Onwards to Everest Base Camp (day one)

Bad weather and poor visibility meant we were grounded for a week. Every morning we would arrive at the airport only to see the fateful words – delayed then cancelled – on the computer screen. Finally, there was a break in the weather and we hurried onto the Twin Otter before the flight was cancelled.

I felt like India Jones climbing into the little tin plane. No sooner as we had taken off, it was time to land. Lukla airport was about half an hour away, nestled 2,800m up in the mountains.I was also slightly nervous. Lukla was named one of the most dangerous airports in the world for its 420m long runway uphill, changeable weather and 2,000m sheer drop off the mountain face. Unlike the modern aircraft that we had flown over from the UK, the Twin Otter was dated but it had a charm to it. The pilots didn’t bother to close the door so I could see straight into the cockpit and out the main window where I saw the Himalayas for the first time.

Wherever there are tourists, there are Irish pubs and Starbucks. Lukla wasn’t any different, except there was also a Scottish pub thrown in for good measure. Living in the mountains is a precarious and hard. We passed boxes asking passing hikers to donate money to rebuild homes which were destroyed by rockfalls. People eke out a living from being a porter, guide or running a teahouse.

Playing Moving Tigers at Kathmandu airport

Our plane

The pubs
The pubs

Children playing

Suspension bridge

Toilet in the middle of nowhere

Home destroyed from rock falls
Home destroyed from rockfalls

Donation to build a housePleaPorter taking a rest

Mantras
Mantras
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Swayambhu – the Monkey Temple of Kathmandu

High on a hill outside of Kathmandu is one of the holiest and oldest Buddhist sites in Nepal. As the name suggests, the Monkey Temple is full of, well, monkeys (and us). This was day three into my 18 day trip to Everest.

Legend has it that Kathmandu Valley was once a lake with lotus flowers floating around. Bodhisattva (meaning enlightened being) Manjusri saw a bright flame coming out of a lotus that seemed to be planted on a hill. In order to get closer to this lotus, he drained the lake by slashing it with his sword which became the gorge at Chobar – nine kilometers from Kathmandu.

The lotus flower turned into the Swayambhu stupa where both Buddhists and Hindus come to worship. The Tibetan name for the site means ‘Sublime Trees’ and was built some 2000 years ago using 20kg of gold.

On each side of the stupa are a pair of eyes which follow you around and represents wisdom and compassion.

Swayambhu is geared up for tourists and sometimes the monkeys misbehave, so watch out! The site has two entrances with around 365 steps. If you’re in Nepal for to hike the mountains is a gentle introduction to walking.

Shrines at Swayambu, Nepal. Photo by Sarah Rajabalee
Shrines at Swayambu, Nepal. Photo by Sarah Rajabalee

Prayer wheels at Swayambu, Nepal. Photo by Sarah Rajabalee
Prayer wheels at Swayambu, Nepal. Photo by Sarah Rajab

Climbing the steps
Climbing the steps

Selling wares at the temple
Selling wares at the temple

My Everest group
My Everest group