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.
Today was New Year’s Day in Nepal – the first day of the year 2073. As we’ve now discovered, Nepal uses the Bikram Samvat calendar, a solar calendar based on ancient Hindu tradition that’s 56.7 years ahead of the Gregorian calendar used in the West.
Our day started with an undulating walk that took us through a series of small villages and eventually to the entrance of Sagarmatha National Park, the 1,200-square-kilometre park that protects Mount Everest and other Himalayan peaks in eastern Nepal. At around 11am, we reached the village of Monjo, where we gathered in a restaurant for an early lunch (served in the restaurant’s dining room but cooked by our kitchen team). We then set off on a nice flat path that took us through a village, across the Dudh Kosi river a few times via suspension bridges and then, eventually, down into the river’s ancient bed. Again, the track was quite busy, with several other trekking groups following the same route.
We soon reached the confluence of the Dudh Kosi and Bhote Kosi rivers, where we were confronted by not one more bridge but two – one above the other. The lower bridge was no longer in use, and we had a steep climb up to the higher one. We then had a very disconcerting walk across the swaying, bouncing bridge as a stiff wind blew up the valley and past us, sending the prayer flags and Khata scarves tied to the bridge into a violent flutter.
Once we got to the other side, we headed up… And up… And up… The climb, through a pine forest, was relentless and punishingly steep. However, as tired as we were, we were regularly handed the reality check of a porter climbing beside us with a load that was almost certainly greater than my body weight. The one saving grace was that we were mostly walking in shade and there was a cool breeze blowing.
Partway up, we stopped at a rest stop with a choice of toilets – one paid and one free (no prizes for guessing which was cleaner). There was quite a crowd of people catching their breath here, including several porters, one of whom pointed to a gap in the trees and said ‘Everest’. Sadly, however, the world’s highest mountain wasn’t putting in an appearance today as it was shrouded in cloud.
Continuing up, we trudged through the forest, lost in our own exhausted thoughts, until we finally emerged from the trees and found ourselves on the outskirts of Namche Bazaar, our destination for today. Spread out around a natural amphitheatre, Namche is the main trading centre of the Khumbu region and today acts as a hub (and useful acclimatisation stop) for trekkers on their way into the high Himalaya. It’s also reportedly the most expensive population centre in Nepal, with prices at least three times those in Kathmandu.
We still had a bit of a climb ahead of us as our lodge, Hotel Sherwi Khangba, was located way up above the village itself, but we got there in the end. We were at 3,440 metres now, and for the first time, I began to notice the altitude – having to stop and catch my breath every now and then, even when I was at rest. It was also noticeable colder, and there were a few spots of rain as we arrived at the hotel.
Then it was time for hot showers, device charging and a buffet dinner (with wine!). After the meal (which had been cooked by the hotel chef), our chef brought us a special elaborately decorated New Year’s cake for dessert.
Australian Himalayan Foundation
Kathmandu community partnerships
Kathmandu Summit Club treks