Day 1: Lukla to Phakding

We arrived in Lukla safe and sound, and were hurried off the plane.  As we exited, the passengers for the outbound trip were queued up outside the plane, choming at the bit as it were to get on and get out.  We hurried over to grab our luggage and feverishly reconfigured our bags so that we had our trekking compliment in our backpack.  This allowed our porter to carry a “reasonable” load rather than the nearly 30 kilos we’d packed between the two of us.  Once complete, our porter’s load was closer to 17 kilos between us, plus his own gear.

Dorje hurried us away from the airport to a lodge midway through town.  It was enough to make your head spin trying to get bearings and understand what was going on.  Quickly, we were seated in a lodge, enjoying the first of many tea breaks while our porter sorted out how to carry the two bags we had.  In the end, he wound up strapping them together with twine, and using the shoulder straps from one of the bags to carry both. 30 minutes later, we were finished with tea, our porter and guide were ready to go, and we started on our way.

The path from Lukla to Phakding is mostly downhill, a nice start (but what is sure to be a lousy end) to the trek.  Per the trekking guide book we have, this is supposed to be a very beautiful part of the hike.  As we walked, we passed through several villages and quickly learned to pass clockwise around flagpoles, manes, and chortens.  Anne and I were both immediately taken with the scenery, taking many opportunities to take pictures of the countryside and the numerous religious things surrounding us.

We made good time to Phakding, completing the first part of the trek in about 2 hours.  Since we left Lukla in a rush, I didn’t even think to try and record the stats for this part of the trek, something I’ll remedy for each successive leg.  Phakding itself is a small little village and we checked into a lodge owned by an uncle of our guide.  Honestly, I’ll say it was a bit of a shock to see the conditions of lodges change so drastically in the first day.  The room itself was small and clean, with two small cots for the two of us. The room was cold, and the shared bathroom was primative at best.  We settled in as best we could and made for tea and lunch.

Since we’d had an early morning flight, we had arrived in Lukla around noon.  This gave us plenty of daylight to do some additional exploring and as we were feeling fit and restless, we decided to explore around a bit.  There was a gompa (monestary) about 20 minutes outside of town and about 200 meters or so above town.  The 20 minute estimate on the signs was optimistic and given the altitude we were slower than we expected.  However, we were rewarded as we had the place to ourselves and were able to wander about freely. 

The valley was relatively cloudy, a phenomenon that happens in the afternoons making it both hard to see the surrounding mountains and cold.  Despite this, we were able to catch quick glimpses of some of the snow-capped peaks, eliciting a quiet “wow” from the both of us.  After heading back to town (we made really quick time on the way down), we settled in for dinner.  The dining room was now being heated and the other guests started making their appearance.  One gentleman regaled us with his epic tales.  He’d been on an 11 day tour and had essentially done all of what we’d hoped to do in 20.  It included some big days, and I couldn’t help but think he was lucky to have not gotten some serious AMS. 

Another, far more reasonable, German couple had also done the tour we’d settled on and we were able to get a relatively good feel for the trip from them. All up, we had a good night chatting with the other guests, getting the beta on the trek as we could, and enjoying the warmth of the stove. 

That night, we’d learn an important first lesson in picking your room; while the rooms with lots of windows have nice views, they’re also a lot colder than interior rooms.  The predictions about the cold and dampness of Phakding also proved to be true, the dampness and windiness of the valley making it feel colder at night than at places higher up.  Regardless, we both had ample down fill in our sleeping bags and slept well.  Day 1 of the trek complete!