Welcome to our Trek in Nepal

Sharing the Culture and Beauty of this Mystic Land - May 2007

- Click Here For Larger Image -Streets of Kathmandu - May 10

The evening of our arrival in Kathmandu, Gelu Sherpa (the owner of Peak Paldor), introduced us to our guide, Kirken Lama Sherpa (Kike, pronounced Keekay). Kike would not only be our guide for the trek and climb of Island Peak, but he would also be our tour director while we were in the city.

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- Click Here For Larger Image -Entry to The Monkey Temple - May 10

Kike led us through the maze of streets to a square where we squeezed into a taxi for a cross town, white knuckle ride to the Monkey Temple.

Safely at the entry to the temple, we walked through the ornately carved and brilliantly painted portal, like passing through a portal between worlds. Once inside, we passed a series of small chortens, golden Buddhas, and stacks of manni stones.

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- Click Here For Larger Image -Stairs to the Monkey Temple - May 10

Hundreds of steps lead up to the temple complex on the hilltop. On our climb up the steps, we passed many more piles of manni stones and several monkeys.

Near the top of the stairs we purchased tickets to entry the complex. Kike didn't pay because he is Nepali and has free access to the temple. Within the hilltop compound, there is a commanding view across Kathmandu.

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- Click Here For Larger Image -Monkey Temple - May 10

Kike guided us, circling the complex clockwise, to a small museum housing ancient Buddhist artifacts and a reclining Buddha.

To me the architecture and ornamentation was exciting and exotic. The all seeing eyes of the giant chorten followed us as we explored the complex.

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- Click Here For Larger Image -K Lighting Butter Lamps - May 10

We continued around the temple complex to the main temple. An elderly monk invited us to enter. We passed through a pair of enormous doors into a foyer where we took of our shoes. Inside we had an opportunity to light some butter lamps to gain a blessing. The rupiyaas that we donated will help fund maintenance of the Temple.

Leaving the temple complex we followed a descending walkway, spiraling clockwise down around the hill. This route took us passed small children taught by their mother to beg, as well as lepers with their deformed hands held out for alms. It was heart wrenching to see such pitiful creatures. We couldn't help them all, but we did give some rupyiaas to one old beggar.

At the bottom of the walk near the rear of the hill are three magnificent golden statues of Buddhist deities. The ornate detailing was spectacular and the gold gleamed in the bright sunshine.

Later in the evening, we met Gelu, Kike, and Gelu's brother Pemba for a traditional Sherpa meal at a restaurant near our hotel. The dal baht (rice with curried vegetables and lentil soup was delicious. Rather than eating the traditional Sherpa way using the right hand, we opted to use forks and spoons. On this day we had sunshine and light breezes.

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- Click Here For Larger Image -Lukla Airport - May 11

We had a wake up call at 4:30 am. After a quick shower, we hauled our gear down to the lobby. Gelu and Kike were waiting for us. Gelu had arranged for the kitchen to prepare a breakfast for us.

A van was standing by outside for a quick pre-dawn trip through empty streets to the airport. We had arrived at the airport in time to catch the 6:30 flight to Lukla. However, we soon learned that flights between Kathmandu and Lukla happen only when the weather allows.

About 9:00 we had word that the clouds had cleared at Lukla and the three airlines serving this route, Agni Air, Yeti Airlines, and Sita Airlines would soon be loading. We boarded the 18 seat Sita Plane with 16 other passengers, including Kike, and several 50 pound bags of rice. A flight attendant served hard candies and cotton balls (for the ears).

It is a short 40 minute flight to Lukla, winding around mountains and over deep densely forested canyons. Looking out the window, I marveled at the terraced hillsides. The farmers use every available square foot of arable land.

The farms gave way to densely forested hillsides and deep canyons. Suddenly the canyon walls rushed up to meet us. I looked up to see through the cockpit window that we weren't about to crash into a mountain side, but were about to land on a short up sloping bit of tarmac perched on a mountain ledge. This was the Lukla Airport. This is why flights between Kathmandu and Lukla occur only when the weather safely allows.

