I hiked to Everest Base camp, and all i took was …….

Hindsight (as they say) is a wonderful thing, and it’s all too common to return home from a trip and think ‘If only I’d thought of that’ or ‘If only I took that’…. Well I love that I can possibly help to eliminate some of those annoying ‘If only’ statements by sharing with you my packing experiences for the grueling (yet unbelievably rewarding) trek to Everest Base Camp.

Having completed the trek to Everest Base Camp back in September, I’ve since been asked numerous times by friends, colleagues and clients for advice on what to pack and if I had any particularly helpful tips for them, so I figured this is something that I could share with anyone considering this trek, or who may just be interested in knowing more about it.

So, where to start….

I’m not a seasoned hiker so I needed to invest in some gear. It would be easy to go overboard as there is sooo much out there – from state of the art day packs to hiking poles and everything in between – but I was thinking of the poor porters who had to carry my gear so I opted for the bare minimum to make their life easier.

I didn’t need high end gear, but I wanted to ensure that what I did get was comfortable and functional. In hindsight I probably would have waited and purchased most of the gear in Kathmandu, as Thamel is lined with mountain sports stores selling absolutely everything you’d need, and the prices are great. >> Beware of the ‘North (Fake) Face’ gear that they flog off at low prices but very average quality.

Anyway, as I was in the UK at the time and had expert local guidance (thanks Scott) we just went to Sports Direct. A huge sports store that had a great range of gear, where I managed to stock up on most of what was required.

Most trekking companies will provide you with a gear list, so if you have one … follow it, but as a guide this is what I took, what was useful, what I wish I had and some other hot tips that I picked up along the way.

* Day pack – 30-40 litres
I recommend the ones with the cushioned airflow or mesh gap between your bag & back. Without it, it gets awfully sweaty when you’re hiking in the sun for 8hrs.

I’d also suggest getting a pack with the Camelbak section. Staying hydrated is the number 1 thing to do, to avoid altitude sickness and it was SO good not to have to pull a water bottle out every 15-20 minutes.

This pack has to be 5kg or under (water bottles empty) for the flight from Kathmandu to Lukla.  Remember, the lighter the better as you are carrying it, and once you fill up your water bottles, you’re adding another 2-4kg in weight.

* Main pack – North Face, 55L litres

This pack has to be 10kg or under to ensure it makes it on the light plane to Lukla with you, and so that the porters can carry it. Even though they are used to carrying large weights, they are trekking with up to 4 or 5 of them at a time, so be nice.

* Clothing

My #1 tip…. Take GOOD QUALITY thermals. Don’t skimp out on these.

Get WOOL as it breathes and has excellent moisture management properties which means, when you sweat (and you will), the wool will keep you cooler AND absorb the moisture. The other great part about wool is that it doesn’t smell, and with NO laundry facilities once you’re in the mountains, you want clothing that you can wear every day, regardless of how much you sweat.

I took Smartwool thermals, and they we’re perfect! Others on the trek who had lower cost garments in synthetic fabrics, not only found that they weren’t as comfortable, but they smelt! (No offence people… it’s a tough trek. We understood)

My next tip….. Pack SUPER LIGHT!

I was skeptical when I saw the packing lists….. 2 t-shirts, 2 pairs of pants, for 15 days? We’re they serious? Yes they we’re! As I said, as long as you have good quality stuff it’ll get you through, and if you have 2 of everything and you just run it on alternate days, you’ll be fine. (It’s not a fashion show up there after all, and although you’ll see some people with a new outfit every day, think of the PORTERS!

Here is my clothing list….

-Hiking boots (Well broken in, with good ankle support)

-Thongs/Flip Flops (For the showers, hanging in the tea huts at night)

– 2 x pairs trekking socks (As I said, I had Smartwool and they still didn’t smell after 15 days!)

– Underwear

–  2 x long thermal bottoms (Wool)

–  2 x Thermal long sleeve tops (You guessed it … Wool!)

– 2 x short sleeve t-shirts (Wool, Wool, Wool!)

– 2 x super lightweight cargo pants. If they zip off to shorts, even better. (Yep, I’m a hiking nerd, but can’t deny that they are practical). If they don’t zip off, then take a pair of shorts as well.

-1 x pair of skins (I took these to hike in on the warmer days, other girls/guys hiked in gym tights or shorts)

– 1 x fleece jumper

– 1 x lightweight wind proof/waterproof jacket (Gortex)

– 1 x pair of lightweight wind proof/waterproof pants (Gortex)

– 1 x warm windproof/waterproof jacket (This could be replaced with a down jacket for the dryer cooler hiking months).

Essential Accessories

– 2 x Sunglasses (spare pair, just in case)

– Headband (To keep your hair out of your face if you have long hair)


– Beanie

-Thermal gloves

-Towel (Lightweight travel towel)

– Sleeping bag (Can be ired from Kathmandu, but probably invest in one if you can)

– Silk sleeping bag liner

-Torch (a headlamp is even better, especially for the Kala Patthar hike at 4am in the dark!)

