Stepping off the plane, we are greeted by an orange-crimson sunset falling behind the surrounding hilltops, and bronze statues of the Buddha and Lord Shiva welcoming us to our home for the next weeks. Unintentionally, our arrival “coincided” with Maha Shivaratri, an important Hindu festival celebrating Lord Shiva, favorable for new beginnings – an auspicious start for our expedition ;).
Soon we found ourselves on the busy streets of Kathmandu, swarming with people, motorcycles, cars, buses and… continuous honking… 🙂
Statue of Lord Shiva in Kathmandu Airport
As soon as we drop our bags in the hotel, we hit the streets eager to explore this new place. Shops after shops packed with mountain gear, intricately decorated shawls and scarves, carved wooden boxes and stone jewelry, ceremonial masks, prayer flags and incense sticks were lining the streets, bewitching our senses and inviting us to open (and dig deep into… 🙂 ) our wallets. We decided instead to treat ourselves with some fruits and an early good night sleep, since very early the next morning we would be starting our adventure on the mountain.
Shop window inviting tourist to buy beautiful goods
At dawn, before the city has awoken, we were already in the airport boarding a 12 people plane to the notorious Lukla airport, one of the shortest and highest airstrips in the world. Once in the air we were dazzled by the first glimpses of towering Himalayan peaks piercing their white powdered summits through the clouds, and soon enough after a short “turn” around a mountain we caught sight, through the narrow pilot’s cockpit window, of a small airstrip tucked away in the mountain side at 2860m. We are here! 😀
Himalayan peaks seen from the plane
Radiating with excitement we started on what was about to be a growing, occasionally challenging, and above all, one of our most picturesque and memorable experiences until now, trekking up to the foot of Mount Everest.
Walking down the narrow shop-lined streets of Lukla, we were enchanted by pleasant incense scents flowing in the air. We met the first mule and cattle caravans, coming to Lukla to pick up expedition gear or supplies for tea houses and shops higher up the Khumbu Valley.
Lukla’s streets mix together mountain gear shops and mani stones
Mule caravan heading to pick up expedition gear from Lukla
Before exiting the village we encountered our first “chorten” (a usually small prayer anthropic structure) and “mani” (the spinning prayer wheel). While murmuring “Öm Mani Peme Hung”, the Nepali pronunciation of the Buddhist heart mantra, locals were spinning the wheel, making it echo a bell sound at its every complete spin. It was so delighting to the ears and heart that we could hardly bring ourselves to move on.
Our elation was further fueled upon reaching the next village, where a compassionate lama had blessed several prayer wheels lining the path around the monastery, inviting passersby to spin them to purify their souls and receive spiritual blessings.
The bell sound echoing from a spinning prayer wheel
A chorten guarding the exit from Lukla
Mani stones and prayer wheels to help purify one’s soul
With every step we were discovering something new and delighting. On a stone slabs tiled track we continued to make our way between rainbow blooming rhododendron and pine trees, chortens, prayer wheels, mules, cattle, and heavy loaded porters, stone houses, mani walls engraved with mantras, prayer flags fluttering in the wind stretched between trees or tied on the sides of long suspension bridges hanging high above emerald colored waters, and… thousands of meters high mountains towering above the Khumbu Valley…
Mani stones and a chorten adorning our trek
Suspension bridges allow crossing the mountain rivers
Dudh Koshi with its emerald waters
The villagers were busy preparing for the trekking season about to commence: chiseling perfectly cornered rock blocks, carving wooden windows and doors, fixing roofs, or building new tea houses and lodges.
By evening, we reached our destination for the day, a small village perched above the Dudh Koshi (Koshi river) at 2835m, just before the entrance of Sagarmatha (Nepali name for Everest) National Park.
Dinner, with the vegetarian local specialty “Dhal bhaat“, mushroom soup and tea, came as a welcomed reward for the looong day we had left behind…
If we are to trust our nifty gadgets, we have descended roughly 250m in altitude, and climbed them back up, walking no less than 24980 steps, along 17km, during our first trekking day on the Everest Base Camp Himalayan Trail…
Tea houses and lodges ready to welcome trekkers
For more pictures, check our EBC day 1 photo album 🙂