In early April, National Geographic Traveller Aus/NZ editor Geordie Torr and competition winner Laura Waters joined a group of Kathmandu Summit Club members for a 14-day ‘Rebuild Nepal’ trek through the foothills of the Himalaya. Having raised funds for the Australian Himalayan Foundation (AHF) as a way of giving back to the communities that they would visit, the group visited schools in the Solukhumbu district to see first-hand some of the work that’s being carried out by rural education and environment NGO REED Nepal, with support from the AHF and Kathmandu, before joining the ‘tourist circuit’ for views of Mount Everest and other famous Himalayan peaks.
From our campsite this morning we could see a steady stream of small planes coming in to land at Lukla airport. Favourable conditions for landing at the tiny airport (which is frequently labelled the world’s scariest, due to its extremely short uphill airstrip, which terminates in a rock wall) tend to be confined to the morning, so the planes were lining up to make the most of the perfect weather.
Our route this morning took us through more forest. The connection to the grid that was underway back down the track had been completed here some time ago, but instead of metal poles, the wires had been connected to dead trees.
As we walked, we continued to pass large numbers of heavily laden mules, but today they were joined by jopkyos – a cross between a cow and a yak – also carrying heavy loads.
After lunch, the trail took us uphill into a village that was undergoing some ‘beautification’, with a series of newly installed copper prayer wheels adorning the shrines along the path. There was quite a large amount of earthquake damage visible in the village and for the first time, we started to see German Red Cross tents amid the rubble.
At first, the village was quiet, near-deserted, but as we walked, it slowly and imperceptibly morphed into tourist central and the peace and tranquillity to which was had become accustomed was replaced by the clatter of walking poles on paving stones. We had now joined the route that links Lukla to Namche Bazar and on to Everest Base Camp, following the Dudh Khosi River, and the increase in tourist numbers, and in businesses set up to cater to tourists, was quite startling. The farmhouses that lined the track were replaced with hotels and restaurants, virtually all of which seemed to have names containing some combination of ‘Sherpa’, ‘Everest’, ‘Himalaya’ and ‘view’, such as Sherpa’s Viewpoint Lodge and Himalayan Sherpa Lodge, and we started to pass bars that offered free pool tables and popcorn, from which emanated the soothing sounds of AC/DC and Creedence Clearwater Revival.
We also began to see lots more porters carrying much heavier and more precarious loads, made up of everything from beer and noodles to fresh eggs and the ubiquitous gas cylinders. KK explained that a lot of this stuff was cargo coming in via the airport at Lukla and then out to the surrounding villages. The porters are paid by the kilo, so will pile their loads up to their physical limit – in some cases carrying more than 100 kilograms, and as much as 160 percent of their body weight.
At about 4pm, after around seven hours of walking, we crossed one final bridge and arrived at our campsite. The tents were being set up on a patch of grass in front of a restaurant, right beside the main thoroughfare through the village, so we were feeling more than usually on display.
Australian Himalayan Foundation
Kathmandu community partnerships
Kathmandu Summit Club treks