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- Click Here For Larger Image -Lukla Main Street - May 11

We were safely on the ground and our gear was unloaded. Kike introduced us to Kaji, our cook and Lhakpa Nuru, our kitchen boy. Kike made arrangements for porters.

We had expected four porters to share the loads. However, due to the end of climbing season on Chomolunga (Everest), there was a shortage of porters (khulis).

Many porters go to Everest Base Camp to haul equipment and gear down from the mountain. So we started with three porters. Kike assured us it would be OK. The porters were very strong. With our crew assembled, we departed from Lukla.

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- Click Here For Larger Image -Juniper Incense Burner - May 11

The bhato (trail) as it descends from Lukla (elev. 9,184 ft.) is paved with large granite slabs. Everything in the broad Dudh Khosi Valley is lush and green. Long strands of fluttering prayer flags extend from the valley to high up the hillsides. Wild Cuckoos enchanted us with their distinctive call.

We had walked only a few miles when Kike directed us to an inn by the trail for a tea break. I examined the stonework that reminded me of Incan stonework in Peru, with tight mortarless joints. The lintels for door and widow openings were of rough hewn, brightly painted timbers.

A light rain began to fall. The porters stopped to cover the dokos (large wicker baskets) with plastic sheets top keep the gear dry. We pulled on our ponchos. Kike and Kaji pulled out umbrellas and we continued hiking.

We had only gone a short distance when the rain drops became big, splattering heavily on the trail. A flash of lightning rent the sky followed by a peal of thunder. Kike herded us into a nearby house. Without question, the lady of the house invited us into their great room and offered us some tea. That's the way the Sherpas are, warm and hospitable.

When the drenching rains subsided, we departed. Thanks to our hosts were not given or expected. The Sherpas have a word for please but no word for thank you.

We didn't have far to go before we came to the first lodge of our trek at Phakding (elev. 7,380 ft.). The Kongde Peak Guest house nestled next to the trail with Kongde Peak looming above.

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- Click Here For Larger Image -Kike and Kaji Resting - May 12

The previous day's rains had stopped. Bright sunshine accompanied us as we left Phakding, and the trail quickly dried out. A rain fresh scent permeated the air. The trail followed the Dhud Khosi, crossing the river 4 times on long suspension bridges. After crossing the fifth and highest of the suspension bridges, the trail starts climbing.

It is a busy trail with porters going up and porters going down. We were amazed by the Sherpa porters. They are small men, but immensely strong. With their dokos heavily loaded, wearing only flip-flops on their feet, as they climbed the rugged trail, they would flash bright, friendly smiles when we passed.

We had climbed the steep trail, gaining nearly 1,800 feet above the Dhud Khosi to a wide spot in the trail. Here we took off our packs and rested.

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- Click Here For Larger Image -Approaching Namche Bazaar - May 12

The rest break was appreciated. There was still some steep trail to negotiate before we reached Namche Bazaar. It was a warm day and I was sweating. The litre of water I started with wasn't enough for the hike from Phakding. I noticed the Sherpas rarely drank and Kaji wore his jacket for most of the hike.

We rounded a bend in the trail and finally could see Namche Bazaar. The two story stone buildings appeared scattered across the steep hillside.

At an elevation of 11,283 feet, Namche has been called the highest shopping center in the world. The main floor of the buildings facing the street were open for business. Mountaineering clothing and gear shops were everywhere. There were some small food stores, shops selling tourist trinkets, some internet cafes, a couple of bakeries, and even a laundry. Having laundry facilities is amazing considering the washer and dryer were hauled to Namche from Lukla on the back of a porter!

Kike checked us into the Kala Patar Lodge. This was our destination for the day. We went up the steep stairs to our room, which was about eight foot by eight foot with a seven foot high ceiling. There were two cots and barely enough room for our duffels. The toilets were down the hall. I learned quickly to duck when entering a room, or suffer a crack on the skull from the low door height. Everything here is built to Sherpa size.

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