“The mountains were so wild and so stark and so very beautiful that I wanted to cry. I breathed in another wonderful moment to keep safe in my heart.” – Jane Wilson-Howarth, Snowfed Waters
If there is one thing I can tell you, it is: yes! When I landed in Nepal in 2018, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. With very little planning or direction in mind, I decided to explore my options about where to go and what to see. I knew for a fact that Nepal is a land of deep spiritual development, yoga, meditation, and wellness; as a result, I was open to what the land could offer me, expecting to be taken into a new adventure that would expand my awareness.
So, what is a must-do in Nepal?
Besides the amazing tourist attractions like the Sacred ground birth of Hinduism at the Cremation Temple of Pashupatinath, or the unforgettable Boudhanath Stupa in the centre of Kathmandu, let us not diminish the fact you can see a living goddess Kumari and wonder at the old palace at Durbar square. Another must-see is the Monkey Temple -where monkeys do run around freely amongst the beautiful architecture. The list is endless!
Nepal is also home to some of the most amazing trekking trails that one can hope to experience. Including the one and only EBC, which takes you to Mount Everest’s base–the world’s highest mountain! So, if you are like me, attracted to unique experiences, this is for sure one of a kind and almost anyone could do it.
If you think I had loads of trekking experience on my feet, think again! I had done very little trekking before in my life and although I had done some peaks, I did not think that a walk could last over 5 hours. To be fair, I had no idea what to expect for EBC trekking. I knew It would take days and that I needed a Sherpa guide, but I did not look into it at all before my trip. It was mostly a blinding trust in the universe that it would all be fine. The tour guides told me everything I needed to bring or buy for the trip and when to leave for the airport to take my flight to Lukla. So, knowing very little of what was to come, I started my first journey towards the EBC- Everest Base Camp.
First Things First: Flight to Lukla:
Be prepared to wait! The airport and flights to Lukla are chaotic! So here, you are purely depending on luck. Why?? Because of the weather. Also, the planes that fly to Lukla are all very small. Lukla has one of the smallest and most dangerous airports in the world! Not only is it the shortest runway for planes to land and take off, but it is also where most plane crashes happen.
However, I am not trying to scare you because I was not afraid. I was too excited; the butterflies in my belly filled and the happy vibes did not permit me to be afraid. Looking out the window and seeing the Himalayan mountains was already breathtaking and majestic enough to not give any consideration to those facts. I only learned about these statistics later on while waiting for the plane to take off so please do not let fear guide you. Take it in as part of the amazing journey ahead and do not forget to look at the flying planes, it is almost as if you are flying the plane yourself! Just talking about it makes me want to do it again!!
First Day of Trekking and Arriving in Lukla
When landing in Lukla, whichever plan you have is mostly connected to a tour guide company or Sherpa. Since it was my first time, I decided to go with the Sherpa. I thought this would be a solo trip, and in many ways it was. Depending on the time of the year, there could be so many other trekkers around that you hardly feel alone. That would also be a great opportunity for you to make plenty of new friends along the way.
Upon arrival in Lukla, I and all the other trekkers gathered at one of the restaurants to meet our Sherpas/guides and start the first 7 hours of trekking. From Lukla to the evening stop in Phakding, we kept on seeing familiar faces that started with us on the same day, as well as people that were on the same plane. We crossed paths during lunch and tea stops and met again at the tea houses where we were spending the night.
I should also mention that arriving in Lukla and starting the journey is like landing on another planet! How so?? First of all, there are neither cars nor motorcycles around! This is a place in the world like no other. It feels so different. So pure! It is in a way so quiet and so precious. Even when there is noise, it feels quiet because the experience has a tremendous impact on your soul. It is, without a doubt, the ultimate wellness experience.
Day Two: From Phakding to Namche
I am not sure about how it is for other trekkers; but for me, this was the most tiring part of the trekking. Maybe it is because the whole day involves getting higher in altitude, getting used to the pace, carrying the backpack, and acclimatising not only to the height but also to the scenery. You just have to keep moving, adjusting to the way of living and the new mindset along the way.
The journey has a feeling of: “Are we there yet?” How funny. Do not get me wrong, I loved it. The views are incredible, and so are the bridges and the rivers. Nonetheless, I suppose this was my least favourite part of the trekking. Maybe it is because I was so eager to arrive at Namche, which is my favourite Stop.
Day Three and Four: Namche Bazar
Normally I spend two days or more in Namche to acclimatise and relax while enjoying the restaurants’ coffee or talking to some friends. I also enjoyed playing pool at Cafe Danphe Bar, a highly recommended place for the best coffee in Namche. Moreover, I enjoyed some nice massages to relax and give the body a treat after the first 2 days of over 14 hours of walking.
Namche Bazar is a place to admire the mountains while getting yourself ready for what is to come. It is common for everyone to spend these 2 days in Namche to acclimatise, avoid altitude sickness, and have a good rest. Most people do smaller climbs and descend back to Namche to ease their height issues. I chose to relax and enjoy every hour in Namche doing as little exercise as possible.
So please, do what feels best for you. I would advise you to just enjoy yourself. Do some shopping and eat nice food because there is very little choice after Namche. It can be hard to find hot water or a place to have a shower after this stop so be prepared for what is to come.
My final recommendation: stay at a nice hotel and pamper yourself. My go-to is Hotel Namche! It has guaranteed warm showers and a beautiful restaurant that emits warmth. I love staying there. Paying a bit more to have a cosy stay is worth it.
