The spider incident
Jason and I cower on the bed giggling hysterically as Simon chases the most ginormous spider I’ve ever seen. The bugger is clinging to the curtain above my bed and looks like a character in a horror movie. It has a big bulbous body and huge stringy legs and looks like it could eat flesh. Despite Jason’s pleas to ignore it, I know full well that is impossible. Instead, I rope in help from one of our fellow trekkers. With tissues in hand, Simon tries to grab it and squash it, but its muscly core proves almost indestructible. It falls on the bed writhing, and I have visions of its reincarnation as an even uglier and bigger beast. Eventually, Simon whisks it away and my heartbeat returns to normal. Who would have thought that in the mountainous region of Nepal, bloody massive spiders and other nasty bugs would be an issue? Yet clearly they are, as I’ve got a multitude of bites on my body to prove it. And, this is just the start of our journey: Everest Base Camp Trek Day One.
Dawn in Cheplung
What an end to a stressful day. It started at the crack of dawn when we left Dhulikhel Lodge Resort and drove three hours on winding tracks and dusty roads to Manthali airport. Even that journey wasn’t without incident as we picked up a puncture en route. On a dusty road, high above a boulder-strewn valley, we watched as our driver skilfully changed the tyre. One person worriedly asked if we would miss our flight but it seems flight times are very elastic at this airport.
It’s a fascinating journey, which provides an insight into Nepalese life. We spot a makeshift car wash, a stream which cascades over the road, which we cautiously drive through. Then, a jeep with a goat on the roof, and it appears we play chicken with countless oncoming cars on the perilous mountain road. Paddy fields cling to the hillside and we approach a glacial river which churns through the valley before we cross a bridge and ascend the range on the other side.
The drama continues as we arrive at Manthali airport to find utter chaos.
The flights to Lukla the previous day were all cancelled due to bad weather, and the airport operates a policy of clearing the backdrop before taking the day’s passengers. There must be 300 people clamouring around the tiny terminal with dozens more in the few cafes surrounding the airport. It is utter bedlam, with backpacks littering the ground and travellers desperately jostling for space. The airport is on a dusty plain and before long we are caked in dust. There’s nothing to do but wait so we find a spot on a café terrace and settle in.
From our arrival at 8.15, plane after plane leaves with no indication of when we might leave. Our airline, Spirit Airlines has only two planes in service and one pilot takes ill in flight leaving just one plane operational. Meanwhile, more and more people arrive and depart before us.
In the hot roasting sun tempers fray as our hopes of leaving diminish. We are all keen to start the trek, but as morning turns to lunch and lunch turns to mid-afternoon we start to doubt that we will get to Lukla today (by the way, if you are considering an EBC trek, this is normal so prepare for anything).
Then suddenly I hear John, our Action Challenge guide, shout ‘we need four people’. Everyone scrambles as we mistakenly assume that they have found seats on another airline. Soon word gets around that, in fact, Action Challenge have chartered helicopters for us. The excitement builds!
With a group of 24 it is still to be a long, harried wait as we watch group after group head to the gate (the departure terminal is about the size of our spare bedroom!) Finally, Jason and I, Daisy the doctor, Art from Belarus and Keith from Barnsley are next in line.
Helicopter through the Himalayas
What a wonderful turn of events. A proper helicopter trip through the Himalayas to Lukla. After all our stressful packing and repacking to ensure our bags don’t exceed the 10kg and 5kg allowance, the helicopter company doesn’t even weigh our luggage (blimey, I could have brought all those protein snacks after all!). But still more stress awaits, as a member of airport staff tells us check-in is closed and the security lady is nowhere to be seen. We explain that we are leaving by helicopter and someone hurriedly finds her. They might as well not bother, for the lax check she gives us.
Then we are into the waiting area praying that no further incidents arise. Finally, our call comes and we head to the helicopter, huge grins on our faces. The flight through the valley is incredible with views of rice paddies and tiny hamlets clinging to the hillside. All too soon however we land in Lukla and the short trek to our teahouse and the spider incident begins.
Why Everest Base camp?
We trekked to Everest Base Camp to challenge ourselves physically and mentally, but foremost to raise money for Bluebell Wood Children’s Hospice in South Yorkshire. They care for children with life-changing and life-threatening illnesses and if you would like to sponsor us we would be so grateful. Just pop to our justgiving page.
Furthermore, if you’d like to follow our day by day account of the trip in all its wonderful and ghastly detail then sign up to the newsletter to be notified when new posts go live.
Our route for day one:
Here’s the short route we followed on day one. Hats off to Action Challenge who chartered helicopters and also organised new accommodation nearer to Lukla given our late departures. Impressive indeed!
Day one fast facts
2,850 Lukla to 2,800 Cheplung
Khumbula Lodge with communal bathroom and a free shared hot shower.
Top kit pick
Given how dusty this area is, antibacterial wipes and hand cleaner is essential. We bought all ours from amazon and loved the Clinell wipes. I ended up using these to wipe cutlery, my hands, random surfaces and so much more.