Staying hydrated, healthy and protected!

– Camel pack (3L)

– 1L water bottle (I had this in addition to the Camelbak as once you purify your water, there is a ½ hr wait to drink it, so it’s good to have 2 sources).

– Hydrolytes / Electrolytes to add to your water.

– Water purifying tablets – Iodine

– Cleansing wipes (no showers above 4000m, but you might get a bucket of warm water if you’re lucky)

– Sun cream (50+)

– Diamox (Altitude sickness medication)

-General First aid kit, including stuff for headaches, vomiting, diarrhea, nausea etc…

-Band aids (Blister kit)

-Hand sanitizer

-Face Moisturiser/Lip balm (Windburn is a b$#tch)

-Toiletries (Tooth brush, Tooth paste, Soap, Feminine hygiene products etc..)

-Any standard medication that you normally take of course (If any).

Other stuff…..

– Camera with 2 spare batteries (Charging is possible, but they charge you for it & it’s good to have backups. You don’t want to miss that photo of Mt Everest at sunrise!)

– A good book or a journal if you like to write about your travels

– Pack of cards (there are some GREAT Nepalese card games to learn along the way)

…. andddddddddddd that’s about it.

All of this condensed into my 2 packs, believe it or not! (It looks like more than it is). Looking back there is little that I would have changed or taken instead. I used everything I had, and didn’t want for much else.

 My TIPS to make it even BETTER!

Now, onto those hot tips that we picked up along the way… this is where we get into the nitty gritty and believe me, some of these tips we’re absolutely PRICELESS as we climbed higher, and higher and higher! Some we picked up from other trekkers along the way, and others we figured out for ourselves.

1. If you do two things to prepare for this trek, it should be HILL CLIMBS and SQUATS. When you’re up there, it’s all about your lungs and your legs. If you can breathe and you can walk, then you’ll be fine. At the end of the day the fitter and stronger you are the better, and the more you can forget about the trekking, and focus on the spectacular scenery around you, the better.

2. Stay Hydrated. As mentioned above, having a Camelbak meant I had constant access to my water without having to stop, undo my bottle and hold up the group. I sipped water all day, every day, and I think that this helped me avoid altitude sickness.

3. Don’t be a hero…. Go SLOW! It’s the speed of accent that is the major cause of altitude sickness, so it’s often the fittest people that get affected. Go as slow as your guide recommends, and make use of the acclimatisation days, and hike slowly to higher heights, and come back down to sleep. Know your limits, and speak up if the group is going too fast. It can be seriously dangerous up there if you don’t listen to your body.

4. Don’t start the Diamox (Altitude medication) too early. The earlier you take it at lower altitudes, the less of an impact it will have by the time its day 10 and you’re at 5600metres. Our guide suggested only taking ½ a tablet IF we started to feel any of the effects of altitude sickness, or as a preventative IF required and then we started taking the full tablets once we got to about Labouche. Of course, if you are suffering any major symptoms, then your guide will advise you on what to do, but unless you need them, wait until you are almost to Base Camp before starting.

5. Eat Chocolate. Don’t be afraid to eat a chocolate bar or two (or three) every day. You are burning some serious calories on this trek, and you need all the energy you can get. While the tea houses serve the food that will get you to the top (CARBS!), it’s also important to stay fuelled up in between meals.

6. Get Tang or Flavoured Hydrolytes to add to your water. Not only do they replace essential nutrients, but you get pretty sick of boring water. Plus the iodine and water purifiers sometimes leave an icky taste in your month. I stuck with orange, but there are lots of other flavours out there now too.

7. Keep spare batteries warm at night by sleeping with them in your sleeping bag. In the cold they lose charge really quickly, and while you can charge batteries at some tea huts, often there is a queue and it’ll cost you.

8. It gets colder as you go up, and there is nothing worse than waking up and having to put on freezing cold clothes, so sleep with the clothes you want to wear, under your sleeping bag, so that they are warm to put on in the morning.

And last but not least…..

9. Stop every now and then to look up & around you. It’s sometimes too hard to always look up while you’re trekking, and I kept tripping over my feet…. so STOP and take a moment.

RELAX, ENJOY, BREATHE and take it all in. It’s the most spectacular trek I’ve done with so much beauty, culture and wonder to experience, so be present in the moment, and it will take your breath away.


Kate xxx

If you want to know more about why I chose the trip and what I did to prepare, check out my previous post on the trip itself! http://wp.me/p3LBgc-52

Or If you have any tips of your own that you can share, then please leave a comment. Otherwise if you need a hand planning your own trip, I’d love to help. Email me kate@richetravel.com.au

Is a ‘Bucket list’ the new ‘New Year’s Resolution’ ?

