Guide to Everest Base Camp Trek Without any FLIGHTS

#1 Apr 20th, 2016, 21:37
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  • arunsekhar1 is offline
#1
Mount Everest. It is my obsession, my dream and big part of my life. After almost 2 years of fantasizing, I had the perfect opportunity to trek till the base camp and I screwed it up. The mistake I made was textbook. The one that cost me the attempt was underestimating the mountain. Taking a lot of variables for granted. Illusioned is the man who thinks he is completely prepared.

One of the first things that I assumed was there is always a cheaper alternative to everything. But cheap has a lot of hidden costs in the form of time and money which almost make it costlier than other options. I decided to write this post to record some of the observations I had in my Nepal trip which might benefit others planning this trek from India.


1. Getting to Nepal


Nepal and India are members of the SAARC countries due to which Indians enjoy a lot of subsidies compared to foreigners. Indians do not need any Visa or passport to enter Nepal. Hence I decided to cross Nepal by road. Below are the details:

a. New Delhi to Gorakhpur – This is probably the worst route in Indian railways ever. There is absolutely no system of reservations in this route. A minimum of 2 passengers board for every seat and Train supervisor has absolutely no say in it. More than the passengers, there is luggage almost everywhere. It is best to book a AC compartment in this route as a Sleeper class is almost as bad as General.
Sleeper Class ticker – Rs 500

b. Gorakhpur to Sunauli – Since my train was delayed, I kind of hurried to board a bus to Sunauli and forgot to withdraw money from the ATM. Anyways, as you get out of the station, you will find buses to sunauli just after crossing the road.
Bus ticket – Rs 90

c. Crossing the Border – When you cross the border from India to Nepal, nobody will ask you any questions if you are Indian. Though I have heard that border closes at 8pm so it is better to reach before the afternoon. So yeah, a brisk walk gets you in Nepal.

Please note, as soon as you enter Nepal, or just before crossing the border, make sure you buy a face mask as Nepal has LOTS of dust. You can find it in either sides of the border and it would be a really good investment.

I observed 4 main FUNDAS in Nepal

1. All the distances in Nepal are given by timings for which I have a formula. Whatever distance someone mentions to you, just multiply it by 2. This goes for both road travel and walking. The roads don’t exist in Nepal and its dusty everywhere which makes the vehicles late. The people walk there very fast compared to us and hence multiple trek time by 2 as well.

2. Never EVER take Buses. Always go for the Micro, which is a small Toyota cab which takes fewer passengers. Even though it is costlier, but trust me you will get mad in a Bus. Buses can stop at any place for 2-3 hours if it doesn’t find passengers, they will load almost thrice its capacity and EVERYONE VOMITS.

3. Nepali are very HUNGRY for money. Much more than Indians. As you enter Nepal, you will find loads and loads of people trying to sell you stuff, starting from face mask to Health insurance. Although they won’t cheat you, but it is very likely you will not get the best deal.

4. Don’t fall into the money exchange scam! All the money exchangers present in the Sunauli border will exchange your Indian Rupee to Nepali currency at INR 1 to NR 1.6. But when you want to convert the Nepali currency back to Indian Rupee, they take a 4% commission which is very costly when you have large amounts. An easy way is to just withdraw the money from Nepali ATMs. My bank had charged me INR 32 per withdrawal which is decent. I did not have to carry lots of Indian currency as well. And as per the latest update, the Indian 500 and 1000 denominations are ACCEPTED in Nepal.


2. Sunauli to Kathmandu (All money in Nepali Currency)


Sunauli to Kathmandu is about 8 hour drive. So I crossed the border and passed through all the Nepalis trying to sell me a ride to Kathmandu. I think this could’ve been a mistake but I’m not sure. As I had read in some online reports, I took a rickshaw to the nearest Bhairawaha Bus stand. Here there are Ticket counters where you can buy tickets for Kathmandu. But these counters were present in Sunauli as well. But anyways, I had to wait for an hour when I finally got the Micro at 11:30 am. The route is mostly through the hills and roads are mostly in construction. There is a Traffic jam from 11am to 3pm on this route when the vehicles just stand on the road for 4 hours. Luckily we avoided this Jam by stopping for lunch at that time.
But lunch was no cheap affair here. A simple dal bhat costs around Rs 150. One lady came and poured a bowl of chicken in my plate which I didn’t even order and charged me Rs 100 for it. I understood that Nepalis do not give anything complimentary.

