I was overjoyed since quite early in the morning because this was the day I would set out for an on-foot journey into the Khumbu Region. I got ready with two bags – one I would carry myself and the other a porter would carry for me, and moved towards the Tribhuvan International Airport. Without delay, an announcement for boarding was made. After flying for thirty minutes, the plane landed at Lukla Airport. I disembarked and collected my luggage.
The Tenzing-Hillary Airport looked extremely beautiful. Though Lukla is a small town, the development of tourism has given it a busy look. I could see a big number of foreign tourists moving everywhere. I turned to Mr. Chandrajung Rai, who worked as a porter around the airport area, to help me carry my bigger bag. We walked into a hotel and took lunch. After this, we lumbered up the hill.
Further away from Lukla, we came in front of the Pasang Lhamu Gate. Before long, we were at Chheplung. Here, we crossed the hanging bridge across the Thado Koshi River and moved ahead.
What a pristine look the mountain standing on the right had! It arrested my eyes! Kusumkangguru, its name, sounded equally interesting to me. Its strange look, like the razor of a chulesi, arrested the eyes of the tourists.
By sunset, we reached the small town of Fakding, and entered a small hotel to rest for the day.
Another way, as soon as we resumed out walk, we reached Benkar. To ensure that we did not dehydrate, we stopped at tea stalls from time to time and drank black tea. Even as we walked, we didn’t forget to chew a couple of garlic knobs and drink water. This is crucial for trekkers walking at a height above 2500 metres from the sea level to keep themselves alive.
We walked past Chumowa, a stretched village and Monjo, a smaller hamelt, to finally land at Jorsalle. This is the place where Nepal Army, stationed for the security of the Sagarmatha National Park, has its check post.
After we had crossed the hanging bridge on the Dudh Koshi River and had scaled a moderately steep trail, we confronted the steepest trail for the day. We knew that we would be at Namche Bazaar as soon we were through this section. We moved on, remembering what my friends with earlier experience in this part of the world had said: “Take four hours if you may, but move slowly.”
Our breaths had grown heavy on the uphill path. Yet, we pulled on. At times, I felt as if wouldn’t be able to take a single step further. At such moments, we halted, albeit in standing positions with our sticks on the floor, and resumed our walk at snail pace. Since we walked incessantly, we were through the hill in around three hours. Finally, we reached the entrance to Namche Bazaar. On our left-hand side was Mount Kongde, smiling with its brilliant elegance.
Namche Bazaar, to me, occurred like Thamel in Kathmandu. Similar were the shops, hotels and lodges. Same were the stuffs kept on sale. Since we had decided to put up at Namche for the day, we entered a hotel and put our bags down.
When I woke up the next morning, my body did not signal any discomfort. While trekking through such high mountainous region, one needs to carefully check how the body behaves. If there is any discomfort on the body or there are symptoms of nausea, vertigo, constipation, headache or pain on the back side of the neck, one should refrain from going further uphill for the day. Normally, one should not move more than 500 meter on a day, and after scaling 1000 metres, one has to rest for two days and acclimatize the body with the environmental conditions therein. If we did not chew knobs of garlic, drink a lot of water, and carefully scan the condition of our body, we even run the risk of losing our life.
Namche is situated at a height of 3440 metres from the sea level, but since our bodies showed no sign of discomfort, we decided to move on.
Along the uphill trek, we saw a huge number of foreign trekkers, moving up and down the hill. We moved past the village of Sanasa, enjoying the pristine beauty of rhododendrons blooming on our left and right hand sides and finally landed at Lausasa.
Oh, what a breath-taking sight of the mountains! Very close to us was the Aamadablam that appeared like an inverted bamboo basket. This mountain is counted among the ten most beautiful mountains of the world. Standing close to it were the three peaks of the Thamserku Mountains. Beside them was the Mangteka Mountain, also called the ‘Snow Horse’. We gazed without blinking our eyes and enjoyed the stunning beauty of the Himalayas. Perhaps, it was such beauty that inspired the foreigners to call Nepal ‘heaven on earth’.
We walked beyond Lausasa and came crossed the hanging bridge over the Dudh Koshi River. On the trees in the forest on our sides, we could see fibres, like bundles of threads, as though someone had wrapped the trees in green saris. When I enquired further, I came to know that those were natural outgrowths. They formed a cherished fodder for the musk deer.
Enjoying such wonders of nature, we came to Phungi Danda and prepared to cross a small wooden bridge for our way ahead.
Beyond the bridge, we encountered a difficult trail. We vanquished the steep trail in about three hours and reached Tongboche, where we would rest for the day. Situated at a height of 3900 metres from the sea level, this place was extremely cold. We entered a hotel, put down our bags and sat beside the fireplace to warm ourselves.
When we arrived, Tongboche was cloaked in thick fog, virtually blinding us from seeing anything. While we were basking in the fire, the fog disappeared. He hurried out of the hotel and started enjoying the beauty of the region. Right from the yard of the hotel, we could see the peaks of Everest, Lhotse and Nupche Mountains. Mount Everest appeared different from other peaks — much darker than others, and looked like a Bhadgaonle cap. It made my heart leap up, for I had seen Mount Everest, the glory of Nepal and jewel of the entire world with my eyes, though from a distance. I was lucky enough to show my respect to it with the whole of my heart.
