There are two Everest base camps, the North one is in Tibet and the South one is in Nepal. Trekkers prefer the Nepalese one because it has more greeneries, birds and animals and also because Tibetan permit is difficult to obtain. The EBC (the popular term for Everest base camp) trek is one of the most popular routes of the Himalayas.
Each year, around 40,000 people embark on this sojourn which starts from Lukla, one of the most dangerous airports in the world.
Our journey started from Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal, where we spent one full day to buy trekking gears, proper clothes and dry food. A lot of tourists buy a full package for EBC trek from countless travel agencies, it is less of a hassle, but also more expensive.
We did not hire a guide as our team leader, Maruf Kabir, had been on EBC treks both on the Nepalese and the Tibetan side. With his experience, he was sure that we would not get lost.
The trekking season is during the months of April and May, or August and September, twice a year. So one fine April morning, we got on a small aircraft of 12 passengers to Lukla airport.
It was a short flight, and in less than half an hour we noticed the silver runway among green mountains. It is unreal how can pilots manage to land here without crashing!
In the small and crowded airport we met our porters, three young men, and headed out immediately after sipping on some tea.
At first we stopped at Phakding (2640M) and next day we reached Namche Bazaar, a beautiful Sherpa capital located at the height of 3440M.
The trek to Namche Bazaar is not an easy one as there is a steep slope which starts from the river bed and ends near Namche, it demands a good physical fitness.
When we entered Sagarmatha National Park, the high conifer trees, the playfulness of shadows and lights, and chirping of birds made the journey easier for us.
Before one begins to trek, one must understand that the Mount Everest should be respected and that high altitude can be a killer thing for those buzzing with over excitement or zeal.
To acclimatise with the environment, we stayed in Namche Bazaar for two nights. One day we went to Khumjung village which is world famous for the Edmund Hillary School and the skull of a Yeti (the Abominable Snowman of the Himalayas).
The village looks like the perfect location for a middle earth fantasy movie. We visited the local monastery, saw the skull (by now we knew that it was a hoax made from goat skin), and had lunch with some locals.
The next day, we started early in the morning for the picturesque Tyangboche village located at 3867M.
On both sides of our road, rhododendron flowers in every possible shade of red, pink and white were in full bloom. We spotted the Himalayan monal and the Fire-tailed sunbird – both dazzling, beautiful birds.
During the whole trekking week, we barely got to see Mt Everest; we mostly see the Ama Dablam Mountain.
Climbing up the slope to Tyangboche was long, exhausting and beautiful, but at the end there was an open meadow, an ancient monastery, three hotels, a distant German bakery and all the mighty peaks one could ever gaze at!
This was the most scenic place during the whole trip. When we were enjoying a warm apple pie in the bakery while looking at pink clouds around Mt Everest during sunset, we thanked to the Himalayas for welcoming us into her abode.
Soon we started our journey towards Dingboche (4260M), another hotel stoppage.
Each day we hiked for 8 to 10 hours and we always ate rice and lentil for lunch and dinner at local Sherpa restaurants. The only thing we demanded for was the dishes to be freshly cooked to avoid getting food poisoning. We also carried boiled water with us.
Dingboche was not a very grand area and we stayed there for two nights. After that we went to the Thukla Pass, which was the last major obstacle on the way to EBC. The air was getting thinner as we were at 4500M now, every step was getting more demanding, and the wind was getting stronger.
After crossing the pass, we were at the memorial of the mountaineers who lost their lives while climbing the Everest. We mourned at the epitaph of the Bangladeshi mountaineer Sajal Khaled who climbed Mt Everest successfully in 2013, but unfortunately passed away during descending.
From the memorial, we reached Lobuche at 4930M. Some of our teammates developed headaches due to the high altitude, and after staying one night at Lobuche, which was not very pleasant due to the harsh weather condition, the following morning we headed out for Gorakshep (5140M).
While we were walking through the icy paths, we saw a flock of Snowcocks, large ground dwelling birds, fearlessly roaming among hikers.
By lunchtime, we reached Gorakshep, which is just beside the Kala Patthar (black rock) mountain. It had only two hotels and we dropped our luggage there, freshened up and started a quick hike towards the base camp (5364 M).
During the hike, we entered the world of Khumbu glaciers and walked through the moraine and by afternoon arrived at the base camp. The gateway to EBC was open only for Everest climbers, where we were not permitted but it was only five minutes away. It was thrilling to be at the place from where the world's greatest expedition starts.
We looked around and saw the hundreds of colorful tents in the distance, the snow-capped mountain, and the wild blue sky above us; we could feel the call of the mountains within us.
During this special trek, we became friends with adventure enthusiasts from all over the world, with whom we shared our joy and pain of the experience.
Reaching the EBC was like a pilgrimage for us – an outstanding way to be in the wilderness, to feel the Himalayas and gaze at the majestic mountains.