Sunauli to Bhairawaha Rickshaw – Rs 100
Bhairawaha to Kathmandu Micro – Rs 750
Lunch on the way – Rs 250

3. Kathmandu – Stay and Permits

I had booked my hotel from Agoda.com which I later found that was the best deal ever. I got a room in Pariwar BnB which is in Thamel. Thamel is that part of Kathmandu where all the mountaineering action lies. Although I didn’t realize this till later but I never really liked the place then. I had to share the dorm with 4 other foreigners who fortunately were on the same trek. The room had no proper lights, the bathrooms were on different floor, the manager was always high. But this was dream compared to where I stayed later.

The next day was fully for permits. First I tried withdrawing money from the ATM which was pretty easy. Then I went to the Tourism Office which is near the Old bus stand. Since I had the GPS, I walked instead of the rickshaw. I was really glad to be Indian when I compared the prices. For the route I had planned, I needed 3 permits. One is the TIMS card which is issued to all the trekkers. This is like the ID card and contains the emergency information etc. Second and third were permits to enter the National parks in my Trek. Since my planned route started through Gaurishankar Park and then to Sagarmatha park, I had to obtain permits for both. After getting the permits, I visited the Bus stand which was nearby to get the tickets for Jiri next morning. Unfortunately, the seats in Micro was full and all I got was a Bus ride tomorrow morning.

After the permits, I decided to tour other dirty side of Kathmandu. On my Mom’s insistence, I went to Pashupathinath temple where there was a huge crowd gathering to see dead bodies burn. I have no idea why Nepalis come to witness other people’s cremation and suffering. Next on my list was a Buddhist stupa called Boudhanath Temple. This stupa was under construction but was huge. The whole area around it had lots of cafes, restaurants and monasteries.

TIMS Card – Rs 600 (Rs 3000 for foreigners apart from SAARC countries)
Gaurishankar Permit – Rs 200 (Rs 2000 for foreigners)
Sagarmatha Permit – N.A. (For SAARC its Rs 1640 and foreigners 3000)
Entry to Boudhanath Temple – Rs 50 (Rs 100 for foreigners)


4. Kathmandu to Jiri


I wanted to avoid the costly flights to Lukla and hence had 2 options. Either I could take the bus/micro to Jiri. Or I could take a Jeep ride to Salleri. But I read in many places that the ride to Salleri is too dangerous and life threatening (which I experienced later). I had Mr Kim from Korea for company in the bus journey which had stunning views. The valleys of Kathmandu puts any part on Indian Himalayas to shame. Majestic was an understatement.

It was a gruelling 11 hour bus ride. Please note that the buses might have Wifi written on them but none of them have it. They stop to load more and more passengers and luggage everywhere. Moreover, they stop for lunch between 10-10:30 am so be prepared for an early lunch.

Kathmandu to Jiri – Rs 550

5. Jiri to Salleri – Trekking

Since this post is mostly about how to get to Nepal, ill skip the experiences during the trek. The trek from Jiri to Salleri passes through Shivalaya, Bhandar, Kinja, Sete, Lamjura and Junbesi. Although, I thought ill list down a few observations when it comes to tea houses during the trek:

-Don’t get fooled by the looks of the tea houses. A fully battered one might be very costly and a deluxe one could be cheap

-In the Gaurishankar region, I paid Rs 500 per tea house on average which included stay, dinner and breakfast and some black teas

-Never miss out on tea houses with Wifi although they are hard to find.

-Most of them will assume you will not take a bath. Make sure you inspect the toilets and bathrooms if you intend to.

-Always stay at places where there is some company. I was trekking alone and one night I had to stay at a place where there were no visitors. I had to simply sit and play with the owners kid. Some people to share the experiences at the end of the day would be better.

-Another thing to inspect is the bed. Since you have strenuous days everyday, it is important to check the bed while choosing the tea house.

