Although there were options to fly via India, I elected to take a Flydubai flight, the only airline to fly direct from DXB to KTM.
Then flying on from Kathmandu to Tenzing-Hillary Airport, and then trekking on to Namche Bazar and hopefully to catch a glimpse of Mount Everest.
About to catch the Flydubai flight to Kathmandu on Wednesday afternoon after work, with another Flydubai 737 taking off in the backgroud.
For the 4 hour flight I bought a couple of chicken wraps and a can of 7Up for a reasonable 45 AED ($12) for dinner.
Arriving at Kathmandu's Tribhuvan International Airport at 11pm. I was expecting the weather to be cool, but was actually quite warm and was fine in my t-shirt.
With my $25 15 day tourist and about to pick up my pack. They were checking everyone's luggage tags with their baggage slips and was causing a bit of a queue.
In the hotel shuttle winding through the narrow alleys of Thamel in the middle of Kathmandu.
Checked into my hotel at about midnight, and got a welcome note from the guide for the trip since I missed the pre-trip meeting earlier in the day. 5am meeting in the lobby for the ride back to the airport so just enough time for a bit of sleep.
Got up at 4:30am, had a quick shower and shave, and met up with the rest of the group in the lobby. Just five others on the trip, with a couple from Perth, Australia, a couple of German girls living/working in Beijing, and a Swiss girl on her big OE.
The front entrance of the hotel. The path ahead has names written on it of famous guests, including the Beatles, Ricky Martin and Jeremy Irons.
After catching a ride to the airport, we queued up outside the domestic terminal. A bit of construction going on, so quite dark and lots of things to trip on:).
Got through security and into the check-in area. Both check-in and hand luggage had to be weighed since we were flying on a small turbo-prop for the flight out to Lukla.
About to board the Tara Air DHC-6 Twin Otter at dawn.
Banking left after takeoff over Kathmandu in the early morning sun.
Definitely the most colourful boarding pass I've ever had! We would be trekking up to Namche Bazar on Day 2.
Amazing scenery as we fly through the hills and up into the mountains.
After a successful landing at Tenzing-Hillary Airport (LUA), the 'worlds most dangerous airport'.
LUA airport is at an elevation of 2,860 metres, has a runway length of only 460 metres, and has a gradient/slope of 12% (uphill for landing, downhill for take-off).
Outside arrivals after picking up our packs.
At a Lukla restaurant to get some breakfast to fuel us for the morning trek to the village of Phakding.
After breakfast, I headed back to the airport to watch the early morning flights that were still coming in. As the planes literally land/take-off from a cliff, there can often be updrafts of wind that startle the pilot as he approaches the runway threshold.
Also, as the runway directly faces the mountain, there is no option to abort the landing on short final.
We had some time before we started the trek to Phakding, so our guide Ramesh took us for a walk around Lukla. Some locals playing a game similar to snooker, but with small discs on chalk covered board.
At the local morning markets.
Eggs for sale.
Got my TIMs card checked and signed off by the police before heading off on the trek.
And leaving the main gate out of Lukla just after 9am.
After an initial steep drop, the track was fairly easy going.
Dhaka topi (Nepali hat).
Perfect weather for trekking with the sun out and not too hot either.
Quite a few swing bridges to cross and take in the view below.
Buddhist prayer wheels which you could spin for good luck.
Some religious script etched into the cliff face.
After 3 hours of trekking, we arrived at our lodge in Phakding at about 12pm. Elevation of 2,440 metres, or ~400 metres less than Lukla.
We then had some lunch, and I chose chicken steak with some local vegetables.
My cabin, room #108.
Quite cosy and clean inside, and a western toilet in the back too:). I was pretty knackered after the flight, early morning and then 3 hour trek, so crashed out for a few hours.
I got up at 4pm and had a walk around the village, including the waterfall right in the middle.
Two porters baskets loaded up. Everything must be brought in either via donkey, yakow (yak/cow hybrid) or on a porter's back.
I then met up with our guide and the rest of the group at 5pm for a trek into the hill's. Unfortunately soon after I paused to take a photo on the bridge I lost sight of the rest of the group! I set off to explore on my own instead.
The Dhudh Kosi River.
I trekked up into the hills and came across a picturesque farming village.
After trekking up further into the hills, I came across a couple kids dresed in religious clothing. Unfortunately they couldn't speak english, but I managed to use a bit of sign language to ask them if I could take their portrait.
Further up the hill I found their Monastery.
The main monastery building.
They seemed quite surprised to see a westerner this far off the main track:).
At 6pm it was starting to get dark, so I headed back down the hill.
Another porter carrying up fresh supplies.
I made it back to Phakding and found my guide in the porter's cabin, wondering where I had been:).
