Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Everest base camp, day 1: To Kathmandu

October 2014

Before I start let me tell you that this travelogue will not give full account of the trek to Everest Base Camp. The simple reason is that I could not complete it. It was my second attempt to reach EBC. Last year it was the bad weather that stopped us from starting this trek. Weather was good this year but apparently the mountains did not like us!!

Like last year, it was me and Subbu who went for the trek.

In the posts, I would like to provide information about trekking to this place individually with relatively less money as EBC is a very costly trip. One will be mainly spending on:
  • Air ticket from Bengaluru to Kathmandu: There is nothing much to do here rather than getting a good deal on flights.
  • Air ticket from Kathmandu to Lukla: Lukla is the starting point of the trek. The only way to reach this place is either by flight or foot. Flight takes 25 minutes while walking requires 7 days!! It is very hard to book the flight ticket online and you need to depend on Nepal travel agents for the same. For Indians, the return ticket costs about 11K INR. Nepalese get it cheaper while westerners need to shell out more money. Many travel agents refuse to just book the tickets. Instead, they see money in booking for entire trip.
  • Stay: It is a tea house trek and one can easily find hotels to stay at the end of the day. For NPR (Nepali Rupee) 200-300, we get a very decent room with common bathroom. There is a catch with the low price. People have to eat in their restaurants only!!
  • Food: The most expensive part of the trek. Expect to spend at least NPR 1500 – 2000 per day. The price increases as we climb up. As the area is not connected by motorable road, everything has to be flown in and then transported by human/animal and hence the reason of high price.
  • Permits: One needs permit to trek to EBC. Prices vary depending on whether you are travelling on your own or have a guide. More information on that later.
  • Guide: EBC is a busy route with proper trails. I do not see a need for the guide at all. But if you need, be prepared to pay for their flight to Lukla and then for their service on daily basis.
  • Porter: Since there is no need to carry tents and food items, the backpack will not be very heavy and I do not see a need of porter.  Having said that I did use porter due to my bad back. You can either hire from a travel agent in Kathmandu or get hire one outside Lukla airport!!
  • Water: If you plan to use bottled water, there are high chances that you go bankrupt!! At high altitude, one need to drink lot of water and a liter of bottled water costs at least NPR 150!! Tap water and stream water are available all along the way which can be used. We used water purifying tablets (Available in Kathmandu) to get rid of bacteria. It will have a tang of chlorine. There are handheld water purification systems like Steripen which do not add chlorine but we just used Chlorine.

Our travel to Kathmandu:
The Spice Jet maintained its reputation as their flights were delayed at both Bengaluru and New Delhi!! Anyway, we reached at 6:15PM at Kathmandu. Immigration happened in a jiffy. Just went to the counter where there was no queue and told that we were Indians. They did not even look at our immigration form and just asked us to continue further.

Note: Indians do not need a visa to enter Nepal. Passport is also not mandatory. Election card is accepted.

We took a pre paid taxi to Thamel, the main tourist area of Kathmandu. It costs NPR 700/- at the prepaid counter in the airport. We had not booked any hotel in Kathmandu. Thamel it full of hotels catering to various budgets. Just land in that place and choose whichever you like. But unfortunately, driver took us to a junk hotel called Skylark. It was cheap; we were tired so we just took it.

We just dropped our luggage in the room and went outside to get some essential things before the shops were closed. It was the day of Ayudha Puja and only few shops were opened. We quickly took water purifying tablets, recharged by NCell SIM card, converted our currency to NPR and had our dinner.

Note: 1 INR = 1.6 NPR. Indian currency is widely accepted in Nepal. But it is better to have some Nepali currency in case if someone refuses to accept INR. Also, 500 and 1000 rupee notes are not accepted in Nepal and are also illegal to carry. So, it makes sense to convert INR to NPR to avoid carrying 100 rupee notes.

We were all set for the trek next day. Permits were needed but that could be managed later. Sadly I could not sleep properly due to the ruckus made by some Indians in the hotel.