With 2014 coming at us FAST, I figure it’s a great time to reflect on my year that was 2013 and set some goals for the new year. It also got me thinking about New Years Resolutions v’s Bucket Lists. I wonder,  Is there more value in creating a full list of goals, dreams & desires with specific items to achieve and aim for, rather than some a random resolution that you declare and then generally (in most cases) fail to follow through on? Or is a Bucket List just another way for us to say all of the things we WANT without any specific goals to help us get there? hmmmm

I don’t know about you, but I’m CRAP at new years resolutions. Admittedly I’ve never had any nasty habits to try and kick like smoking, drinking excessively or eating shit, but I normally jump on the band wagon and make one or two random statements like ‘ I WANT TO EAT BETTER’ or ‘I WANT TO TALK MORE AND TEXT LESS’ and of course it never happens.

This year was kind of different though, and i went for a different angle….

As 2013 kicked off, with another 30 something birthday looming, I started freaking out!

While I was grateful that I was surrounded by the love and support of some amazing family & friends, and I had been fortunate enough to travel the world, something was missing. I had no direction, I lacked passion for what I was doing, I was wallowing in regret and guilt from the past and held genuine fear and anxiety for the future. I was stuck in a hole that I’d created in my mind and I was terrified that I wouldn’t be able to dig my way out of it. It was blatantly obvious to me (and everyone around me) that something had to give…… but finally I was ready (well kind of ready!).

It seemed too late for me to be making ‘New Year’s resolutions (and they never seem to work anyway) so on the suggestion from a friend I created a bucket list!

I know the term ‘bucket list’ sounds morbid, as they are generally a list of things to do ‘before you die’, but I was keen to look at it as more of an inspiration list. So, to get started I created a list of 101 things I wanted to do that would help me live the life I love.

The list would be made up of things that I either wanted to see, experience or achieve, and traits that i wanted to live by. This also includes items on my list that would involve others or directly benefit other people, as i know that part of how i see my future is a life of generosity and gratefulness.

I felt that having a list (that is no way comprehensive) would help me find some focus, direction and motivation to start living for now, and create opportunities to share these experiences with people I love. I figure that even if i achieved just one thing, it would mean that I’ve done SOMETHING for myself, that I’d wanted to do (otherwise it wouldn’t have been on the list!).

While I’m still putting the list together and am not quite ready to share the whole list with you yet, below are some of my favorite things I’ve been able to tick off this year. By sitting down and looking at what i really wanted to do, it inspired me to get out there and start doing some of them… Without that list, i may have still done one or two, but i wouldn’t have had anything tangible to go to when i was looking for some motivation.

So, here ya go!

1. Get my scuba diving certification ✅

Congrats, you are now a diver!
Congrats, you are now a diver!

I’ve ALWAYS wanted to Scuba Dive, but as usual I’ve just never had the time to do it. After some serious dive envy and seeing people around me get their certifications, I figured it was about time I threw myself in at the deep end (so to speak! HA), so I headed to the clear (but chilly) water of Shelly Beach, in Manly (Sydney) and completed the 3 day course over two weekends.

I loved the silence and stillness of being underwater, as there wasn’t anything to think about other than my breath (oh, and what hand signals we’re what, and I had a few gauges to keep an eye on, but other than that…. silence!). I felt absolute peace being underwater. No fear, just excitement and I was surprised at how easily I dropped down to depth with a calmness that I haven’t felt for a long time.

Achieving my certification not only allows me access to a whole other world of marine & plant life to discover, but it completely opens up new travel destinations that are more dive specific… and i can’t WAIT to get out and explore some of them in the future.

2. See the Taj Mahal ✅

The beauty herself!

As per my last Blog Post, India had been on my list since i was little and I finally made it!

While India is full of magical sites, and experiences that cannot compare to anywhere else in the world, there is something special about the Taj Mahal! She was better than you could ever imagine!

You’ve seen pictures of her in books, magazines and in movies all your life, but nothing can quiet compare to that moment you walk through the arch way, and see her standing there in all her glory. Time seems to stand still, and every image you’ve seen of her vanishes away, as they in no way do her justice. There is an awe and a kind of magic that seems to radiate from her and despite the tens of thousands of people swarming around you, it sort of feels like it’s just the two of you. She is majestic and that moment took my breath away and brought a tear to my eye.

3. Go on a yoga retreat to India ✅

Beautiful sunsets at Basunti!
Beautiful sunsets at Basunti Retreat, India!

Yoga had become a huge part of my life in 2012/2013, and i have tried to maintain a regular practice. I am lucky enough to have 2 amazing Yoga studios close to home in Wollongong, Ray of Light Yoga in Bulli, and Younga Yoga in Wollonong, and I’ve gained so so much from attending classes with the various teachers I’ve met, but I wanted to explore it a little deeper.

Yoga in India is like something out of a dream, and i was lucky enough to attend Basunti Retreat, with Lucy Roberts on a 7 day retreat. It was blissful, educational and i was surrounded by inspirational people and a stunning setting, which brought it all together perfectly. Most importantly the retreat awoken my passion for Yoga and the possibilities it could hold for the future. More personal development in my own practice, learning, traveling and perhaps one day sharing this knowledge and passion with others. We’ll see….

