After a solid sleep in the fresh mountain air, I was ready to face what the day would bring. The sky was clear in the early morning and the snow-capped mountains that were hidden by cloud last night decided to show their faces. We wouldn’t be getting out first glimpse of Mt Everest until the next day but the view was already jaw-droppingly beautiful.
We had breakfast – porridge and honey for me- before jetting off on the trail. Today we were only hiking about 6km but would jump about 600m in elevation. Hopefully the porridge power would pull through! The first hour or two was quite leisurely. We followed the river, surrounded by pine trees and beautiful mountainous terrain. It was surprisingly warm and layers of clothing were being pulled off left right and centre. Just as I was thinking I could get used to this lovely hiking business, we approached the Hillary Bridge – aka the ‘suspension bridge of death’.
Tied up about 200m above the river between two very high cliff faces was a bit of metal rope that was our way across to the rest of the path. To make matters worse, the old bridge was still intact about 50m lower, making the Hillary Bridge appear even higher. Why we couldnt walk across that bridge I didn’t dare to ask, I just hoped for the best. We hiked up the stairs to the start of the bridge and faced the what was about to come. Before we could walk across, we had to wait for a herd of donkeys to come across. It made me feel a little better because if it could support 18 donkeys, then surely it could support me!
Once the donkeys were safely across we lined up to cross. I wanted to be up the front so I had a quick exit. Once we were walking out on the bridge, it didn’t feel as scary as it looked. The bridge was quite stable despite the loose wires everywhere. The view from the middle of the bridge was incredible. We were in the middle of a huge gorge and in the distance the snowy mountain ranges could be seen. I wanted to stop and just watch for awhile but I was creating a backlog of traffic as another herd of donkeys were waiting to cross.
Now that we’d crossed the Hillary Bridge, the first tough part of the trek was ahead of us. Two or so hours of uphill hiking. Our guide Krishna took us a different way which seemed steeper – he said because its less busy but I think he was just testing us out! It wasn’t the worst hike in the world. We stopped regularly to enjoy the view (and catch our breath!) and passing the odd Sherpa carrying a 100kg load was a reality check that we didn’t actually have it bad at all. I could definitely start to feel the affects of the rising altitude, you had to really focus on breathing in the thin air. Though this was only a taste tester of what was to come in the coming week.
We reached Namche Bazar after a final climb into the large village. Namche is a groovy little place built into the mountains. Colourful houses and lodges are stacked on top of each other in the terraces of the mountain and the pebbblestone streets are lined with bakeries and shops selling all sorts of hiking paraphernalia. Situated at 3400m we had a brilliant view of the mountains and our guides assured us its even better when the clouds clear in the morning! We had the afternoon free to ourselves so a few of us wandered around the town however as the whole place was going through a power blackout there wasn’t much going on. We headed back to the lodge for dinner and a few games of UNO before heading to bed.
The next morning I woke up to the most spectacular view outside my window! It was only 5am but already the light was light and the colourful houses were enhanced by the white reflection of the snowy-peaked mountains that surrounded us. Our guide Dawa was right, this view was 120% times better! I sat in bed and watched daylight fully form in front of me. It was a really, really pleasant way to start to the day!
Today we had an acclimatisation day so after breakfast we headed for a short hike a little higher to get some more red blood cells flowing through us. Again, I didn’t find it too difficult, was just short of breath for most of it. However the views easily outweighed the shortage of breath situation. Once we hiked uphill for about half an hour, it cleared to a big valley were the views were 360 degrees of beautiful mountainous ranges. We had scored the most brilliant day with only a few clouds in the sky. I’m not sure if it’s because I’m from a really flat country or I’m just easily excited but I couldn’t stop gushing about how stunning the views were. How can Mother Earth get it so dang right!?
We climbed another 400m in altitude and at the top reached the Everest View Mountain Lodge. With a name like that we had high hopes about what was to come. We’d been spotting peaks of mountains over the past days and asking our guides if they were Everest. “Not yet,not yet” they would say. But today we were promised with our first glimpse of Everest.
As we arrived to the tea house it was recommended to walked to the back garden and through the gates towards the lookout. As I pushed opened the big blue wooden doors it was like finding Narnia. A small path lined the edge of the mountain and looking out from there were the big beautiful mountain peaks we’d been hiking towards. Beyond the path dropped into a steep valley and the river that we had been walking beside only the day before. As I walked the 30m to the lookout, I was greeted by the bluest sky and a mountain range which I just knew had to have Everest amongst them. After discussing with the group and getting confirmation from Dawa it was true! Everest was in front of us!
The thing I didn’t realise about Mt. Everest, is that front this side (the Nepal side) Everest was blocked quite a bit by the mountains beside it. Lhotse and Nuptse, the two massive mountains that stood beside Everest were trying to steal its thunder. Lhotse in particular was succeeding because from where we stood, it appeared much bigger than Everest. . And proceeded to fool every single one of us in the process. What we later discovered (once we had taken a bazillion photos) that the tallest and most grand moutain we were seeing, wasn’t actually the moutain we’d come to see! So all the selfies, group pictures and excitement was over a mountain that wasn’t actually the tallest. The disappointment was real (though I secretly think Lhotse was a more spectacular mountain anyway!)
After all the confusion, we settled for the fact that we had actually seen Everest on a brilliantly clear day so all in all it was a good morning. We hiked back down to Namche for lunch and had the afternoon free to do as we pleased. It was quite a hot day so I braved an ice cold shower as it had been a couple of days since I’d had one. Hot water was an expensive commodity around these parts so a hot shower cost about $6AUD! Most of us were planning on going as long as possible without showering to save money, but the temptation was definitely there! As there was still no power most of us opted for a snooze and another wander through the town. After dinner we were settling in for another round of UNO in the dark when the lights suddenly came back on! We cheered and some of us headed down to one of the bakeries in town for a quick WIFI check in on the real world before heading back up to play more UNO.
It was another early night. We had a big hike to Tengboche tomorrow and the combination of constant exercise and the lack of air was tiring us out quite quickly. Going to sleep at 7:30pm when Big Dog goes to bed suddenly didn’t seem so unrealistic for a bunch of grown adults!