Day 1 – Lukla to Monjo
Weather: Warm – shorts/t-shirt
Flight to Lukla: 30min
Trekking time: 6h
Altitude change (Lukla to Monjo): +13 ft
Hot showers: yes
Blankets and pillows: yes
Wifi: Wasn’t working
Bedtime Room Temperature: 63 F @ 8pm
Morning Room Temperature: 51 F @ 6:30am
After being at the Yak and Yeti hotel in Kathmandu for a few days this was finally the big day we’d all been waiting for – the big scary flight to Lukla, the most dangerous airport in the world. We had all read and heard a lot about it as well as watching youtube videos of the others landing there. Some people had said it was the scariest experience of their life.
We woke up at 4am to gather our belongings and make final checks that we had all of what we thought to be the correct gear for the trek. The hotel was kind enough to make us some breakfast before departing for the airport at 5am. We had 2 piles of bags in the lobby – a “stay” and a “go”. You can leave some belongings that you don’t need for the trek in the hotel in Kathmandu. Many of us even left our passports in our bags as we were told we wouldn’t need them for the trek. Despite all sorts of piles of bags in the lobby of the hotel both pre and post trek they all seemed safe and no one messed with them. I did put a small TSA lock on the 22” carryon that I left at the hotel.
A large van/small bus arrived and our porters put all of large duffels up on the roof of the van, we all piled inside and headed off to the airport. There were a lot of people there also apparently hoping for a flight for Lukla. The flights are weather dependent since there is no radar and the planes depend on being able to see where they are going. People can get stranded trying to get in or out of Lukla for several days if the weather is poor.
The domestic departure terminal was under construction and looking pretty rough, although I suppose about what you’d expect for a 3rd world airport. As we were waiting to get in we watched monkeys crawl through the bushes and tried to stay out of the way of all of the stray dogs that seem to populate Nepal as rabies is apparently common. We would encounter these throughout the trek. They all seemed friendly enough. They would walk along with us on the trails never seeming to really want anything other than our company, despite the fact that no one fed or pet them and they never really approached us.
The process in the terminal can be best described as a minimally controlled chaos. I have no idea how anyone knew anything that was happening and if we didn’t have our guides to tell us when and what to do I’m sure we’d still be sitting there. I’d been anal in planning the weight of my bags to keep them under the allotted 15kg/32lbs to the point that I even made a spreadsheet with the weights of each item. I pictured you’d go up and they would individually weigh your bag and if you were over you’d just have to leave something at the airport to make weight. It turns out that the weighing process was pretty unscientific. They took about 10 of our daypacks and pile them all on a scale to get an aggregate weight, repeating until they’d weighed all the bags I assume the same happened with the duffels although I didn’t see it. They didn’t weigh us though.
We went through a light security sending the daypacks we were carrying on through an x-ray machine. There was a very light pat down and then we were into the departure terminal. Some people seem to get stuck here like they are in purgatory, but we were only there for about 5 minutes before they apparently called our flight. I say apparently because I have no idea how anyone knows when and where to go in this airport. We loaded on 2 busses which took us out to our 2 planes and we took off within 30min of leaving the terminal. Here is a video of our flight into and out of Lukla.
People describe these flights as the scariest thing in their life with all of the turbulence, and the landing pushes it even further. Perhaps we were just lucky because our 30min flight and landing were amazingly smooth. No big deal at all.
After everything I’d researched, I was almost in awe to finally be in Lukla (alive). We walked up and around the airport to a small restaurant where we had our first cups of Nepali tea, repacked our bags and then set off. The lemon tea was unlike anything I’d ever had with deep rich flavor without adding any sugar. You will become very accustomed to drinking tea as that is the only beverage served with meals on the trek. I was hoping to explore the town, but we would have plenty of time for that on the way back down. I did at least get a selfie with the Lukla Starbucks.
We got to know some of our new guides on our first trek. They were all super friendly and helpful. The trail was a twisty, hilly, dirty path. After about 5h with a lunch break in the middle we arrived at the Monju Lodge in Monjo around 3pm. We picked up our duffels which our porters had placed in the hallway and ‘checked in’ to our rooms. Room keys were always handed our randomly except when there was a single room. The way the numbers worked out in our group with males, females and couples, I lucked out and had a room to myself for most of the trip.
The rooms were about as I’d expected from all of my online research. They are simple small plywood rooms just large enough for 2 twin beds. There is a padlock on the door, blanket and pillow for each bed. The sheets looked like they’d been washed, but I would doubt the blankets are washed very often as everything is done by hand and line dried.
One of the couples actually had a shower in their room which they let me use. We hung out for the rest of the afternoon. Our guides and porters busied themselves with a game of wiffle ball. I’d watched porters carry loads on their head all day and thought I’d give it a try. Wow, I can’t imagine navigating the trails with one of those. Insane!
We eventually had dinner and as there is nothing to do at night went to bed around 8pm