Everest Base Camp Trek – The teahouse


It’s -5C and pitch black outside; you’re slowly sipping a hot, sweet mug of tea which warms you from inside out. The fire in the centre of the room is crackling and you’re surrounded by people you grow fonder of every day.

In the corner of the room there’s the laughter of a couple playing cards (he just won that round), and sitting opposite is a young guide regaling you with stories of adventures through his breathtaking land, Nepal. As you sip your tea and glance around at the pale wooden walls strewn with commemorative flags, signatures and photographs you are overwhelmed by a sense of humility; you are retracing the steps of some of the most incredible mountaineers in history and are sitting in the presence of the same Sherpas who contributed to their success.

The teahouses you find along the trail of the Everest Base Camp trek are wonderful places to stay during your adventure. Not only does each night offer a small insight into the culture of your Nepali hosts but it gives you a warm, comfortable environment to get to know your team mates and guides, away from the elements.

The teahouse experience centres around the main living area. This cosy lounge is laid out around a central yak dung burning stove which provides an enormous amount of heat to keep you cosy and warm, dry out your damp gear and of course serves to ensure there is always hot water for the all-important tea.Teahouse Nepal

Around the circumference of the room there are long benches against each wall, with tables in front of each bench where meals are taken. There is a reception style desk in the corner manned by one of the teahouse hosts selling all manner of goodies, from toilet paper to Pringles and from mango juice to fresh fruit; it is here you can organise battery charging facilities, hot showers and hire of additional blankets, depending on the facilities of your particular teahouse.

If you walk out of the main lounge you are usually greeted by, first of all, the unmistakable chill of the Nepali evening air; goosebumps ensue, before you come across the corridors to the bedrooms and bathrooms.

DSCF7765Of course each teahouse is laid out differently but in general the long corridors offer a mixture of twin, double and triple occupancy rooms each containing a basic wooden bed frame, a mattress with a sheet, a pillow with a pillowcase and occasionally a blanket. You are likely to have a small window, possibly with a phenomenal view, with a rudimentary curtain, more for a sense of privacy than to block any light, and the walls of your room will be made of some type of basic plyboard; thus will not offer any semblance of sound-proofing.

BathroomThe bathroom and shower facilities vary dramatically depending on the particular teahouse although in general the closer you are to Lukla the better the facilities tend to be. Almost certainly each teahouse will offer one Western sit-down toilet and one Asian squat toilet – they may flush, or there may be a large water container with a bucket which suffices as a flush. Toilet paper should be placed in the bins provided to avoid the otherwise inevitable blockages.

Shower facilities can vary from luxurious; power shower, spotlessly clean tiled bathroom with boiling hot water, to basic; a small outside concrete room, with a hole in the ground to drain out the water, with a wonky wooden door that has a broken lock and a small tepid bucket of water to wash with. The price you pay doesn’t necessarily represent the quality of facilities you will enjoy, but either option washes off the dust and refreshes you after a long day walking, which can be such a simple treat.

The teahouse experience offers a comfortable, homely way to spend your nights trekking the trail to Everest Base Camp and I felt it was one of the many highlights of the experience.

What I packed for the Everest Base Camp trek in October


229473_10151032303051467_1913486090_nOn 6th October 2012 I set off from Heathrow with my team of trekkers to Nepal embarking on a journey to Everest Base Camp. For some reason I have got into the habit of photographing all my kit before an expedition which has proved helpful for others who are planning similar trips and also gives me something to base my packing on the next time I return.

Here is the total list of things I took with me to Nepal for the Everest Base Camp trek and a few notes on the things I wish I had taken, and things I could have left at home. If you happen to come across this I hope it is useful for your own planning!

Hiking boots
6 pairs of Bridgedale socks
1x compression/flight socks
2x pairs trek trousers
1x pair thermal running leggings
1x pair thermal base layer bottoms (worn as pyjamas)
1x thermal base layer top (worn as pyjamas)
1x short-sleeved shirt
1x t-shirt
4x long-sleeved base layer tops
1x fleece
1x down gilet
1x waterproof jacket
1x waterproof trousers
1x warm hat
1x Buff
1x pashmina
1x mittens
1x liner gloves
1x fingerless gloves
12 x underwear
2x sports bras
Moisturiser
Travel sized shampoo
Travel shower gel
Full size sunscreen
Loofah
Razor
Antiperspirant deodorant
Hairbrush
Toothpaste and toothbrush
Baby wipes
Hand sanitizer
Nail brush
Toilet paper
Travel towelDown sleeping bag
Thermal sleeping bag liner
Ear plugs and eye mask 
Berocca
Nuun tablets
Sweets/dried fruit
Biox Aqua drops (water purification)
Sigg bottle 1l
Camelbak 2l
Mountain warehouse wet and dry bag 100l
Small holdall for gear to leave in Kathmandu
35 litre Berghaus daypack
2x waterproof dry bags
Ziplock bags
Nappy bags
LED headtorch
Notepad and pen
Spare batteries
E-tickets
Cash and cards
Passport & copy
Sunglasses
Adaptor
Camera, spare batteries and battery charger
Video camera and battery charger
Mobile phone x2 and charger
New Trent portable battery pack
Prescription medication
Diamox
Insect repellent
Paracetamol and Ibuprofen
Plasters in all sizes
Blister plasters
Imodium
Rehydration salts
Antifungal foot cream
Anti-histamine cream and tablets
Tiger balm
Lip balm with SPF protection
Decongestant
Throat lozenges
Nail scissors and tweezers

 

Namche Things I wish I hadn’t brought:
-Biox Aqua drops – the bottles leaked and I lost all my water purification meaning I had to purchase bottled water which contributes to waste disposal issues in the area. I wish I had taken the tablet version of Biox Aqua.

