against the cliff, stand on the brakes give it heaps then fall off the end of the runway hopefully with enough speed to
fly. No second chances. We got a good blast from the prop wash watching from on top of the cliff above the runway.
Our porters were waiting for us and we found that they were Nima’s father and younger brother. Lukla is a delightful old town with lots of new construction going on following the earthquake.
Smooth flagstone streets and 2-3 storey shop-houses. There is no mechanised transport up here. Everything is carried and sometimes the loads are huge.
The trail is more uneven than ABC and fewer stairs. Rhododendrons are still prevalent but lots of pine trees cover the steep slopes. These are planted trees and were first introduced by Sir Edmund Hillary as a result of deforestation caused locals using the timber for their cooking fires and heating water to give tourists and trekkers hot showers. Every piece of flat land is used for farming and crops. A mixture of very old run down farm houses mixed in with stylish, new, neat and tidy guest houses. Lovely valleys are overlooked by the huge snow capped mountains. Stupa’s,
and Mani Walls are everywhere. Pema made us all turn the wheels and walk to the left of the Mani Walls.
The 3 hours to Phakding was an easy start to the trek. We noticed already the food was more expensive and not as good as ABC. A strong cold wind blew up the valley and we were glad we had finished for the day.