by Greg Childs
Am I fit enough? Will I make it? What if I fail on day one? The ‘World’s most dangerous Airport? Altitude Sickness? What food will we eat? These were all things that popped into my head as I sat waiting for my flight from Bangkok, (where I had been holidaying in the 3 weeks beforehand), to Tribhuvan International Airport, Kathmandu, Nepal.
A couple of days later, after some time acclimatizing in Kathmandu the answer to one of those questions was answered – it was time to catch the notorious flight up into the mountains themselves. The usual flight route was out of action this past season, so instead we had to take a 5-hour bus detour through rural Nepal (leaving in the middle of the night quite literally), to an alternative airport. I say airport, it was essentially a toilet block, and a small and shabby looking terminal building, painted a kind of off-yellow colour. Having somehow passed the luggage weight checks (I knew I was well over the 10kg limit. My camera equipment alone was around 2kg of that!), but somehow no one ‘official’ seemed to notice – it wasn’t like we were about to board a tiny 16 seater twin-otter plane into the Himalaya’s via a notoriously dangerous airport. When I say ‘dangerous’, what I really mean is exciting – because, the flight up to Tenzing-Hillary Airport / Lukla Airport in reality, was the start of the greatest, most memorable and yet challenging experience of my life so far. One thing’s for sure...you will never forget the moment you touchdown at 2,845m.
You might expect me to focus on writing about the amazing, awe-inspiring scenery we saw, the incredible hospitality and friendliness of the locals we met along the trail. Before travelling to a region like the Nepal and the Himalayas, we all hear about and read up on how the Himalayas offers extraordinary vistas, unforgettable landscapes, and very welcoming and hospitable people. You can see from the photos that I took what you can expect to see – multiple suspension bridges (which are amazingly fun and fascinating!), the endless stream of teahouses (Lemon, Ginger and Honey tea will become your life!), dodging Yak after Yak along the route (you will spend all day every day playing this highly entertaining yet also slightly terrifying game!), and the unmistakable panoramic mountain views that quite literally stop you in your tracks! Views that could only ever be found in the Himalayas. Every day you wake up still not quite believing where you are!
What you might not expect is to share all of that with eleven other brilliant, like-minded and genuinely awesome people - not including the amazing guide Hari and the equally fantastic porters we had. When you spend twelve days together, supporting each other through the difficulties and the challenges you are faced with on a trip like this, the bond you form is practically unbreakable.
Living in close quarters for twelve days, the routine of getting up, eating breakfast together, making sure everyone is feeling good, trekking for between 6-8 hours (including ample stops at those teahouses mentioned earlier), eating dinner together and then going to bed (perhaps after a game of cards or a visit to the Irish Pub in Namche Bazaar) becomes the most enjoyable and blissful routine you will ever have. You are so far away from the ‘rat-race’ of life in the UK that you make every effort to savor and cherish just how simple and enjoyable your life is for these twelve days. Not to mention the daily excitement (genuinely!) of not quite knowing what that evening’s accommodation will have in store for you! Some lucky person even found themselves with an en-suite room, complete with flushing toilet, all whilst at 4,371m above sea level. I wonder who that could have been?!...
Finally, in response to the other questions that I opened this little piece with – so long as you have a good level of fitness and undertake some regular hill-walking then you will be absolutely fine on this trek. Nepalese-flat will become the most well-known saying – essentially meaning a constant mix of up and down, but there is nothing technical to worry about on this trek. YES, you will definitely, no doubt, one hundred percent make it as long as you keep a decent level of hygiene (mainly washing hands before eating etc.), drink litres and litres of water and remain in good spirits even when the going gets that bit tougher. Remember, there are no time limits on this trip – you walk at whatever pace suits you. I would find myself stopping regularly to take in the views and to take photographs. I even did a small personal photoshoot for one member of our group! So there really is no pressure to walk fast – you have all day after all!
Over the course of the next 12 days trekking, we would all feel the inevitable effects of altitude, some worse than others, after all it’s all just down to pot luck. The conversation prior to the trip had centered a lot around the question of whether to ‘Diamox’ or ‘Not to Diamox’. Personally, I ended up using it, along with around half of our group. As long as you follow the advice of your guides, be honest and open about how you are feeling and communicate it to them and the group, you can do everything possible to resolve and manage it and the group can also help you. And as for the food – I actually really enjoyed the food. Potatoes, eggs, vegetables and Dal Bhat became my staple and I even miss it from time to time now!
My personal lasting feeling is that you can travel and book this trip with anyone, there are numerous tour operators that run this trip. However, what they don’t offer, and I know this as a fact because we regularly passed and spoke with the other companies along the trail, is the togetherness and spirit that you will undoubtedly get from an Explorers Connect group. You will bring more than just amazing memories away with you. The attitude, the closeness and the friendships gained from such a trip as the ‘Explorers Connect - Everest Base Camp’ are made possible because it is ingrained in the Explorers Connect way of life.
Book your own space on this trip of a lifetime - see here for full details. Our next dates: 3rd - 19th April 2020. 16 days of adventure trekking through stunning landscapes surrounded by the highest mountains in the world. And you only need to take 9 days off work. From £1,149 per person.