Wednesday 5 April

Striking camp

It is our final morning in tents. The morning dawns cool and hazy; the sun won’t shine in this part of the valley for some hours.

Purba leads us as usual. We continue down the valley, making our first stop for lemon juice at Phakdang where we spent our first night. I completely fail to recognise the lodge at first, but the memory gradually comes back to me. It was raining before; now it is hot in the sunshine.

(magnify) Not far now

I am expecting to begin the climb to Lukla, but we are still going downhill. I recognise parts of the trail, but I think I had my head down for most of this on the way out. The trail isn’t quite as busy as yesterday, but crossing a narrow steel suspension bridge David comes face to face with a yak and has to reverse.

Finally we do begin climbing, and stop for lunch half an hour from Lukla.

The last part is up a steep well-made path. The army are guarding the entrance to Lukla. It is something of an anticlimax as we march through the main street. No heroes’ welcome, or ticker tape, etc. In fact the whole of Lukla seems singularly indifferent to our arrival.

Final few steps

We will be staying the night in rooms on the first floor of the Himalayan Expeditions Lukla office before our flight back to Kathmandu tomorrow morning. The rooms are separated by plywood partitions and the mattresses are hard. I’m not sure if this is an improvement on the tents.

There is time to relax in the dining room above the runway. There is a curfew for the porters starting at 5 pm, so we do tips for them early. David makes a short speech of thanks, which Ramkrishna translates, and then the envelopes are handed out.

(magnify) Three of our porters

The Meru Peak group is here too – they set off tomorrow. We and they both have dinner at six in the main building and there is a little friendly rivalry over who will have the best meal. We win of course as our kitchen staff have made a special effort for our last evening, including delicious chicken pieces and a huge chocolate-iced cake for afters, of which we can manage to eat only a half.

More card games, but I can’t seem to keep my eyes open. We should be partying, but we are all in bed by eight thirty!