If you want to read more about it, check out the post http://mytravelust.com/2013/11/05/magic-in-the-motherland-basunti-yoga-retreat-with-lucy-roberts/

4. Hike Nepal (Everest base camp) ✅

YEW! Base camp.

Like India, Nepal and hiking Everest Base camp was a big thing that had been on my ‘to do’ list for some time, and Yep i finally achieved it this year and it was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life!

Not only was Nepal itself one of the most beautiful, fascinating, and friendly countries I’d been to, but achieving something as physically and mentally demanding as hiking to Everest Base camp was a proud and satisfying moment…. and that first glimpse of Everest’s shadows appearing through the clouds at sunrise was another moment that I’ll remember forever.

Check out my post http://mytravelust.com/2013/11/21/to-everest-base-camp-beyond/ for more about this amazing hike.

5. Try stand up paddle boarding &  SUP YOGA ✅

SUP Yoga! * Note.. Image is not me! Lol
SUP Yoga! * Note.. Image is not me! Lol

This one seemed basic compared to the other items i was able to tick off my list this year, but my bucket list isn’t all about big trips, and grand experiences. I want to learn and discover things in my own backyard as well, as it’s often the little things or moments, that end up being the most special.

Paddle boarding on a flat bay or lake was easy enough and good for my core strength, but doing it in the surf was another matter all together…. Something that i definitely need to practice!

I’d also seen images of SUP (Stand up Paddle board) YOGA, and THAT’S what i wanted to do. Taking the boards out at Balmoral, and giving it all a crack was a laugh, and after a few wobbly moments it was time to take some of my Yoga moves to the board… and to my surprise i was able to manage a few. I certainly intend to explore this further also, as it’s a cheap and fun way to spend an hour or so on a weekend… (Stay tuned for photos the next time i get out there!)

21. Do a DSLR photography course ✅

Capturing Street Art, Sydney.

Photography has always been a hobby of mine, and people had often remarked that i had a good eye for it… so it was something i was keen to look into. I had some limited experience with a DSLR camera from High School, but I knew there was more to it and it took a mate to basically sign me up, to get it done, and I’m glad i did!

Not only did the course give me more knowledge on the camera and the basics of photography, but it took me out of my comfort zone a little and back to learning a brand new skill. You kind of forget what it’s like to be new at something, when you’ve been in the same job for a while and it was an awesome experience.

It also took me to the streets of Sydney where i was able to discover some amazing street art, that i never would have seen otherwise. You also forget how much there is to discover in your very own back yard, so it definitely opened my eyes to that.

I’ll definitely be progressing through to the next course, and anyone interested should look into the Australian Centre of Photography in Paddington, Sydney.

6. Go on the Violet Junk, Halong Bay – Vietnam ✅

Taking it all in. The view of Halong Bay, from my balcony.
Taking it all in. The view of Halong Bay, from my balcony.

Another travel ‘Bucket List’ moment, and this time a little bit of splurging and a stay on the beautiful Violet Junk, on Halong Bay.

Being in Travel opens the eyes to new experiences everyday, and this is something that caught my attention a while back, whilst planning Vietnam journeys and seeing colleagues add it to their own Vietnam Itineraries.

It’s a traditional Vietnamese Junk (boat) that cruises on the UNESCO, World Heritage listed, Halong Bay. Exploring the spectacular bay made up of over 2000 limestone Islands, we we’re able to discover fine food, wine, and activities like bike riding, hiking and kayaking all from the comfort of a boat with just 6 luxury cabins (personal jacuzzi and all!)

The perfect way to see Halong Bay, and something that i am now suggesting to all of my clients for their own Vietnam travels.

7. Scuba dive Great Barrier Reef✅

Scuba Diving… Tick!

After obtaining my Padi certification this year, it was time to explore somewhere a little more exciting than the beaches of Manly, and living in Australia, it was obvious that The Great Barrier Reef would be my choice!

A weekend away, with 2 days out on the reef ensured that the underwater world I now had access to truly came to life! Getting up close and personal with the fish, Coral and all kinds of sea creatures helped to confirm my new love for exploring the deep, and has now only dampened my appetite for more.

8. Great Wall of china ✅

The Great Wall of China! (Well, kind of)

One of the perks of my career is the opportunity to visit some amazing destinations for ‘work’ and this year i was able to finally tick China off my list, with a visit to Shanghai for ILTM (The International Luxury Travel Market). I hopped a flight up to Beijing after the event and although it was a foggy, rainy day i got to climb the Great Wall of China!!

I did an ‘Urban Experience’ day tour with ‘Intrepid’ as i was on my own, and wanted to meet some people to share the experience with. The walk along the wall itself was interesting with people from all walks of life exploring the various sections. There we’re mad hikers with their hiking boots & waterproof gear, then there we’re girls in heels and pretty umbrellas tip toeing through the puddles and navigating the steep stone steps… definitely an eye opener, that provided a few laughs.