-The sherpas in mountains are not as money minded as the city Nepalis. Ask for boiling water, extra tea, extra soup and they wont charge you. You are basically part of their family for a day.

-There are two kinds of tea houses (Buy a map from Jiri Bazaar). One is a homestay where the owner has some other business and has the tea house secondary. Hotels are ones which is primarily for staying. The homestays are cheaper than the hotels. But it would harldy be a difference of Rs 200-300. Remember, look at the kind of people you are staying with rather than the cost. I always chose big families as they were more entertaining.


6. Trekking Gear


I thought I should list down the gear that I think is absolutely essential for this trek:

- Hiking Poles – Although they may seem odd at first, for multiple day treks they are very helpful as you don’t just use your legs but hands as well. This is one thing I missed the most

-Sleeping Bag – A 15 degree sleeping bag is NO USE here. I think a zero or 5 degree sleeping bag is a must. Though the size is also a factor as you don’t really want a bulky one if travelling without porter

-Inner Thermal liner – I missed this every night. Thermal liners can really help even at 0 degrees and are an absolute must for the evenings after the trek.

-Trekking wear – one full sleeve T shirt and full pant and One trekking shorts (running shorts) and half sleeve T shirt. Both the pairs must be breathable and should be quick dry. I was actually fed up of the sweat everyday and used to wash the trekking T shirt every day after completing.

-Down Jacket – This is for the evenings as well. You need a Jacket over the inner layers and it should be light – 200-300 gms

-Warm pants – This is for the post trek evenings to prevent the cold

-Wind Jacket – I always keep this handy as whenever you stop, you feel cold due to your sweat and wind. Also this is a multi-purpose rain jacket too.

-Footwear – Although I really loved my Vibram sole shoes, they had very poor midsoles. Midsoles are essential for keeping your feet intact for next day. But nonetheless, an ankle high boots do help especially in descents as the rocks can hurt your feet. Also the vibram gives SOLID grip in rock, gravel and mud. You forget what is slipping with Vibram soles. Although I am okay with Boots, I still think a Trail running shoe from Salomon would’ve been equally better.
Apart from trekking footwear, another slippers for post trek is essential

-Bag – In my opinion, a 40-50 litre bag is sufficient. The only thing is the bag must have a waist strap which actually can distribute the weight from shoulders to rest of the body. Also a mesh for sweat evaporation would be ideal. Also not to forget the rain poncho for the bag

-Cap and Glasses – Although I just carried them out of instinct, they were VERY ESSENTIAL throughout the trek. Especially the sun glasses which plays an important role whether you get tired or not.

-Toiletries and medical stuff - I had two other plastic bags with all toiletries and creams.

-DSLR – A strict NO. I carried the DSLR (approx. 1 Kg) all through the trek when all the photos I took were from my Mobile phone. I think a smaller camera or a mobile phone is sufficient as you can charge it everywhere and it is easily accessible.

-Towel – There is a towel that I bought in Decathlon. It is the best for these climates. It acts as an awesome towel, dries up quickly and you can even use it as a muffler around your face for the cold.

Porters and Guides

I consider myself good at navigation and hence did not hire any guide for this trek. I had the complete trail loaded in my phone and I was able to navigate without any issues. I use Orux Maps application in Android with Open Street Cycle maps for topography. I downloaded the trails from Every Trail website. All the information related to everything about this trek, I found it online.

Since I was drastically cutting down on costs, I didn’t hire any porters as well. You can easily carry your own load provided you know the following:

-Exactly know what is essential to carry and what is not

-How to adjust your bag to shift weight from shoulders to your entire body

-How to descend with a loaded bagpack without hurting your knees (walking stick)

-How to pack effectively. Things that are hanging from the bag can be troublesome

-Have good recovery time after carrying the bag the whole day.

