Trekking Lukla to Monjo
Energized for our first trekking day, we passed through the town of Phakding (the usual first stop at 8,562 ft) and headed for Monjo at 9,300 ft, a small town two hours further down the trail. Many organized groups hike immediately to Phakding after landing in Lukla, but that leaves a much longer next day to Namche Bazar. Our thoughts were to push past Phakding and stay in Monjo to shorten our next day, which we heard was a bitch.
We left Lukla around 9:00 am and quickly changed clothing as the sun made for a very warm morning.We questioned our pack loads as Sherpa carrying much larger loads passed by.
The trail out of Lukla descends immediately 1,000 ft over 3 hours, which made for a leisurely walk downhill. We knew we’d have to go back up it upon returning to Lukla, but that day was so far away, we kept moving. We met an Australian named Adam who was also trekking to Base Camp, although he was staying in Phakding for the night. We chatted with him and his guide while we leap frogged one another, taking water breaks thoughout the rest of the day.
After Phakding the trail begins to head steeply back up the 1,000 feet lost, passing several small towns until reaching Monjo. We crossed our first suspension bridge too. Don’t look down. Don’t look down. Don’t look down.
Since it’s technically the down season, there were many housing options. We based on choice on which lodge looked best from the outside. We found an amazing place with our own private bathroom for $3 per person a night. We were the only ones in the lodge and we quickly made ourselves at home.
The family had 2 small children who Kim took a liking to and couldn’t have been happier with our choice for the night. We ordered fried potatoes with veggies, veggie noodles, and mixed rice. The only heat source is the lone stove centered in the dining room, so we sat around the fire with the family and called it an early night as we were both pretty beat.
The next day we enjoyed a delicious breakfast of french toast and hot cocoa. We downloaded a ton of gear and left it for the lodge to store until we could come back. The extra weight had to go. We were on the trail by 9:15am, excited to have a head start on everyone in Padking. We passed trail check points and purchased $30 Sagamartha Park passes. We were officially in the Sagamartha National Park.
We start the steady climb, quickly leaving the valley villages below. The hike to Namche is considered the steepest and longest portion of the trek. And it was. We hiked along the river bed before climbing up and up, crossing three high suspension bridges and dodging multiple yak trains. This is where the real climb starts. Straight up stair climber style up, two hours and 2,000 ft later we arrive in Namche Bazaar at 11,290 ft.
We pass another check point as to “check in” to Namche and trudge further uphill before getting first view of the Namche Bazaar arena.Tons and tons of lodges and shops, it was way bigger than Lukla.
We made our way to lodge that looks nice on the outside and negotiated prices, 1,200 rupee per night so 6$ per person. Family run again. Father manager, daughter cook, mother and 18 month old kept them company. She as the cutest sherpa baby ever. We threw our bags down and odered tomato soup, garlic toast and hot chocolate before getting so tired that we passed out in a doubled bed with sheets (no twins here) for a few hours. Oh, and the lodge had an electric blanket…heaven! We bought three mineral waters for three bucks too. Our bodies sore but happy to have made it to Namche. That was a bitch of a hill.
Later that night, we decided we need to get rid of more stuff cause our bags were still way too heavy at 20lbs. It was an early dinner for us, pasta with fried rice and three more water bottles. We purchased WiFi access for first time in three days, chatted with the family and played with Sherpa baby for the rest of the night. We enjoyed a sound nights sleep with no alarm clock and a rest day ahead of us.
The following day is an acclimatization and “rest” day. Here in the Khumbu “rest” days mean you still go hike.
Breakfast was served at 8:30am and consisted of hash browns with eggs, 2 fried eggs and toast and hot chocolate. We were happy to see the sun shining and the dusting of snow from last night melting away.
The standard acclimatization in Namche is to hike above the town to the Everest View Hotel at 12,700 ft. The hotel boast stunning views on a clear day and charges $100 a night for those willing to pay for the finer accommodations.
The hike took us about 2 hours round trip. After, we set off to find Kim some warmer gloves as well as heavier parkas for both of us. If we were cold here, we knew we’d be screwed higher up. Lunch was ready at 1:30 and we each ordered tomato soup with garlic bread. Something about tomato soup in these conditions really made us happy.
At 3:00 pm the Illy cafe was showing a movie on the Sherpa people and their efforts in getting the route set on Everest, so we pulled up a chair and ordered some hot chocolate and watched the movie alone, as we were the only customers. We found a shop that rented parkas for $2 a day, so we quickly pulled the trigger and made our way back to our homey lodge to rest before dinner.
Dinner was at 6:30 pm and the hotel has some thee guests which was nice to have company. We all stayed around the fire and talked about hiking trips. There was an Austrian couple who was heading up to Gokyo Lakes with a guide. The man had been to this area over 50 times and even wrote a book about how it’s developed for the last 20 years. He was quite full of knowledge and very fun to chat with.
Another younger couple (our age) was from South Africa and had just finished their base camp trek, so we spent a lot of time talking to them about conditions and lodges along the way. We both ate pasta and ordered veggie momo (potstickers) for dinner, oh and more hot chocolate. We were tired and knew we had a long day ahead of us so we parted ways around 8:00pm and called it a night in our new down parkas.