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.

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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