7. Salleri to Kathmandu

If you are planning to exit the trek, there are 2 ways. Either you can go back the same way to Jiri. Or you can exit through Salleri where there are Jeeps and buses available to Kathmandu. Salleri is a 4 hour walk (nepali 2 hours, for mortals, 4 hours) from Junbesi which is a town on the EBC trail. If you are lucky you will find Jeeps from Junbesi to Salleri but they charge close to Rs 500 for hanging at the back. And the route is non-existent and passes through difficult terrain. So its better to walk to Salleri. On the way there is Phaplu Airport where there are a few morning flights to Kathmandu. Salleri was an hour from Phaplu. In Salleri, I committed the biggest mistake of this trip, by booking a bus from Salleri to Kathmandu. There are lots of lodges in Salleri in which I chose one with wifi.

The lodge manager where I stayed told me that the buses take ages to reach Kathmandu and I should’ve booked a Jeep which reached Kathmandu by afternoon. He was right. It took 14 hours for the bus to reach Kathmandu. But more than the time, I was worried for my life. Till about 4 in the evening, the roads that the bus took were all one way and one small mistake and you end up in the valley. There were atleast 10-12 sections, where the conductor had to get down and check if there was any vehicle coming from opposite side. There were places where we had to clear stones from landslides too. A Jeep would’ve been twice as faster and I would’ve saved a lot of time.

Salleri to Kathmandu Bus – Rs 1400 (Jeep was Rs 1600)
Salleri Lodge with dinner and tea etc.– Rs 530

8. Kathmandu to New Delhi

I wanted to follow the same route back to India. Hence I took a lodge in Chaba Hill in Kathmandu and decided to travel early next morning. After experiencing Thamel in Kathmandu through Agoda.com booking, I was living in complete Trash and paying more! There was meat smell all around the room and there is no fan, lights or locks to the room. I just had to bear it for one night.

I knew about the 11am to 3pm traffic JAM in the route from KTM to Sunauli border. I took a Micro very early at 7 am from the KTM Bus station. The driver barely crossed the Traffic JAM at 10:59am and we avoided it. I reached Sunauli by 4.30 pm. Here I had Rs 33,000 Nepali currency in cash. I got to know about the 4% commission on buying back Indian Currency. I had to pay almost Rs 800 INR as commission.

When crossing back to India, there was strict checking of my bags and they wanted all the details of my entire journey. After crossing, I took the same bus back to Gorakhpur and took an AC train this time. Even the AC trains were crowded, but still there was only 1 person per seat and it was civilized.

Kathmandu to Sunauli – Rs 750
In INDIAN Currency
Commission for Money Exchange – Rs 900
Sunauli to Gorakhpur – Rs 90
Gorakhpur to New delhi – Garib Rath AC chair car – Rs 700

9. Final Thoughts

Now when I have finished the trek, I keep questioning my decision for not taking the flights. I keep thinking whether I could’ve made it without a jacket, or a proper sleeping bag, walking on pure will power alone. The practical side of me tells me why its not possible and it was the correct decision. Although, the story couldn’t have been better, living with sherpas, experiencing their culture, food, lifestyle. This route is absolutely stunning. Unlike the EBC trail which is mostly through the valleys, this trek passes through mountains up and down. It sure is challenging and tough on the knees, but the views and route makes it completely worth it. But this requires the extra time to be invested. Apart from the extra time, it almost costs the same. There are 8-10 extra days of trekking if you do not take Rs 15,000 flight from KTM to Lukla. But reaching KTM to lukla by road takes Rs 500 for bus to Jiri and approximately Rs 1000 per day. This makes it close to 8000-10000 for the trek to Lukla. Hence the question you want to ask yourself is whether you want to trek 8 days to save 4000-5000. But nonetheless I am glad to have completed this trek in Rs 10,000 from Delhi to Delhi

My final verdict is NOT to take the Gaurishankar route to EBC if you are looking to cut costs. Take it only if you want a peaceful trekking experience through the Real Nepal. You will find comparatively less trekkers here and most of the locals will be happy to have to at their place. My suggestion is to take this route definitely if you have 20 trekking days for Everest base camp. If you are strict with a 12 day schedule, then the usual flight to Lukla might give you more value of your time and money. My final piece of advice is never to go cheap with gear. All the gear has a purpose and it is better to invest good gear than to go with cheap gear and costly travel. And like I said, I would never underestimate the Himalayas and the trek for granted next time!
"Life is best lived, when travelled"
#2 Apr 20th, 2016, 21:41
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  • Sriman Dutta is offline
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Wonderful trip..
#3 Apr 20th, 2016, 22:11
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  • vaibhav_arora is offline
#3
Excellent post Arun. Would be interesting to read a description of your trekking days plus some photos if you'd like to share.
#4 Apr 21st, 2016, 07:46
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  • ermil is offline
#4
Awesome! Thanks a lot for such great information. Someday I hope to do a similar trek myself.

