When I was just a little girl my dad always used to bring me jewellery from foreign countries. I was always curious about their origins and I kept wondering: How are the people there? How do they live? What is their culture?
I wished to know everything about it and in my thoughts I was imagining how a regular day in these far away countries seems to be.
One day he brought me a neck-less Buddhist praying, made of yak bone. By that time I did not know exactly what a “yak” is and I was quite disgusted that the neck-less is made out of bone. Now I know that a yak is an animal which can be found throughout the Himalayan region used as a transportation medium as it is very resistant to low temperatures.
There was something about this neck-less which fascinated me: The more I looked at it, the more I wanted to travel to its original roots and discover the beauty of the Himalayan region. Back then it still felt like a far away dream …
It is 2016 and I finally made this dream come true!
I decided to trek to the footsteps of the highest mountain in the world: The Mount Everest (8848m) is located in the Solukhumbu District, within Nepal. As soon as I started visualizing myself being there I got really excited, it was a mix of different emotions – mostly of fear and pure joy.
Before the departure I researched to find out more about the costs of the trip. Initially, all I could find was overpriced organized tours of 14 days, with a price ranging from 1400-1700 Dollars.
As I am a passionate traveller and seek to see as much as possible, it is important for me to always go with the cheapest option. I learnt from previous trips that there is always a better option. You just have to dig more deeply and you will find it – by not following the mass and choosing a different way. You are also more likely to experience something more unique and expectational. So I searched more.
After some time I managed to find a private guide (20-25 Dollars a day for the whole group) as well as 4 more people who were interested in making the same trek as me, by visiting the website: http://www.trekkingpartners.com/.
I booked my flights – one way – and started to inform myself on what is needed, possible difficulties, where to start the ascend from etc.
The more I read, the more I got concerned. I was wondering: How is my body going to react to the high altitude? Will I develop symptoms of AMS (Altitude Mountain Sickness)? Will I be able to reach the point I aimed for? So many questions were coming up.
The highest point I have ever reached until then was 2842 m on Mt. Latemar, in South Tyrol.
I found out that Lukla is the most popular starting point to reach the Everest Base camp (EBC), even though the airport is considered to be the most dangerous and scariest airport in the world due to the very short landing strip and the inclination the air plane has to overcome before landing.
The flight from Kathmandu to Lukla has a duration of only one hour but is quite expensive (150 USD). As I am a rather fearful flyer, I looked into the possibility of taking a land route. I also really liked the fact that the land routes are rather untouched, so you will have the chance to see something more authentic, non- touristy. I found 2 options, either to start from Salleri or from Jiri. To reach Salleri you have to complete a 15 hour jeep ride (15-35 USD) from Kathmandu and additionally 3 hiking days to Lukla, whereas to reach Jiri you have to take an 8 hours bus (8 USD) and additionally 7 hiking days.
By starting to ascend from Jiri you follow the footsteps of Sir Edmund Hilary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay – which were the first to ever ascend Mt. Everest, back in 1953.
I left Europe on a Saturday noon and reached Kathmandu on a Sunday afternoon. I was travelling for 24 hours, as I took 2 different low cost airlines and had a stop over of 12 hours at Dubai airport.
A friend of mine was supposed to pick me up in Dubai, but as I mistakenly mentioned the wrong date that was not possible anymore. I ended up at Starbucks, having one coffee after another. Finally the night passed and it was time for my boarding. When I stood in the airport-bus, I looked around me and realized that I see Nepalese people for the first time in my life. After I had find my seat it was time for me to sleep. I slept through almost all the flight and woke up when the captain announced through the microphone: “ getting ready for landing”. As I woke up I realized that we are flying over the Himalayas and tried to get a glimpse of the mountains. Unfortunately it was cloudy and not possible to see much. The passenger sitting next to me realized that I had woken up from my deep sleep and said to me nicely: “ Welcome to Nepal “. I immediately had a positive opinion about Nepalese people.