It was a surreal moment being up there, and a bit of a shame that i couldn’t see the wall stretch out across the horizon, but it was still fabulous and a great moment to tick off my list!

9. Cycle in Vietnam ✅

Exploring one of the Islands on Halong Bay, by bike!

While i hadn’t ever really defined exactly how much cycling i wanted to do in Vietnam, i knew that it was a great way to see the various towns and cities as it allows you to immerse yourself a little bit and get a little closer to the action… SO i made sure that wherever we went in Vietnam that we had some cycling on the itinerary.

All in all we cycled in Halong Bay, Hoi An and Nha Trang and got to see lots of the smaller back streets, and remote locations that truly highlights the pulse of the country. We went out to remote herb farms, and farming communities that can only be accessed by bike… A beautiful way to see the sights.

10.  Sunset or sunrise over Angkor Wat, Cambodia ✅

Angkor Wat at Sunrise, Cambodia.

Another one for the ultimate bucket list (especially for a traveler!) Sunset OR Sunrise over Angkor Wat in Cambodia!

A UNESCO World Heritage site, and the worlds largest religious monuments it’s a site that was built in the early 12th century. With Cambodia being a relatively new tourist destination, there are around 1.7million visitors to the Angkor Temples annually, and it’s a number that will continue to grow.

We we’re able to visit the site without the crowds at sunrise, with the fabulous tour company Trails of Indochina. It was a 4am wake up call, but the early trip out to the site was well worth it. A clear view of the fabulous temple, with the sun peaking over the temple with a clear blue sky emerging in the dawn of the new day. We had time to explore the sites early while all the other tourists returned to their hotels for Breakfast, which meant we also avoided the midday heat, and we’re back at the hotel in the pool by the time most other companies we’re out there talking guests through the various sites.

A truly spectacular site, and worth visiting in the near future before mainstream tourism envelops Cambodia.

11. Start a travel blog or photo journal of my adventures ✅

My Blog… MyTraveLust!

Well here we are reading my BLOG MyTraveLust!

It was something I’d wanted to do for a while, and the 3 month trip i embarked on this year was the perfect opportunity to start my blog. I know that i have alot of knowledge about travel to share, and i wanted to capture some of my travel memories, and if nothing else keep a personal record of my trip and share this with you.

I’m still so new to the blog world, and am learning more and more every day, but i hope you are enjoying it so far. I hope to continue the growth and development of MyTraveLust in 2014, with a vision for it to become not only a place for me to share my passion but for you to gain even further inspiration and use it as a tool in planning your own travel adventures.

12. See an intimate gig for one of my fave bands!

Music is a huge part of my life! I have been to more gigs than i can count, and the radio, ipod or spotify is always on. I don’t watch TV… I listen to music, and it was out of sheer LUCK this year,  that I was able to score tickets to see Kings of Leon at The Enmore Theatre in Sydney! A venue that holds less than 2000 people (which for a band as big as Kings of Leon, is as intimate as you can get!)

They we’re out here for a 1 off show for Triple M, and we’re playing just one MASSIVE Gig at Sydney Harbour that you had to win tickets too. Missing out on that (and admittedly it was not my scene) I lucked out when i heard an announcement for a last minute GIG for Triple J. Stokedddddddddddddd I scrambled for tickets, and with an ease that i didn’t know was possible when securing tickets online these days, we scored standing tickets…. and it was honestly one of the BEST concerts of my life!

Not only we’re we up close and personal with Kings of Leon, but they have such a massive range of albums with hit after hit being smashed out, and it was non stop sing alongs, dancing our butt’s off and ultimately just the sheer JOY seeing one of my fave bands, up close!

So, there you have it, my fave bucket list moments from 2013!

In the end i find the idea of a Bucket List a little more promising than having a single (or list of ) New Years resolutions, as it gives me a tangible list of things that i can look to for inspiration at any time of the year. I do however intend on creating a personal mantra for 2014 to live by, to go along with the things i want to see, do, learn, achieve and discover.

One of my beautiful Yoga teachers Morgan Webert (From Qi Yoga in Freshwater, Sydney) has just posted some info on creating a Yogic New Years resolution, which comes from the heart and aligns with your life purpose, so i will definitely look into this for my 2014 resolution. http://yogawithmorgan.com/2013/12/29/how-to-set-a-yogic-new-years-resolution-from-the-heart/

Either way having some ideas about how you want to live and what you want to achieve is a great thing, so hopefully this will inspire you to create a list of your own, and get out there. Live your life and do things that make your soul shine. Life is too short, so take control and whether it’s a big dream or a small moment with a loved one… you should make it happen.

Kate x

To Everest Base Camp & Beyond!

The amazing Himalayas!

Nepal and the trek to Everest Base Camp has to be one the most rewarding travel experiences I’ve had to date, and I apologise in advance for the long post. There is no short way to describe the sheer magnificence of this trip (And the views that went along with it!)  but I am certain that by reading this post you’ll be inspired to lace up your hiking boots and hit the trails, so enjoy!

