Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Under Himalayan skies

After lunch in a wooden tea house we set off from Lukla about 12 noon for a relatively short up and down trek along a well-trodden path into the valley.

Our starting height was 10,000 feet and the path seemed more down than up. The terrain, if not the view, was not too different from a practice weekend earlier in the summer on Ben Nevis in Scotland. The warm sun was on our backs and the air felt clean and fresh.

This part of our 10 day trek is not a wilderness trail with many people were going back and forth, including the Yaks with their shaggy mountain coats and porters carrying impossible loads.

At this point the altitude didn’t appear to be making any significant difference. We camped behind a lodge and tents were allocated. Tea and local biscuits, then chance to sort out our gear before a meal at 6 pm.

It had been a brilliant first day - from the bustling streets of Kathmandu to the foothills of the Himalayas inside a few hours. Quiet, peaceful and now turning quite cool, with the sound of crashing water in the river gorge below.

We had a briefing from our Sirdar called Tek who was responsible for making sure everything went smoothly. We could expect much harder days to follow.

We would be woken at 6 am with hot tea to drink and a bowl of warm water for washing. Breakfast would be at 7 am, by which time we would have been expected to clear and pack our packs, leaving our tents empty and ready to hit the trail by 8 am, just as the sun was rising above the mountaintops.

We were camping tonight at the tiny settlement of Phakding where the first of many suspension bridges was slung high across the raging river below. In our deep, sheltered gorge the thunderous sound of the river filled the air. The night air was fresh and sharp, and the sleeping bag warm.

Our first night of camping under Himalayan skies was one of relative comfort.