– Base layer top – I brought four but I could have left one at home. However, it was actually quite nice to have something clean and dry to change into each night for the evenings in the teahouses, then being able to sleep in my thermals.

– So many snacks. You can buy almost EVERYTHING in Namche and virtually every teahouse sells snacks, fresh fruit, chocolate and drinks.

-Down jacket. I’m umming and ahhing about this one. I only used my down jacket twice; once for the first 30 minutes in the morning on the walk to Base Camp then again when we stopped at BC for photos and it had started to cool down.
I also used it on the night/early morning ascent of Kala Pattar – I overheated and fainted as a result.
If I returned to the EBC area I’d probably still bring my down jacket because I know it’s very warm and (it was too expensive not to get good use out of it) but I’d probably rely more on thinner layers including my Primaloft jacket (which I didn’t have at the time) with my waterproof over the top.

Things I wish I had brought:DSCF8046
– Vaseline – your face dries out in the dry high altitude environment, particularly around your nose and lips. You can buy this in Namche (which is what we did).

– Another lightweight Buff (you can buy these very cheaply in Namche) to ensure I always had one to cover my nose/mouth from the massive amount of dust. I would bring 2-3 or anything which can be used to protect your lungs from the dust.

– Dry cough medicine – I ended up with Khumbu cough and some soothing medicine would have been nice. I could have picked this up in Namche.

-More money than stuff! Along the trail you can buy tea, coffee, snacks, apple pie, clothing, medicine, gifts, maps, toiletries, water, hot showers, battery charging, internet access and lots more. I wish I had taken more cash to indulge in some of these luxuries and contribute to the local economy.

– Camp booties or slippers for inside the teahouse (or a clean pair of trainers). Apart from not wanting to trail dust and dirt around the teahouse, it’s always nicer to change your shoes in the free afternoon and evenings. For the acclimatisation afternoons wandering through the towns trainers would have been more comfortable.

Obviously packing for a trip is very personal to each individual so obviously this post is simply my personal opinion based on my single experience trekking in the Everest region in October 2012.
My husband has pointed out I may well be able to pack more gear than other people being small and slim, compared to him at 6’6 who struggled to keep within the weight limit for the Lukla flight.
Happy travels!

Everest Base Camp Trek – THAT Lukla flight


There are a number of things that make the Everest Base Camp trek a completely iconic adventure and I think its fair to say that one of those is the transportation to and from the trail – i.e. the flight from Kathmandu to Lukla / Lukla to Kathmandu.

Kathmandu domestic terminalChances are you’ll stay somewhere in central Kathmandu before your trek to Base Camp; I stayed in Thamel when I was the tour manager for our Everest Base Camp trek in October 2012. From Thamel it was a short drive, approx. 25 minutes, to the domestic terminal at Kathmandu airport for the flight to Lukla.

We had organised to take one of the first flights out to Lukla as in general the earlier you fly in the morning the more stable the weather is, reducing the risk of the clouds coming in and making landing in Lukla impossible.

Kathmandu domestic terminal - baggage checkAt Kathmandu airport we lined up outside in the pitch black of the morning, passports, tickets and 200 Rupee airport tax payment at the ready. Our bags went through a rudimentary scanner, while each of us were patted down by the secuity staff. Then to ‘check in’. Our bags were put onto the luggage scales and weighed together as a combined amount. Some of the bags were overweight so it was arranged that they would follow the passenger plane on one of the freight planes¬† (we were there just a few weeks after the fatal aircraft crash at Kathmandu so all manner of security and procedure was stricter apparently).

Baggage being loadedTo get through into the departures area, we were patted down again and continued through to the large departures room for the long wait to departures. To board the 15-seater plane we were transported to the runway on a rickety minibus. Upon entering the plane we made a dash for the seats on the left hand side (for the best views of the Himalayas as you fly over) and the cabin stewardess came through with a tray of boiled sweets and cotton wool for the pressure and the noise respectively.

View from the flight to LuklaDespite being amped up for a scary roller-coaster of a flight it actually went very smoothly, landing gently and uneventfully. It was a good flight with nice views of the mountains during the 35 minutes in the air. Can’t complain really – nothing major to speak of!

The reverse journey was pretty much the same; with a physical inspection of your checked baggage and more pat downs as you come through into Lukla terminal, then a small room with souvenir stands that you wait in for your flight back to Kathmandu.  Again, no drama to speak of on the flight although the second half of my group who followed on the next plane had a bit of a hairy landing with a bit of a bounce and wobble on the runway. Flight landing in Lukla

I’m certain it’s more about the look of the runway in Lukla, and the reputation for danger (and of course the numerous crashes that have occurred) that makes people worry that the plane journey is trecherous. The thing to remember is it’s a 35 minute scenic flight or a 7-day walk!

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