Lukla to Monjo: Flight of a lifetime & a pretty trail 

The dinner at the New Orleans cafe was decent even though I had slight issues with the local version the lentil soup. The ‘amazing burger’ and ‘superb steak’ topped the list of the stuff available on the menu. Most of us were tired and, considering the 4.30am wake up time, did the sensible thing to hit the mattresses early. Jon (US navy dude), however, suggested to visit a shisha bar nearby … which turned out to be an excellent choice. Zena (UK) joined in too. The layout was like a chill out place with floors mats to rest on and short-legged tables. The walls had been decorated by a Japanese artist with manga & psychedelic type art. Then we enjoyed a superb live music session by a band called ‘strings’ from memory. Some seriously good vibes. By midnight we were back home though.

The morning started early as I mentioned before. After a nightly visit to the toilet at 3am I didn’t really sleep much more. I guess a mix of jet lag (Nepal is 4h45min ahead) and excitement are to blame. Bags were more or less packed and so I was early in the lobby ready for departure to the airport. We separated baggage bound for base camp from the rest, boarded our two vans and off we went. Bye, bye Hotel Manaslu.


Driving to the airport in the morning has distinct advantages … traffic at 5am just about avoids the massive smog build up starting from 7am to 9am rush hour. The domestic terminal was busy with other western travellers heading to Lukla / Everest base camp or trekking routes in the Khumbu valley. After a reasonably swift check in and finally a coffee, weather forced a delay. The airport in Lukla is very exposed to weather and needs very good conditions for planes operate (which often leads to cancellations & jam of travellers). The footage I put below speaks words. So we hit the waiting area and talked. Rory was busy collecting stuff for his column in the Irish times and interviewed the climbers bound for either Everest or Lhotse summit. I started reading a book (didn’t get very far yet). We were now all prepared to wait a long time … when suddenly the flight was boarding. The plane was a 18 seater, twin turbo-prop Dornier DO228. Flying like in the old days. But we didn’t start right away … but waited on the runway just long enough until Michael required the toilet. Needless to say, as soon as he went for it we got the go ahead and the pilot started the engines. We did wait for Michael though ;0)

Day 1: Lukla to Monjo (14.4km, asc: 550m, dsc: 550m)

The flight to Lukla was scenic, in particular for people sat on the left hand side of the plane with great views of the Himalayas and so great views of dirty Kathmandu. Then came the time for the landing of a lifetime. Very short runway, very steep to assist the plane in slowing down. The pilot almost nailed it perfectly (the stall warning came just a touch too close to tires hitting the ground). Anyway, really cool stuff. Next stop for us was Paradise lodge situated literally next to the runway with loads of spectators following planes & choppers coming and going. The owners seemed old friends of Tim judging by their hearty welcome (as are probably most lodge owners on the trail). We had a late breakfast (omelette ‘A la everest’) and got a quick briefing on how to behave on the trial, where to poo, hygienic consideration etc. The most memorable advice for me was that crazy Yak’s are marked with either red bands or have their horns painted in red colour. Unfortunately, not all our luggage made it to Lukla in time. Both my two bags were missing, but then I had almost all the gear I needed for today. And then it was time to hike … 


The first part of the Everest base camp trek would take us 14km from Lukla to Monjo (we hiked beyond on purpose to avoid the crowds next day). Altitude wise, not much to report for both places are on 2,800m though with 550m ascent and descent on the way. Including three stops it took us 6h:14min for the trek. And it was lovely. All the villages were very tidy, the people seemed happy and conversations with fellow hikers were very pleasant and rich in content. 



Once at Top Hill Lodge, we were all pretty shattered and retired pretty quickly after refreshing ourselves and dinner. I skipped the refreshing for lack of change clothes or else even toughen of my bags did arrive later in the evening. Gotta get used to no shower for few days … at last that is going to be the norm once we climb.

Top Hill Lodge, Monjo

Available

Cost

Comment

Hot shower

YES

R250

Beautiful one

Wifi   

YES

R250

hasn’t been working for a week

Recharge

YES

R200

Mobile signal 

YES

3G patchy, call signal good

Beer

YES

R650

500ml can of San Miguel

Water

YES

R150

The night in the lodge was a little chilly govern my room mate Billy and I opted to just use the cover sheets instead of sleeping bags. But it was ok. I got up 6.30am, packed the bag that the porter will take to today’s destination and had breakfast. Good time to blog a little (last night I just couldn’t). The sun was out when we hit the trail. Happy hiking! Next stop will be Namche Bazar, the last proper town we’ll see for a while.

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