Playing cards with the rest of the guys at the lodge in the evening.
And having some tasty meat momo, or steamed dumplings for dinner.
Up at 7am on the morning of Day 2. A few Yakow's heading back down through the village to pick up another load.
Hot chocolate to warm myself up:).
And scrambled eggs and toast for breakfast.
Trekking through the valley with Kongde Ri peak in the background. A big trekking day today, rising from 2,450 metres in Phakding and finishing up at Namche Bazar at 3,440 meters, with ~ 7 hours on our feet.
Stopping mid-morning for a cup of tea and a break in the village of Benkar.
A convoy of donkey's hauling gas tanks across the river. Donkeys, yakows and porters had right of way, so we had to double back and let them through:).
Me at the Sagarmatha National Park gate.
Descending into Sagarmatha with a beautiful waterfall falling down the mountain.
Where we stopped for lunch before the 3 hour hike up to Namche.
Chicken pizza for lunch to fuel me for the long uphill hike to come:).
Old Larche Dibhan Bridge.
After a 2 hour hard slog up the hill we made it to the top!
After a bit more trekking we finally made it to Namche Bazar at about 4pm. Elevation of 3,440 metres so the air was quite thin.
The main village stupa.
The bells the donkeys and yakow wear to warn you of approaching convoys:).
We checked into our lodge, and I got a corner room overlooking the village.
And the view below.
After having a shower, I went out to explore the village.
I stopped at this souvenir shop and couldn't resist and bought my own yakow bell to take home to remind me of the trip:).
Green & blue.
Caught up with everyone in the evening and had beef steak and noodles for dinner, before heading to bed early after a long and interesting day.
Woke up a few times in the night gasping for air with the 3,440 metre altitude, which was quite weird. Still managed to get a decent sleep though.
The amazing view from my (other) window in the morning, with Kongde Ri peak in the background.
Tibetan bread and eggs for breakfast to prepare for the hike up to 3,880 metres to see Everest.
Just after 7am, we headed up to the Namche markets and had a look around. As it was quite early, only a few people were about.
We then trekked up to a hill above Namche. Luckily the weather gods were looking after us and we got an almost cloudless view of Everest! (peak near the top middle).
The plan was to then visit the Everest museum and then trek up to the Everest View Hotel at 3,880 metres to get a better view of Everest. I was anxious that the clouds would start coming in and obscure Everest and didn't want to miss the view. So I asked my guide that I would skip the museum and trek up by myself to the Everest lookout and meet up later with everyone there.
Trekking up the hill.
Looking back at Kongde Ri peak on the way up.
A helicopter dropping off some passengers at the now-derelict Syangboche airstrip.
Khumjung village in the valley behind the tree's.
The path to Everest (second peak from left).
My 'selfie' at the lookout with Everest (third peak from left, by the clouds). As I was early, there was no other guests there but managed to prop my camera on a ledge for this photo.
The village of Phortse Gaon (3,810 metres) middle left, with the summit of Everest peaking out from the clouds at 1 o'clock. Phortse Gaon is where the trekkers going on to Everest base camp stay after Namche to acclimatise to the altitude.
I then grabbed some Masala tea and enjoyed the amazing view.
The rest of the team arrived about 45 minutes later, and we grabbed this group photo at 3,880 metres:).
Other trekkers enjoying thre breathtaking view of the 'top of the world'.
With the clouds coming in, we had to make do with the picture on the local brew instead:).
After enjoying our morning at the Everest lookout, we then started the journey back down to Namche. The peak of Kangtega in the background.
After racing up the mountain in the morning, I took a more leisurely walk back down and admired the local flora.
Looking down over Namche.
Colourful prayer flags fluttering in the wind.
After packing up our packs at the lodge, we grabbed some lunch. Chilli chicken and fries.
We then said farewell to Namche and started the trek back down the valley.
Yakow's lumbering up the hill.
Porters taking a break at the checkpoint. They were pretty amazing with how much they would haul up on their backs, literally strapping 2-3 of the tourists packs together, and hauling them up the mountain barely panting.
Another Yakow convoy starting the ascent.
Coming down the mountain.
By the river. Much easier going downhill!!
Another picturesque waterfall.
As we descended back down into the valley, we were back among the villages again.
We made it to our lodge in Benkar at about 5pm.
And the picturesque view from my window.
Our dinner underway at about 6pm in the lodge kitchen.
I ordered fried meat momo, and got to see them being made and cooked.
And they tasted as good as they looked!
Our porters for the trip who hauled our 5 packs up and down the mountains, Sharan and Rajendra.
Last day of trekking today, walking back down to Lukla.
Breakfast at the lodge in Benkar, apple pancakes with honey and a couple of poached eggs.
Another beautiful day with great weather to be out trekking and enjoying the amazing scenery.
