Kathmandu to Phakding

The next morning we woke at 6 am and headed to the airport to have another attempt at getting out to Lukla. We had decided that rather than waiting all day to get our flight (as we were now back of the queue) which could have been cancelled, that we will hire helicopters instead. Much safer to land a chopper in Lukla than a plane.

Lukla, our destination for the day. One of the most difficult landings in the world. Worth a search on Youtube (Thanks for the photo Paul)

We all yet again weighed our bags, paid our fees and headed out the back of the airport behind the runways to the helicopter hangars. The chopper flights were divided into three and me along with three others were on the second chopper. The helicopter of choice in this part of the world is the Eurocopter, the same model which is in the record books for landing on the summit of Everest for two minutes. The machine was amazing. Brand new, ultra-modern design, incredibly powerful and fast.

We packed our bags, closed the doors and lifted off. The machine glided over the grassy area at the back of the airport which then gave way to the busy outskirts of Kathmandu.

Ready to go
We thumped past the city, over farms tiered up ever increasingly large hills. We could see our destination, the giant frozen Himalaya in the distance. After around 40 minutes, Lukla airstrip came into sight. We lined up for a landing just left of the famous angled runway yet pulled out at the last minute as the pilot saw another plane coming in behind us so cleared the way. All the flying in this region follows VFR (Visual Flight Rules) so all pilots need to have a keen eye!
Our first views of the icy peaks of the Himalaya

We landed at Lukla, met the rest of the team, collected our bags, ate some food and started the long awaited trek to our first destination; Phakding.

 More gear organising in Lukla

The trek was leisurely and warm in the blazing sun. It was an overall descent although the journey itself was gradual inclines and declines. The scenery became more impressive as we followed a stone pathway deeper into the mountainous valley. Along the way we would constantly come to little villages which had all sorts of tiny family run shops selling all the creature comforts a trekker could want such as snacks, clothing and equipment.

The suspension bridge which led us to our accommodation for the night

After only about 3 hours we crossed an impressive cable suspension bridge and strolled into Phakding where to my amazement we were not staying in a wooden hut yet a full on mountain lodge. Considering where we were the place was amazing. There was a main eating/communal area with separate buildings which had small plywood lined rooms with simple beds, mattresses and bedding. I was expecting sleeping bags on the ground so this was luxury!

After a hot meal and a decent sleep we met in the communal area for breakfast, put on our packs and set off even deeper into the valley towards the ice giants which were beginning to show their heads behind the clouds.

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