Sunday 8 May 2016

Nepal - updated 11May16

A fortnight trekking in Nepal - holiday of a lifetime maybe ??  Have to say "yes" (for now - anything can happen in the next half-hour !!).

It all began late last year - Mrs Smiffy watched a TV programme followed by "Let's go to Nepal" - you know me ... easily led !! Onto the internet to find out what's going on - naturally the "Everest Base Camp Trek" figures at Number 1 on most sites - but we decided that this was not an option (for a start it was three weeks - and have you ever tried to get three weeks in a row off work at Royal Mail - forget it !).  After much umming and aaahing (and waiting for my RM Holiday Chart !!) we went for the "Ama Dablam Base Camp Trek" which was offered up by The Mountain Company.  Booking the trip was a piece of cake - everything ran smoothly - organised flights, insurance etc as well - and the information packs/trip dossiers were extremely thorough.

And so it began - worked the Saturday (fortunately all packing etc was done in advance !) and drove straight down to Manchester Airport to check-in by 1700.  A 6 hour flight to Abu Dhabi, a 4 hour stopover followed by another 6 hour jobbie to Kathmandu.  Met at the Airport by Tulsi and whisked off to the Hotel Manaslu in central Kathmandu.  I say "whisked off" - the traffic in Kathmandu is 'interesting' to say the least - absolute bloody chaos - but it works !  A bit of a rest - followed by a meal out at the rooftop restaurant at the Tibet Hotel.

Next day was our guided tour of Kathmandu - excellent brekky at our Hotel (they do good bacon and eggs !!) and then Haroon arrived with our driver and tour bus, and the full crew (Me, Mrs Smiffy and Robin) spent a leisurely day seeing the sights of Kathmandu.  Haroon knew his stuff and we had a great day out (have to keep harking on about the traffic - crazy crazy) - but we saw all the important stuff, and were able to get a good idea of what has and hasn't been sorted since the 2015 earthquake.  

Pics from 'Day One' at

Nepal - Part One - Kathmandu

The "Monkey Temple" in Kathmandu ...

Next day was a bloody early start (0515 to be exact) - reasoning was we had to get the 'local flight' from Kathmandu to Lukla Airport - and the earlier you go the better chance you have of the flights actually flying (weather is the big problem here). At the airport we joined up with Gopal (our trekking guide for the duration) and he got us through all the airport formalities and the flight left on time - and after all the tales we'd heard about Lukla Airport being one of the most dangerous airports in the world (!), our De Havilland Twin Otter had no problems.  A swift cuppa tea at the Numbur Lodge, a meet up with our porters for the duration (Jit and Anise - I'm sure I've misspelled here but hey ...) and we were off on our first day of trekking.  Lukla Airport is 2840 metres above sea level (9300 feet in old money !) and we were actually heading downhill to our first stopover at Phakding (2610 metres) so in a sense it was a gentle start !!!  The paths are very well defined (obviously !) giving us ample time to just "look up" !! Lunch was our first introduction to a meal which became pretty much our staple - Dhal Bhaat and Veg Curry - and I soon dropped the milk out of the cups of tea.  Comfy night at the Mountain Resort Lodge - and another early start for a trek up to Namche Bazar (11300 feet) - quite a hike this one - but well worth it. Namche Bazar is one amazing place - set in a bowl and surrounded by "white stuff" !!  Narrow streets, shops (and a bar showing "Everest" movies/factual stuff with beer and a decent music machine as well).

The following day was our "acclimatization walk" - we headed up beyond 13000 feet to the village of Khumjung - which is associated with Sir Edmund Hillary for a number of reasons - including the Edmund Hillary School.  Khumjung Monastery was another amazing site (and we were allowed to take photos inside) - and we arrived in time for lunch (or actually "watching lunch" for the monks).  In true acclimatization style it was up high then back down to Namche.  All the time the views were just amazing (including Mount Everest of course !) ... pics from these days to be found at

Nepal - Part Two - Lukla/Phakding/Namche Bazar/Khumjung 

Mount Everest is third from the left ...
Leaving Namche Bazar ... we headed up (!) on the 'road' to Deboche - and once again the views were astonishing - you had to be there - honest !!!!  We now got our first views of Ama Dablam - which is a beautiful mountain to look at - OK we'd already seen Everest (huh !) but it just didn't look as good !  The road to Deboche took us past Tengboche Monastery and it was off down to Rivendell Lodge for our evening stopover.  This lodge was pretty busy (unlike the previous two) - and we met a climbing guide who'd summited Everest 8 times ... without oxygen !!!