Even as I was preparing to take out my camera to take photos, fog cloaked the mountains again. How tricky the weather here was; it changed every now and then. The chill was so gripping that our fingers, wrapped inside gloves, refused to move. We rushed back to the hotel and sat beside the fireplace, sipping hot soup.
I was most flabbergasted when, upon waking up next morning, I saw water in the tap standing like a silver rod. The water in a drum kept inside the toilet had frozen into a solid mass of ice. The jets of dew flowing from the zinc sheets on the roof appeared like threads of ice sagging right up to the ground.
We resumed our walk. After we had descended for about twenty minutes, we landed at Dibuche, a village that looked like a garden beautifully decked by nature. This village, located at a height of 3770 metres from the sea level, was considered a settlement at the lowest height in this reason. If trekkers moving beyond Tengboche suddenly suffered from altitude sickness, they were rushed to this village.
We crossed yet another hanging bridge over the Dudkh Koshi River and reached Pangboche, walking together with other travellers. It was such a beautiful Sherpa village. The crowd of tourists on the street was so thick that chances of finding a vacant room in the hotels were bleak.
We had reached Pongboche after a two hour’s walk from Tongboche. Yet, we decided to halt there for the night. We, bound for the upper mountains, had to refrain from walking excessively on a single day.
After having our breakfast at around 9, we left Pongboche. After an hour’s walk, we arrived at Somare. When we observed from here, we could see Kongde on our west and the entire Thamserku Range and the tip of Kangtegapa on our south. Right in front of us, we could see Ammadablam, standing like a mother with a baby clasped on her side.
Three hour’s walk from Pangboche took us to Dingboche, where we were supposed to put up for the day.
Another day’s walk took us to as far as Phiriche. Phiriche, we were told, was the centre of the Khumbu Region. At his location, we could see a hospital operated by the Himalayan Relief Organization. The hospital provided several services like measuring the saturation level of the climbers moving uphill and treating them if necessary.
After plodding along the highland for a long time, we reached Dhukla. Walking along a narrow trail eroded by the Khumbu Glacier, we came to the place where the monument of those who had their lives during Everest expedition stood. Oh, there was an entire garden filled with graves of deceased climbers, both foreign and native. Standing close by was the grave of the world famous climber Babu Chhiri Sherpa. Babu Chhiri was the only brave son of Mother Nepal, who stood on the top of Mount Everest for 21 long hours without oxygen, giving a headlong challenge to medical science. In fact, he had broken his own record of being there for 16 hours 56 minutes before that. He made ten successful conquests upon Everest but could not return home safe on his eleventh attempt. Standing beside the memorial of the same great climber of global acclaim, I folded my hands and prayed, “Oh Great Climber! May your soul rest in peace!”
Tired to our bones, we reached Lubuche only at sunset. The place was located at a height of 5018 metres. So, we decided that we should sleep with added alertness. But our bodies were showing no signs of discomfort till then.
We had decided to reach as far as Kalapatthar and Everest Base Camp during the day and return to the same spot at the fall of the day. So we commenced our journey at six in the morning. Withstanding the gripping chill and pain on our bodies, we plodded on, walking along the tedious bank of a Himalayan river and finally arrived at Gorksep. That was the last human village in that part of the world, and its altitude was 5170 metres. Mount Fuji, the highest mountain in Japan is only 3776 metres high while the highest peak in the Alps, the highest mountain range in Europe, is 4810 metres tall. I was elated to note that even at such an altitude, Nepal had a human village.
I was wearing thick gloves and socks; yet my limbs seemed lifeless. The name of the place at this location was strange. They called it Goroksep, meaning a place where a crow had died. Of late, since more people had started reaching here, the name had been corrupted to ‘Gorakshep’.
After we had heated ourselves optimally inside a hotel here, we set out for Kalapatthar, the famous location in this region. This place is known all over the world as the nearest location from where one can have a view of Mount Everest.
We also started scaling the 5545 meter high mountain. After we had walked incessantly for two hours, we reached its top. Oh God, our Everest was timidly couched behind the Lhotse Mountains. What a coy mountain it was; it hid itself behind yet another mountain. From the summit of Kalapatthar decorated like a bride with prayer flags, we could see many other mountain peaks, including Pumori, Chhumbu, Chhangri, Nirekha and Lobuche.
After enjoying the pristine beauty of this location for an hour from the summit of Kalapatthar, we started to descend. When we were at the foothill, we followed footsteps of human beings and animals along the sandy riverbank to find our way.
It is not an ordinary thing to reach the base camp of Mount Everest. How would it be easy to walk across the piles of snow, much taller than our houses, scattered along the banks of glaciers? We could see land furrowed at places, under which, there were blue, underground mountains of snow.
At the base camp, much beyond our imagination, we saw a market full of shops made of colorful tents. The tents, meant to sleep in, had also to be strewn on a layer of snow. We could also see pillars of snow with stone-caps atop their heads. The snow, sliding down the top of Nupche, had given birth to several other mountains that looked like the saplings of the Himalayas.