Once landed I went to get my visa (1 month=30 Dollars, 3 months=100 Dollars; for visas longer then 3 months one needs to extend later on). As soon as I stepped outside the airport building I was searching for the driver of the guest house, which I had contacted previous to departure. It was quite a challenge, as there were 20-30 taxi drivers waiting and waving with different papers in their hands. Everyone trys his luck to get a customer there though. Eventually I found him and we drove to Thamel (500 Nepal Rupees= 5 USD). Thamel is located in the heart of Kathmandu and it is a more touristy area where all the trekking shops, bars/pubs, as well as guest houses are found. I was quite exhausted but being in a new country surrounded by new things gave me an adrenaline push. During the taxi ride I observed what has been around me and my first impression was that Kathmandu is a busy city with a lot of pollution and huge traffic jam. But I noticed as well is that everything is really colourful: the houses, the buses, women clothes and the praying flags which flatter in the wind. In between all that chaos I could also see many construction sides still remaining from the earthquake back in April 2015.
When I arrived at the guest house I just wanted to take a rest but still it was needed to buy some things for the trek: water purification tablets, raincoat, water bottle etc. I realized that instead of bringing my winter jacket and sleeping bag with me there would have been the possibility to rent it for a very cheap price: approx. 70 Rupees. After the shopping I went to meet my trekking partners over dinner: one Indian, one American, one Vietnamese and one British. We were just getting to know eachother and everyone seemed really nice and excited about the trek.
When I returned back to the guest house it was already 11.30 pm and one should think that this was high time for making a rest possible but NO: I still had to pack the bag for the trek for the next day and try to keep it as light as possible. My big bag will be stored at the guest house during the trekking time.
At around 2 am I finished and at 4.30 am I had to get up again as the taxi left the guesthouse at 5.30 am to bring us to the Jeep station. We were supposed to leave early to avoid the traffic jam, but we only managed to leave at around 8 am.
At the Jeep hotspot we realized that they were trying to fit as many people as possible in one jeep, 11 people per jeep. We decided to pay a little bit extra in order to hire our own Jeep. :And it was totally worth it!
I hoped to be able to sleep during the ride but I realized quickly that that was not going to happen: It was extremely hot, there was no air conditioning, and the roads were either bumpy or curvy and there was a lot of honking involved. Furthermore I had to get used to the fact that they drive on the left side rather than on the right side like it is in Austria. Everytime I feared that cars are steering right towards us and kicking us off the road.
As I watched out of the window enjoying the nice view and humming along with the Nepalese music I realized for the very first time that I had made this once far away dream become reality. I was filled with pure joy! All the fears and doubts, which were going through my mind before departure, were magically gone.
I felt confident that I was now there where I should be. I smiled.
Even though this was my second full day of travelling I really enjoyed the Jeep ride. It was a real adventure; we were driving on paved roads, dirt roads and even crossing rivers. The scenery was amazing. We passed by many rural villages and got a good insight on the Nepalese country life: We were seeing children bathing in the river, going to school, transporting food etc. Now we stopped at a place for lunch and there I had the cheapest meal of my life: for only 20 NPR I got a traditional plate of chickpeas and potatoes. The spices they use made it taste truly delicious – and I asked for more.
At around 6 pm we finally reached Salleri – it was dawn. I gave the Jeep driver the number of our guide and they clarified where he would meet us. We drove 10 minutes further to a village called Phallus. The Jeep stopped In front of a guest house and we got off. Our guide presented himself with the name “ Pasang Sherpa” and helped us carry the bags. We greeted the jeep driver and went inside. If you are with a guide you will end up paying approx. 1 Dollar for the room, whereas if you travel by yourself the room will often be for free if you eat at the guesthouse. The dining room was filled with a few people. Two Italians travelling with a dog which were on their way back and some more locals. Pasang, our guide, showed us our rooms and then we decided what we were gonna have for dinner. I was really exhausted and just wanted to sleep but still needed to eat in order to be fit for the upcoming trek the next morning. We all ordered the traditional dish, called „Dal Bhat“ (3 USD, prices increase gradually with higher altitude), “Dal” consists of cooked lentil soup and “Bhat” means boiled rice; it comes along with vegetables and potatoes and you can have as many refills as you like. The traditional way is to eat with your hands.
After our meal I wanted to contact my family in order to let them know that I arrived safely, but there was no electricity within the whole village and no functioning network. I guess this is just one of the things we will have to get used to in the upcoming time. As we went to bed we fell asleep very fast being excited about our first day of trekking tomorrow.
Good night 🙂