Why Nepal?

Meeting local people and wandering through mountain villages are part of why i love hiking holidays!
For this 3 month trip, I was keen to see some destinations that I’d always wanted to see and I wanted to incorporate something that would be physically challenging. I love being active and I’ve had my fair share of beach resort holidays that revolved around sun, surf and cocktails, so I wanted something different. I wanted to push myself towards a goal, which would therefore be more rewarding once completed.

Completing the hike to Everest Base Camp has been on my Travel ‘Lust’ List pretty much since I hiked Machu Picchu, Peru in 2009. It’s a big thing to tick off, and while I had the time to do it, it seemed perfect. Even though I’m not generally a keen hiker at home, there is almost no better way to get a first hand look at a new culture and their way of life, than wandering through towns and villages, Interacting with the people & eating local food.

Choosing to do the trip with Intrepid travel was also an easy choice. They are an Australian  based company that specialise in small group adventure journeys all over the world and I’d previously travelled with them in Egypt, Africa and Peru, so I knew what to expect and the prices are fantastic. They get you up close and personal with the destination by staying in local style accommodation that reflects your surroundings. You generally travel on local transport (except in this case I was hiking!) and most importantly they have responsible tourism program’s set up all over the world, in the destinations they operate in. They also support local issues & ensure that they give back to the communities we visit as well.

So, Nepal it was…Now to prepare!

Preperation is KEY to a trek like this. You want to be as fit as you can so that you can enjoy the spectacular views!

A trip like this does require a fair amount of physical preparation & there is a long list of hiking essentials that I didn’t yet own, but it was easy enough to pick up everything I needed. Looking into the trek I also knew that 13 days of hiking in the Himalayas wasn’t going to be easy, so I wanted to be as fit as I could be to enjoy it.

Other bloggers and trekking companies will try to tell you that you don’t need to be that fit… They’re wrong!

You definitely need a reasonable amount of fitness to not only complete but actually enjoy this trip. While we saw people on the trek of all fitness levels, sizes & ages (including kids!), I suggest trying to be as fit as you can be. The reality is, the fitter you are the more you’ll enjoy it and to be honest some of the hills on this trek are intense! I’m talking..3hrs of going straight up some days, and with the added altitude factor (there is up to half the oxygen in the air up there to what you’re used to at sea level), the stronger your legs, the more you can forget them and focus on your breathing (oh and the spectacular views!).

The Trek!

Lukla, Valley

On arrival in Kathmandu it was hot, dusty, loud and the roads were mayhem… Exactly what I expected. I was excited!

We were checked into the Kathmandu guest house, which is located right in the middle of Thamel, tourist mecca of the city and the perfect base to explore. The hotel had a great restaurant & decent rooms to get your last comfy sleep before commencing the 2 week trek. (That’s if you don’t mind the sounds of stray dogs barking at all hours.. But hey, it is Kathmandu after all!)

Thamel is where you’ll find restaurants, bars, mountain wear stores, rickshaw drivers offering to take you to see the sights and all kinds of local wares like pashminas, rugs, silk, giftware and everything in between. It was here we met with our guide, the amazing Deepak Rai. The 23yr old Nepali local who was entrusted with leading our group to the highest point we’ll ever set foot… Everest Base Camp, and Kala Patthar. Sitting at 5610m above sea level.

Our group was small which was ideal and exactly what I’d hoped for. (No waiting for 20 other people to eat breakfast, shower, pack and hike). There were just 4 of us in the group. Myself (Australia), Scott (UK), CC (from the USA) and Marty (also from Australia), along with our guide Deepak, assistant guide Prem and 2 porters to assist us with our bags.

Before departing Kathmandu we had to stock up on a couple of essentials: Water purifying tablets (as bottled water gets pricey the higher you go, and it’s bad for the environment), baby wipes (knowing that showers would be limited, if any!) and finally chocolate bars!! This trek is very physical and would mean that we’d be burning upward of 8000 calories a day, and normal meals wouldn’t be enough to sustain, let alone replace the energy we’d be burning, so it’s the one time in my life I didn’t feel guilty that I was going to ‘have to’ eat at least 2 chocolate bars a day. Excellent 🙂

Next up, the white knuckle flight from Kathmandu to Lukla, voted as the worlds ‘scariest’ airport. The runway is just 450m (an average runway is between 2000-3500m) and has a sheer cliff at one end, and a brick wall at the other. Planes can only land if the weather is perfectly clear, and there is literally NO room for error. A mistake that we witnessed first hand when a helicopter, upon trying to land just after us, clipped a wire fence, sending the chopper to the ground, injuring 4 and killing a local Sherpa 😦

Fortunately for us, ours was a smooth flight where we got our 1st glimpse of the magnificent Himalayas.

Our arrival in Lukla, the mountains we’re epic. The temperature dropped, the air was clean and the sky was bright blue against the green valley & snow capped mountains. This was the Himalaya!

