Makalu Base Camp: A Trek Diary
With past accomplishments, little and big, one gradually develops confidence to step out of an ease independently. We aren’t inhibited anymore to chose destination with one level up challenge each time?—? thanks to the experiences!
It requires both patience and passion to travel around Nepal due to the state of infrastructure, mainly. Trekking in itself is no hassle, but to reach the point of its start is.
Day 1 & 2: Kathmandu>Dharan>Dhankuta>Hile>Khandbari>Num
After an exhausting struggle to get tickets amidst festive crunch, we finally managed to get one towards marking Dashain destination to Makalu Base Camp. The plight of traveling at this season of the year during which people go home to celebrate with their families is: one cannot easily get tickets, and if it is an air travel, seats are ticketed quite early. Micro bus was the only option we had, that means: two and a half days of road journey from Kathmandu. The destination had a strong pull on us, so adamantly, we hopped into a micro bus at four in the morning. Thankfully, the BP highway (east-west highway) didn’t experience traffic like Thankot, which can suffer upto 10 hours long traffic jam during peak seasons. Slicing clouds on the way we passed by Dhankuta and finally to Hile after around 12 hours long drive. The road was smooth for 450 kms (approx.) until we reached here. We stayed at this small, misty town. Next morning, we got into a four-wheeler that took us on a five hours long rough ride to Khandbari. Khandbari is counted as a prosperous town of Nepal and is an emerging business centre.
Day 3: Num>Seduwa
Drive along rough road doesn’t seize to drain you until you reach Num, which is 4.5 hours drive from Khandbari.
The real trek starts hereafter. From Num, we plunge down until we meet Arun river through the forest which flows right at the base of the village. After crossing the river, we ascended the same height we just descended, for about 5 hours to reach Seduwa restingat the hill-top. The trail is well marked with patches of settlement along the way and is shady. The first day of a good hike after such a long drive had our legs and shoulders sympathetic.
Day 4: Seduwa>Tashi Gaon
It was a funny situation getting down the ladder in the hotel this morning. Legs were sore from earlier day’s hike, and getting down with my backpack was already a struggle. Looking at which, the hotel owner asked if I could even walk, and if one asked me if I have a confidence to reach Makalu, at the base of world’s 5th highest mountain, my answer : “Absolutely NO!”. Thankfully the camp for the day- Tashi Gaon, wasn’t too arduous, so we thought of taking it slow and easy. It is a gradual climb from Seduwa, not to be underestimated though! It walks along the ridge, so you can’t escape the sun most of the time.
We can see land areas covered with cardamom farming, and this brings a big cash in this region.Tashi Gaon can be spotted after reaching Checksi Danda, which was around two hours from our hotel. Four hours from now, we would be at the last permanent settlement along Makalu Base Camp-Tashi Gaon.
We were welcomed at a hotel with hot meals as we reached. If you get dal-bhat or noodles to eat, hot tea to drink and a room to stay at chilly night, feel lucky at this terrain as there are only basic facilities available. But, everything pleases taste buds in cold places! This village sits squeezed between hills with scenic view of cottony clouds hovering all around. We spent rest of the evening playing with local kids and later staying by fireplace chatting with didi in dining room drinking Padamchal (herbal woody tea) that she offered.
Day 5: Tashi Gaon > Kauma
Trekking is no pleasure at times. There are moments you think of luxury back home, and despite all the severities, the only thing you can do is move on. Tashi Gaon lays vertical climbs all the way forward upto the next camp for the day- Kauma. We crossed hills walking between forests and on landslide area. Every hills you cross looks like the last one but there is always another bigger one hiding behind. Until this day we are only walking through woods with no sight of mountains.Kauma had 2 lodges and our exhausted body thanked the place for the stay it offered. Temperature started dropping sharply and washing was a big struggle.
