Flying in to Lukla airport on a small, 15-seater prop plane was a nerve wracking experience. The plane flew over small mountains, down narrow valleys and then landed on a short, inclined runway on a small mountain plateau. The pilots calmly managed the controls as we came screeching down the runway, stopping just before a rock wall!
The trek began from the village of Luka and for the next 3 days followed the Dudh Kosi river valley through forests of pink flowering rhododendrons, birch, pine and fir. The trail often went along the edge of the mountains, high above the river, offering amazing views of the high peaks surrounding us. We crossed rivers several times on suspension bridges adorned with colourful prayer flags. We passed several small villages each having several mani stones, chortens, prayer flags and prayer wheels, all important symbols in Buddhism. The trail for the first few days was very busy with trekkers, porters, horses and yaks all on their way to Base Camp.
The 2015 earthquake destroyed many of the villages in this area including Namche Bazaar. Today, this major centre has been completely rebuilt showing the resilience of its people. 400 m above Namche is a viewpoint that gave us our first glimpse of the high peaks of Everest, Ama Dablam, Lhotse and Nuptse. It was a spectacular panoramic view.
At the village of Tengboche we attended a monk chanting ceremony at the Tengboche Gompa (Monastery). The Gompa’s temple was very similar to what we had seen in Bhutan with faded paintings on the walls of Buddha, and colourful flags and banners hanging everywhere. We sat around the edge of the temple while the monks chanted in monotone voices, lulling us in to relaxation.
A little further up the valley is Pangboche which is the last year-round village of the Khumbu area. It is also home to the oldest Gompa which is 600 years old. Inside the temple is a skull and skeletal hand that they claim is proof of the existence of Yeti. Both were very large, and similar to a very large human so maybe…. but sorry, no cameras were allowed.
While in Pangboche we were very lucky to attend a Village Puja (ceremony to bless the village). Lamas in ceremonial dress blessed food, prayer flags and other items while villagers looked on. At the end we all threw rice in to the air asking for prosperity for the village. It was one of our favourite experiences yet.
After Pangboche, we veered from the Everest Base Camp Trek to go to Dingboche and Chukkhung as this is the starting point for the first of 3 passes, Kongma La (5535m). From here, the trek was above 4000 m for many days and therefore the vegetation was only minimal shrubs and tundra..
The trek to the Kongma La (Pass) was a very long, hard day first over grassy hills and then steep rocky trails and boulder-filled moraines, past a frozen lake before the final steep, sheer climb. On the way up to the pass we had gorgeous views. From the pass the views were spectacular, and we were lucky to have a beautiful sky. We saw Mts. Makalu, Nuptse, Ama Dablam and on the other side of the pass we saw Cho Oyu. Being able to see all of these 8000ers from one viewpoint was breathtaking.
The descent down from the pass was almost as difficult as the ascent as we had to negotiate the massively disorganized Khumbu moraine. Finally, we arrived at the guesthouses of Lobuche and a return to the EBC trek.