We stopped mid-morning for a break and hot drink in Phakding.
Yakows going anti-clockwise around the stupa (you are supposed to go clockwise for good luck).
Having a spin.
Mother and son.
You know you're back in civilisation when you see a YakDonald's sign! We made it back to Lukla at about 12:30pm after a good mornings trek.
The restaurant at our lodge had a bit of a view of the airport so we could see the planes landing and taking off. You can also just make out the 12% slope of the runway.
Roast chicken and mashed spuds for lunch.
After having a much needed shower and changing into clean clothes, I headed out for a walk around Lukla. No cars, motorbikes or even bicycles in the whole town so very pedestrian friendly.
Crying / Drying.
Last dinner of the trek. We shouted for the meals of Sharan & Rajendra so they could join us also. I had Yak sizzler, which was pretty tasty but a bit tough:).
The moonlit view from my room at the lodge.
Chaos at check-in for the flight back to Kathmandu in the early morning. Luckily we were booked on the first flight of the day so skipped to the front of the queue.
Another colourful boarding pass (for flight #1) with a view out over the airport apron.
Our aircraft after landing. A Dornier Do 228 instead today.
They make very quick turn arounds, making us queue on the apron to board before the flight had even landed, and only turning off the port side engine.
I managed to snag a front seat, and got to literally look over the pilots shoulders on the take-off roll.
Climbing out over the hills.
Quite foggy in Kathmandu and only saw the ground when we got quite low in altitiude.
The Dornier being prepped for another flight into the mountains.
Picking up our packs at baggage claim before catching a mini-van to our hotel.
Back at the Kathmandu Guesthouse. It used to be an old Rama palace but has now been turned into a hotel.
I then caught up with everyone for breakfast at the Himalyan Java cafe.
And had a delicious ham and cheese omelette for 300 rupees (~$3).
Ramesh then took us for a walk into town to the local shops. Got some good portraits of the locals, including this interesting looking guy:).
We stopped off at a brass/copper shop where I got a souvenir Yakow to take home.
At an upstairs pashmina shop where the ladies did some hard bargaining.
We then went to a Thamel vegetarian restaurant called OR2K for a late lunch.
The pesto toasted sandwich and banana lassi I got to enjoy.
I then headed off on my own and went for a walk to Durbar square in the the old town. An interesting place to wander about and take it all in.
Kala Bhairava, a manifestation of Shiva.
And plenty of pigeons:).
Banana's for scale. I then walked back through the city to the hotel.
I caught up with some of the guys for dinner at 7pm, having some very tasty pork tandoori.
And saying farewell to our guide, Ramesh:).
The restaurant, 'Rum Doodle', is a traditional meeting place for trekkers, and had signatures for famous mountaineers who have eaten there, including Sir Edmund Hillary.
Apa Sherpa, who has now made a record 21 ascents of Everest.
New Zealand mountaineers, Gary Ball and Rob Hall, who climbed the seven tallest mountains on each continent in seven months. Ball died in 1993 of cerebral edema from altitude sickness. Hall died in the 1996 Everest disaster, and will be played by actor Jason Clarke, opposite Jake Gyllenhaal playing American Scott Fishcer, in the 2015 movie 'Everest'.
My last day in Nepal, so slept in a bit, then got up for a run through the dusty streets of Kathmandu, and then headed to the Himalayan cafe for chocolate chip pancake and ice cream for breakfast:).
I then caught a rickshaw for the 2 kilometre ride to Swayambhunath, or Monkey temple.
At the top after climbing up the 365 steep steps.
The 5th century temple is built on top of a hill and had a great view of Kathmandu below.
Some of the numerous wild monkeys roaming about.
I then walked back through the streets of Kathmandu back to Thamel.
I had a cooking class organised in the afternoon, so skipped lunch and just chilled out in the hotel garden sipping mint-lemonade and relaxing and reading a book.
At 2pm we headed off to a nearby cooking class. Aminda teaching us how to make the local dish of momo, or steamed dumplings.
Our dumplings all ready to be steamed. Unfortunately we had a power cut half-way through and had to make them in semi-darkness:).
And the finished dish. Spicy tomato salsa on the left and peanut sauce on the right. The wedge shaped dumplings were vegetarian (cabbage and onion) and the round ones were chicken.
And for dessert we had some special momo's we had made, filled with mars bar:).
I still had a few hours before my flight back home, so went for one last walk through Kathmandu.
The sun was beginning to set, so everything was bathed in a nice red hue.
Was great to just sit back and watch the city in motion at the end of a day.
Had a few rupee's left so went and bought some Nepali sweets before catching a taxi to the airport.
And about to board the Flydubai 737 for the flight back home after an amazing time in Nepal!