Day 6: Kauma>Dobato
As we climbed an hour from Kauma, we had a fantastic view of Mt. Makalu- the first view or mountains indeed.It was an exciting morning.We spotted several colorful birds along the way and all these made us ecstatic, fueling us up for the day ahead. We had two passes to cross before reaching the camp this day. Shipton-La and Keke-La. The trail looked challenging, but at the end it was a rewarding one and so far the best of past days. We crossed two lakes too, they call it Sano Pokhari and Thulo Pokhari. With sunlight casting shadows on lakes, the view was simply picturesque. Yaks were jingling bells everywhere. They are cute and shy animals. Herders were flocking down their sheep and cattle from higher altitude as winter was nearing. We made it earlier to Dobato, where we were staying today.
Day 7: Dobato>Yangri Kharka
Not all days are bright and sunny and mountain weather is absolutely erratic. We woke up to a cold, rainy morning. Since we could not afford to wait for the rain to stop as it was a long walk ahead, we left our hotel wearing rain gears. It was a slippery trail between rocky mountains, diving steep down for one and half hours until we met Barun River. After that followed an hour long landslide area, and for the first time, the trail looked scary with sliding lands.
Last night’s rain has swiped away a part of the trail. We met no other trekkers nor any locals. We walked as briskly as we could and sighed with relief as we saw a tiny tea-house where landslide area ended.
There is a strange thing about these people here. Or, rather, normal and how things should have been. Everyone, literally all, dwelling at the stretch of this village know each other. They meet, greet and stay like own family member. There’s zero discomfort to stay at other’s house and thus no obligation to reach one’s own. They stop anywhere and share warmly whatever is available?—? chyang, raksi, yak’s milk, ghee, or any other things. Whole village is an extended family.Another is their incredible strength! They walk all the snowy, rocky, slippery terrain like super-humans. Even the kids here are no different and we require more than double of the times they take to walk. And yes, they eat double portion too(triple maybe) !
Unlike any other commercialized areas, this one is marked by very few visitor and there are single or very few lodges at each camp- that too run by young mothers and girls (mainly). We found a seventeen-year-old mother with her 7 months baby staying up at Shipton-La pass and running her tea house. For them, Kathmandu is a fantasy land. They are excited to find someone to talk to- about cities, vehicles and lifestyles. They spend their entire life in mountains treasuring livestock, serving visitors, wandering around mountains- completely separated by city-chaos.Mulling over several thoughts, tearing fogs along, we reached Yangi Kharka.No view and all rain! We heard that the trail ahead is beautiful and did not want to miss the view with today’s ruined weather. We decided to stay here today, and hoped for clearer tomorrow. The fireplace in the dining room was heavenly. By now, all the aches had plateaued and backpacks started being own body parts.
Day 8: Yangri Kharka>Lang Male > Makalu Base Camp
We slept well last night and got off to a warm, clear start. The same place was all cold yesterday and this morning extended panoramic view of mountains and waterfalls all around. Everywhere you see looked ethereal. The sound of this valley was silently soothing. It was a sheer delight!
There are several mountains with godliness belief and some folklores are seriously followed here. People also offer praying to be blessed with a child. The trail follows mountains aside and blue skies in front most of the times. Beauty hides sooner!After midday, one should prepare for the unexpected in the mountains. It started to become bitterly cold with foggy view. Thankfully, the wind was on our back until we reached Lang Male. It is an easy ascend for the day, however, the trail follows alongside a glacier and a landslide. Up here comes Sherson pass which is a wide plain land. Right from here, the trail marks are fainter.
In the dusky, chilly hour, we hurriedly walked forward. This rush was trying to hit us with altitude sickness. We could not take the risk after that, and moreover, there was no soul to confirm our navigation. We started to panic. In fact, we were running out of water that we carried in our thermoses and drinking cold water would be a stunt. We were surviving on the last bars of chocolate. Slogging forward, we expected to at least spot the base camp after each hills that we crossed. We were freezing, exhausted and starving.