Before setting off on our trek it was time to fuel up. We had our 1st meal in a tea house that gave us a glimpse at what life & meal choices would be like for the next 2 weeks. We’d be staying in basic wooden huts with a common dining area, twin rooms, with paper thin ply wood walls. There was no heating, other than the kerosene stove (conveniently located in the middle of the main dining room). Mostly only cold showers (unless requested earlier and a pot of warm water would be boiled for you) and the always delightful squat toilets. Basic? Yes but we were in the mountains after all.

The food looked just as basic, with the menu offering mostly Dhal Bhat, the traditional Nepali dish consisting of rice, vege curry and lentils. Other choices included roast potatoes, fries, spaghetti, rice, eggs and a few other local delicacies…. But in the end the menu proved to include all of the things the body craves when hiking for 8 hrs a day… Carbs!!

The blog post will be as long as the trek itself if I try to recount it day by day, so ill spare you the specifics, but ill try and paint you a picture …..

Day 1 to 4 involved hiking from Lukla at 2800m to Namche Bizaar, at 3440m, the biggest Sherpa village in the region. It was here that we caught our 1st glimpse of the spectacular Mt. Everest! While it was off in the distance and the scale was hard to judge, you could sense the grandeur of the mountain as she stood proud & tall amongst her equally impressive neighbours. (Did you know Nepal has 8 of the worlds 10 highest peaks, all surpassing 8000m? Madness!)

Intrepid group, and Mt Everest (In the background)

The hike to Namche Bizzar itself involved steep climbs and narrow tracks, leading through small villages, across rivers by suspension bridge and up the green valley and farmland, away from Lukla and deeper into the mountains. It was magnificent! The sun was shining and as we walked we passed countless porters travelling with loads of up to 70kg on their backs between villages, all still managing to exchange a friendly greeting of ‘Namaste’.

There was also the unmistakable sound of cow bells, which were worn by yaks as they also passed by with their loads. Porters and Yak Trains are what keep these Himalayan villages alive with the delivery of food, fuel, building materials and anything else you can imagine. There are no cars or even roads for that matter… so villages can only be reached and goods transported, by foot.

We also quickly learnt that ‘flat’ in Nepal, is definitely not flat! (More like a hill climb program you’d find at home on your local treadmill!), but the tough days were compensated by the fact that there was always something new to see & the ever changing landscape was a sign of just how high we were climbing.

Namche Bizaar was the 1st of our 2 acclimatisation days, which were required to get our bodies used to the altitude. We spent an extra day here (and at one other village) and the acclimatisation days were in no way a rest day. They involved steep climbs of at least 400-500m, then we’d turn around and hike back down to sleep. Mental torture, but luckily there was the amazing scenery to take in, as well as other sites like a Sherpa museum, and the worlds highest airport (Syangboche airstrip, but no longer used for passenger flights) sitting at 3750 metres.

Prem, our guide having a rest as we climbed on our rest day at Namche Bizaar.

After Namche Bizzar, it was another 6 days of climbing to reach Lobouche, before our push to Gorak Shep sitting at 5140m (one of the original villages where mountain expeditions used to set up base camp) and finally Everest base camp (5364m).

During those middle 6 days we hiked from 3500m to 5364m to reach the point where so many expeditions have come to tackle the mother of all mountains…. Everest Base Camp.

While the hiking was tough, and the air became more difficult to breathe as we ascended, for me it was almost like meditation. Where I’d normally have a million thoughts running through my mind, I found that when hiking along the trails for hours and hours on end, all you are doing is trying to get your breath into a rhythm, and not trip over…. so there is literally nothing else to think about and by the end of each day I was somehow more relaxed, It’s amazing what a still mind can do for your energy levels.

The sheer size of the mountains blew my mind everyday!! Prayer flags

Sadly, the day we made the ascent to base camp it was snowing and foggy, so the visibility wasn’t very good. We had no idea what the mountains surrounding the glacier looked like, but the snow sure did make the hike a little more interesting when snowball fights broke out between our group and some random porters! Lots of laughs.

Despite the fog, we first caught a glimpse of the Khumbu glacier on which base camp sits, and the treacherous Khumbu Ice Falls, which all the expedition groups (led by local Sherpa) have to navigate to get to the second stage of their Everest quest….and we were on a high as we crossed the glacier to the marker that welcomes you to base camp. We’d made it!!

Everest Base Camp!  Expediton tents!

While normally most trekking groups end their trek here, take a photo and turnaround (the oxygen in the air is down to 50%, compared to 100% at sea level, so it’s recommended to stay only a maximum of 20minutes), we were in good shape so we wandered around base camp, onto the ice fields and we enjoyed a chapatti next to an expedition camp. They were Italian climbers, set up and living at base camp for up to 2 months, acclimatising before attempts to summit Everest would be made after the monsoons in September/October or again in May.