Next stop - Pangboche ...again an early start (the weather was so much clearer in the mornings - it tended to cloud over a bit in the afternoons) - and on arrival another brief "acclimatization" wander to Upper Pangboche - and an early night in preparation for the walk up to Ama Dablam Base Camp - there were worries about the weather but fingers were crossed.  The following morning I got up at stupid o'clock just to make sure I got some snaps of Ama Dablam 'just in case' - but there were no probs in the end.  We got the best of the weather until we were close - and the we watched the clouds start to mass.  Didn't stop us getting to our "top of the shop" (a shade over 15000 feet).  We didn't plant a flag however !!!!  Back to Pangboche for another "chilly evening" - the higher we got, the more basic the lodges became - and the nights were a touch chilly - thankfully we'd prepared accordingly back in Kathmandu by hiring down jackets and down sleeping bags (courtesy of Shonas in Thamel) - kept us all nice and snug !

Destination reached - it was time to turn around and head back - so it was off to Khumjung via Phortse - where we were told that you won't see any men, because they're all out working somewhere between Phortse and Everest Base Camp !!  Our guide Gopal asked a couple of porters about a "short cut" to Khumjung - it worked but it wasn't simple !!!!  Evening spent at the Hidden Lodge in Khumjung where we drank Tibetan Beer, Budweiser (breed under licence in China would you believe !) and then we kicked into the local rice beer !!!!  Pics from this stretch to be found at 

Nepal - Part Three - Pangboche/Ama Dablam Base Camp/Khumjung 

Ama Dablam ...

The next day was to be a trek to the village of Thame - however Mrs Smiffy had a "bad night" in Khumjung (digestively speaking - say no more !) and once we arrived at Thamo (having walked through some wonderful paths awash with rhododendrons) - it was clear that Thame was not an option.  However this was where having a proper trekking guide and the back up of a kosher company kicked in.  A few phone calls and it was all sorted - and we headed back towards Namche Bazar.  Another night in the village/town we have come to love and then we headed back to Phakding and thence to Lukla - which was the end of the line for our porters.  Two amazing guys - I actually had a go at carrying what they were carrying - i managed to stand up straight - and that was it - now way was I going anywhere !!  So basically it was "party time" when we arrived back in Lukla - and some serious beer was supped by all !! 

Pics from this leg at
 Nepal - Part Four - Khumjung/Thamo/Namche/Phakding/Lukla 

Just like before - an early start - this time to get out of Lukla back to Katmandu - mission accomplished - and from the plane we saw our final views of the "white stuff" before arriving back in Kathmandu  - with a transfer back to the Manslu  Hotel - where we promptly headed straight for the hot shower in the hotel room - and a bit of a relax.  Evening was spent in downtown Thamel at the K2 Steak Bar - first meat I'd eaten since leaving Kathmandu 10 days (?) earlier - a welcome change from Dhaal Bhaat (although I'd grown to love that - and I will be attempting to recreate same now I'm back in Blighty) - the meal was also a "meet up" with Roland from the Mountain Company where some informal feedback on our experience was handed out.

Our last day in Katmandu - so we decided to go to the town of Bhaktapur for a "day out" - we'd been quoted 1,000 Nepalese Rupees (approx £6-50) for a taxi - but we went for the local bus option - which was an experience in itself ... and only cost 50 Rupees for the two of us !!!  Sadly the earthquake damage was more obvious here, but there were still some amazing sights.  An excellent day out followed by another meal out in Khatmandu (and another steak for me !!!)  Pics from Bhaktapur at 

Nepal - Part Five - Bhaktapur

Nyatapola Temple ...

Time to go home - our flight from Khatmandu went a slightly devious way (via Lucknow in India - refuelling) before arriving back in Abu Dhabi - another lengthy wait before the flight back to Manchester - - didn't make it into work on the Monday which in a way was a bonus - because we were all totally shattered - physically and mentally I reckon - it had been one helluva holiday.

In short - go to Nepal - it's a wonderful experience - they've had their problems what with the April 2015 earthquakes - tourism took a big hit afterwards and is still struggling to get back up to speed.  However I can confirm that the country is now definitely "open for business" - rebuilding has kicked in big style, the people are wonderful, the country is wonderful - it is truly the trip of a lifetime.

Just do it - and tell them Smiffy sent you ...

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