Finally, we spotted blue roofs from afar. It was such a relief! We’d met a group at the camp earlier who shared their struggle to the base camp. They lost trail and camped on the way as they could not reach the hotel. They had tents and sleeping bag but the cold kept them awake the whole night. We luckily reached the hotel just before the night grew darker walking beneath the starry sky. It was too dark to see any mountains and for rest of the hours before sleep, we just sat in front of fireplace in dining room at the hotel. It was a real triumph for us. We were at the base camp- Makalu Base Camp.
Day 9: Makalu Base Camp (explore and relax)
It was a splendid sight to wake up to. I walked out of the hotel room to see Mt. Makalu standing right in front. It was the closest view of any tallest mountains I’d ever seen. It would be a total injustice for this place if we rushed so we decided to spare a day just to relax and explore at the base camp.
There is a glacial lake at the foothill of Makalu- the holy Barun Pokhari, at 3 minutes walking distance from the hotel. Base camp is surrounded by lines of other magnificent mountains and peaks apart from Makalu, like, Peak 3, Peak 7, Chamlang and others. We sprinted around 2 hours on rocky ways towards the view point and weather permitted us too to catch a good view of glorious Mt. Everest from the top.
Malaku Barun National Park is one of the biggest national parks in Nepal. Just around this conservation area there are over two dozen mountains towering over 6000 meters. The region bears a rich diversity with around 30 species of Rhododendron, red pandas, snow leopards, Lophophorus and other exotic treasure. It is also a popular destination for Yarsagumba hunt . The village is almost empty during its harvest period as people rush for this lucrative trade, often risking their lives between 3000 m?—?7000 m.
Day 10: Waking up in mountains is a great feeling and the view never satiate our vision.
Day 11,12,13,14: Makalu Base Camp > Kathmandu (via same route)
First, you miss comfort zones, then nature spins her therapeutic wand. You get charmed by the beauty and before you even realize it, the trek nears to the end. This morning had bittersweet hours. Our backpacks were unloaded as we had finished the food that we carried, left some clothes to kids around, but we were heavy in our memories. It has been one of the finest treks so far. The descend was quick and the moments with mountains were fleeting behind. We were turning back again and again until small cap of mountains were visible from every turning. Makalu Base Camp trek is an amalgam of several other destinations. It has lakes, waterfalls, glaciers, forests, highest mountains and its reminiscence will definitely allure you for a lifetime.
So, who should be planning for this trek?
Unless you are hiring a camping company which can set you tables to dine, be prepared to spare few days in wild surviving on basics. That means you are off from flooded posts in the internet, can refrain from communicating with families (no wi-fi or mobile networks) and your head torch is a companion to dispel darkness at night (no electricity to charge your electronics). It’s for those who likes to challenge their vulnerabilities.
The trail draws less visitors unlike other buzzing routes and it falls under the most remote areas. It may require some basic trekking instincts to hit the right path as the trail is not distinct at some places. There have been times when we had to depend on our own navigation skills in the absence of other people who we could ask. Having said that, it is not unsafe to trek solo or so, it only requires a little vigilance. This could be an adventure awaiting. Moreover, there is no chance of faces to interfere while you are taking pictures of your favorite spots, unlike in crowded places where you have to wait for the mass to move away to take one good shot.
Fitness is certainly a major concern. The altitude ranges from around 700 m and shoots over 5000 m within the span of its trail:there can be a serious altitude gain on a single day. In addition, the traversing often tests your lungs to catch breathe and legs to carry your body mass along with the backpack. It’s easy for oneself (and others too if you are trekking in a group) to do an honest self-assessment and warm up a little bit to get a head start. Nevertheless, boldness in heart plays a big role and passion is the key!Click here to Book on Customized date
About Raksha Roy
Raksha Roy is a contributing blogger at UpEverest. She is an IT professional, embracing writing and photography as her hobby. As an adventure seeker, her spirit to travel around takes her to the places that turns her into a tale-teller. Nepal has forever been an amazing destination for all, and Raksha’s travel diary intends to simplify traveler’s journey to her country through her experiences.
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