After a small break we ventured to the edge of the ice falls for a couple of photos, then the classic group shot once our gang were all together and back to Gorak Shep we hiked, Triumphant & exhausted.
Our Intrepid group at Base Camp!
Weather permitting we still had our climb to Kala Patthar to tackle the following morning, so we hit the sack, praying the weather was clear for our 4am hike up to 5610m, for a panoramic view of Base camp, Mt Everest and the other magnificent mountains that make up the Himalaya. (Sleeping at altitude is tricky in itself! Your breaths are short and sharp, so sleep was always broken as you often woke to find that you are struggling for air).

Prem, our always smiling, ever energetic assistant guide had the task of getting us awake and up the mountain. His normally positive demeanour was a little off, as we woke to the fog and snow lingering, and I think he was hoping we’d all decide to stay in bed!

We knew it was a long shot….. We could climb all the way up there (a gruelling 2.5hr hike, straight up!) and the fog be so bad that we didn’t see a thing or we could luck out with good weather above the cloud line. It was a chance we wanted to take. We were only going to be here once after all, and if it paid off it would be spectacular! So, we set off with our head lamps and crossed our fingers.

I’m not going to lie. For the 1st hour, I struggled. It was dark, cold, snowing, foggy and with only 2 headlamps between 4 of us you couldn’t see much. I think all the hiking from the last 10 days had taken its toll too. My legs were tired and a headache from the cold air was starting to pound, so my energy levels were low, and I didn’t have much hope for the views.

Then, as we reached the top of a ridge and climbed higher, I caught a glimpse of star. One solitary star, surrounded by fog, but it was visible! It was enough to lift my spirits slightly, and my headache seemed to lessen. As we rose higher to the summit of Kala Patthar, the fog became lighter and out of the shadows behind us came the triangular outline of 2 mountains. They weren’t exactly clear, but they were there, we could see Everest!

Taking a couple of pics in case this was as clear as it was going to get, I felt a surge of adrenalin kick in, and my legs no longer felt tired…. I was about 150m from the top and I knew I had to get there! I climbed as quickly as I could, looking back every few steps in awe of the landscape around me, and as the mountains became clearer and clearer I was almost running to get to the top before the sun made it’s appearance.

With a massive push of energy we reached the peak just as the last of the fog had lifted, and the sun was peaking its head over the worlds highest mountain! It literally took my breath away and brought tears to my eyes. Not only Mt. Everest, but all of surrounding mountains were visible, and I was astonished at the size and beauty of all of the snow capped mountains that were glistening in the morning sun. Mountains, we had no idea were there the day before, as the fog had been so thick.

Everest sunrise, 1st glimpse Himalayan ranges at sunrise!

The view was one of the magnificent sites I’ve ever seen, and literally brought tears to my eyes! Knowing that we had hiked 10 days, and gained almost 3000m in altitude to see it almost seemed surreal.

Base camp from Kala Pathar The amazing Himalayas!  View of Everest from Kala Pathar

There were plenty of photos taken, cheers and hugs once we’d all made it to the top, and as the weather that morning had been iffy, there weren’t too many people up there to spoil the serenity. We thanked our guide for making the effort to wake up & lead us up there and after about half an hour or so at the peak we headed back down for breakfast. We still had a 7hr hike to complete that day, as a part of our 3 day journey back to where it all began in Kathmandu.

The remaining 3 days of hiking went by in a blink, and I think I almost liked going uphill more than down, as it was tough on the joints, but we made it.

Gorgeous kids greet you along the way!   Heading down...

As we descended we passed fresh faced groups who’d ask if the hike ahead of them was worth it, and we could do nothing but reply absolutely!! (Except poor CC who was plagued by headaches the whole way, so we soon told her she wasn’t allowed to reply to them negatively! Lol)

We had a beer to toast our success and back in Lukla we bid a very fond farewell to our wonderful assistant guide Prem and the porters. Then it was a harrowing downhill take off in the light plane, and back to Kathmandu for one last group dinner with Deepak and our new friends.

Sitting here now, and looking back at the trek I can certainly say that it’s one of the best things I’ve ever done and right now I can’t see how any other trip will top it for sheer beauty and reward.

Yes, ill hopefully see other iconic sites the world over, but little could compare to the pride I feel for completing such a physically demanding hike and to see something as beautiful as Mt. Everest at sunrise. Most other destinations and sites that I’ll likely see and visit in future will be more accessible, so that’s what adds to uniqueness of this trip.

Yes, the hike was tough at times and even though each day proved to be tougher than the last, with little or no flat / downhill sections for reprieve, I was genuinely looking forward to each day. I would strongly recommend to anyone with an active/physical nature, an interest in natural beauty/mountains/hiking or anyone looking for a travel experience that will reward you like no other (that I’ve yet to experience), DO THIS TRIP!

Of course, the people you meet along the way and share the memories with are also what make these travel experiences memorable, so I am grateful that we travelled with Intrepid and lucked out with the great group and guides that we we’re teamed up with. It’s certainly an experience I’ll remember forever.

So, until my next adventure,
Kate xx