Day Five: Arrival at Tengboche
For me, day five is where the adventure starts because the trekking begins to get challenging from there onwards. I would say that up to this point, besides the long walking distances in the first 2 days, the trekking has been a piece of cake. Anyone could do it – even without any experience. But from Namche onwards, the journey starts getting a little more intense. From here onwards, it feels like you are climbing up.
Your body adapts to the air, and everything becomes more and more remote. On this day, we start early; best to leave right after breakfast and save time to arrive at Tengboche with plenty of time to visit the monastery and still get some rest in the body.
Here is a huge tip: remember the story of the tortoise and the hare? Yes, slow and steady wins the race! It is vital to go slow and take your time. Because of the altitude, your body needs time to get used to the new oxygen levels. Essentially, the slower you go the easier it is for your body to adapt. Many fit athletes have had health-related issues because of going too fast and getting altitude sickness. It is thus extremely important to keep your pace. Unless, of course, you are a local: born in the mountains like the sherpas with a body that is used to high altitudes. If that is the case then you can even run by all means.
Tengboche is one of the most beautiful little villages in the world and its monastery is a must-visit when trekking to EBC. It is also a place for centring yourself, quieting your mind, and connecting with a higher power. This is an opportunity to pray, meditate and rid yourself of what no longer serves you. Why not let the mountains take and devour it?
Day Six: Dingboche
Getting higher and higher, your legs might hurt and you might crave a warm shower. If you are lucky, you can get one at the Moonlight lodge, which is my recommended accommodation facility in this village. This is the last village because from then on you see fewer and fewer people and there are only a few accommodation spots to choose from in the days ahead.
From here onwards, you can hear the mountain calling you…What does that even mean? It means you put aside the rest of the world to search for something meaningful and unique, something that can only be experienced by doing. To walk through these lands, to breathe this air, day after day is just so incredible. It almost makes me want to cry. That is how much I want to go back there and do it all over again. The views are now getting more dramatic: huge mountains eating the little humans walking by. Tread carefully when you get closer and closer to the one and only Mount Everest!
Day Seven: Lobuche
You are nearly there. We are getting closer to the end and things are now very different: fewer people, fewer man-made things, and much more nothingness and nature. There are mountains everywhere you look, you are surrounded by greatness.
With very few food options to choose from, you might want to stick to the locals and go with the dal soup to get your strength and calories in because you need to stay healthy and well-nourished.
There is not much to do in this little stop except to stay warm, eat, and rest. Of course, the whole trail is full of activity but the stop is where you regain your energy to keep going up. Once again, if you are lucky, you might find a place to have a warm shower. If not, keep some wet wipes and change into some clean clothes because there are hardly any showers after this stop.
Day Eight: Gorekshep
You made it to the last stop before EBC! You are nearly at the end, about to reach the target and complete the goal of your adventure. Of course, this is not the sole goal. The whole Journey is. But if you made it this far, give yourself a tap on the back. You deserve it.
Despite seeing all the helicopters coming by to rescue the people suffering from altitude sickness, you will have very little chance of experiencing problems if you stick to the slow and steady plan.
Take a deep breath and look around. Yes! That is Mount Everest right there, can smell it? At this stop, you can either take it easy or decide to go for a real challenge and do Kala Patthar at 5,600m. It will take you approximately 3 hours. Many trekkers go to Kala Patthar before sunrise to get a beautiful and up-close view of Mount Everest. I must admit, I did not go to Kala Patthar yet! For some reason, I wanted to save my energy and take it easy. For me, being in Gorekshep was already enough.
Whether you chose to go to Kala Patthar or not, remember to get as much rest and warmth as you need. Eat your dal soup and get ready for the next part, You are almost there!
Day Nine: Everest Base Camp (EBC)
Bring your cameras, gloves, water, and snacks. Here we go onto the last stop before we turn around and make our way back down.
This is probably the hardest part. There are so many rocks so you have to be mindful of where you are walking. You also have to endure tiredness and cold. You are just about to make it! Do not let your mind get in the way. Use your breath and practice mindfulness.
Arriving at the EBC is simply great! The feeling of accomplishment and fulfilment is wonderful. If you go on this journey in April, you might see all the brave people who are about to climb to the top of the world. People from all over the world come to camp at EBC intending to rise to the top. It is impressive. I remember visiting a friend who was planning to climb Mount Everest. I met him at his tent with some popcorn to wish him luck!
I started 2019 at the base camp; it was cold and there was very little activity all around and barely any climbers. So, when you decide to go on this journey, you might want to go for the easy and warmer April and October. You can also try it in the hardship of December and January and enjoy the challenge, I loved both.
Gazing at the glaciers and the mountains, you can certainly feel how much greatness this place has! It is filled with courage. EBC not only represents what we can achieve as a race, such as climbing to the top of the world under extreme conditions, but also how in life we can set our minds to doing anything and achieve it.
Enjoy every minute you spend at the base camp and savour every second. Trust me, whether you love the experience or hate it, you will never forget it. For me, this was one of my top must-dos and I am delighted to have crossed it off my bucket list!
The Way Back
The way back is much easier and will take you much less time. You can return to Lukla in 3 days but do it slowly if you have time on your hands. Enjoy it and please take some extra time in Namche to make friends and share your adventure. Be sure to give your body some wellness treatments at the spa to regain your energy.
Another option is to take a helicopter back… Would I recommend it? Hmm, I love helicopter rides but no way! I love descending back on my own feet and saying goodbye to each village while savouring every second left in this wonderful land.
I loved it so much that I did EBC twice in one year, in April 2018 and from December 2018 to January 2019. I spent Christmas in Namche in 2018, it was perfect! I love Nepal. It is the land of my soul! I hope that, if you ever get the chance to go, you will love it too!
By Sabrina Santos