Base Camp. Day 12, Namche Bazar to Lukla

We woke up today to a fierce electrical thunderstorm that had given us a light dump of snow. The atmosphere was cold and damp. As luck would have it, the precipitation had stopped by the time we finished breakfast, but it was still cold with poor visibility.

So, dressed in our warmest clothing we set off downhill towards Phakding, our destination for lunch. Very quickly, the weather changed and we were stripping off our layers in an effort to cool down. The zip off trousers, fashion faux pas they may be, came in very useful here.

One advantage of the rain from the previous night was that the dust that we’d experienced on the uphill direction on this path, several days ago, was now gone and the ground was much easier to walk on. That is, until we got to the rocks, which now had a lovely film of gritty, greasy mud over them. Not much fun.

After several hours and many bridges we eventually reached Phakding, and sat and ate in the teahouse where we had stayed, what felt like, a lifetime ago. A final dose of Dhal Bat power to get us up the hill to Lukla.

The afternoon’s final push is all uphill, Phakding is some 200m lower down than Lukla. This is probably the last thing that you need after nearly 11 days of trekking. Head down for the final stretch and, after about 3 hours we made it into Lukla, whose gate is adorned with a bust of the first lady to climb Everest.

Lukla itself is a thriving town that we missed entirely on our first time here. There are many bars and restaurants, along with shops selling a variety of gifts, souvenirs and kit that you might need for your trek. I’m told that there’s a fake Starbucks here but we didn’t spot it as we passed through.

Our teahouse for the night was directly next to the airport, a stone’s throw from the runway. All we needed was clear skies in the morning and we’d be on our way back to Kathmandu. What we really didn’t want was to be woken up by another thunderstorm at 0530! The rain was beating down and visibility was near zero.

Browbeaten by the weather, and the prospect of being stuck in Lukla, potentially missing our flight back home, we packed our stuff and headed down for breakfast, only to be surprised by the sound of aircraft landing on the runway. Amazing, the cloud had cleared and the flights were getting through.

Our flight was scheduled for 0840. The guide took us to the airport at a comically late 0815, which is apparently normal for these flights. Checking was a bit stressful as there was no one on the check-in desk until 0830, but we managed to clear security and check in our bags well before the proposed departure time.

We then waited, and waited. Planes had stopped arriving and it looked like the clouds were beginning to draw in again.

After nearly an hour, music to our ears, the sound of a plane landing. The airport erupted into a fury of activity once more and we made our way down onto the tarmac, ready for the return journey to the chaos of Kathmandu.

The flight was amazing as we zipped between the clouds and the mountains. Skimming across the landscape, mere metres above the rocks, avoiding the clouds on the way back to civilisation, sad that our journey was over.