Quote:
and EVERYONE VOMITS.
On all these hilly routes, I think it is a given and you can tell generally just by looking at the sides of the bus for the vomit trails hehe. I feel bad for most of them because they have no choice but to go by bus in those terrains and either don't know about or can't afford pills to help prevent.

That being said, I HATE the fact that they won't even attempt to get a window seat or ask you to shift if they know they are going to vomit. I've been puked on more than once because the idiot sitting next to me just didn't tell me he was prone to it and didn't ask me to shift seats (which I would have happily done). Maybe they are too embarrassed/shy to ask, or what I don't know, but it's so annoying to get puked on ...AND ITS ALWAYS RICE IN THE PUKE!
#5 Apr 21st, 2016, 13:41
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  • arunsekhar1 is offline
#5
No no, the sides of the buses are very clean. The bus drivers are so used to vomit that they carry loads of vomit bags... When there was a close call, I gave the lady the spare plastic bag I had!
#6 Apr 21st, 2016, 14:09
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  • style_guru is offline
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Hi Arunsekhar1

It would be great if you could pen down your complete trip report, so that people like me, who have EBC on our to do list, can get benefited from your experiences
I am only responsible for what I say, and not what you understand
#7 Apr 21st, 2016, 16:41
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  • Apoo Roaming is offline
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Good write-up, Arunsekhar1! Really like it... I attempted the trek last year in April but unfortunately the EQ struck on the same day when I landed in KTM.
#8 Apr 21st, 2016, 16:44
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  • Apoo Roaming is offline
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Hi trekkers,

I have a thread at http://www.indiamike.com/india/trekk...gokyo-t231064/ for the interested trekkers for EBC. You can have a look and keep in touch with me. Arunsekhar's writing is very informative and hope that will inspire others also (who has exp. in trekking) to trek this beautiful route.

@ Arunsekhar1: I hope you will not mind me posting the thread link here.
#9 Apr 21st, 2016, 18:09
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  • arunsekhar1 is offline
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Sure no problem! One of my motives to post this travel report here was to may be find some like minded partners for next time in oct-nov or next year! I should follow your thread as well
#10 Apr 21st, 2016, 18:19
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  • Apoo Roaming is offline
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Thank you. If things go as per plan, then next year the plan would be a 2 weeks long trek in Garhwal Himalaya, from Gangotri to Kedarnath via Kedartal, Auden's Col, Khatling glacier etc. A superb trek (and challenging too) where very few people have ventured till now.

BTW, Arun, you have not mentioned about the rest of the part of your EBC trek. Interested to know -- 1) in which month did u trek ; 2) whether you visited KP top (Kalapatthar) ; 3) if you trekked till KP on the same day reaching Gorakshep from Lobuche etc. details.
#11 Apr 21st, 2016, 18:36
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  • arunsekhar1 is offline
#11
I went from April 4th to April 13th in 2016. I did not complete this trek as after reaching lamjura pass (3550m) I realized neither was my clothing enough for high altitude nor was my sleeping bag. Hence I returned through salleri to KTM.

In the upcoming months, I plan to accumulate some gear and experience in Himalayas this summer (this was my first Himalayan trek) so that may be I could attempt ebc in November this year. Let's hope everything works out according to plan!
#12 Apr 21st, 2016, 18:41
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  • Apoo Roaming is offline
#12
If you have EBC in mind for early Nov, do keep in touch after checking my thread
#13 Apr 28th, 2016, 19:23
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  • punspans is offline
#13
Nice to read this. I did EBC solo in March and had a great trip. Ive shared some tips and details on my blog. I went by Volvo from Delhi to Sonauli and took the direct bus from Kathmandu to Delhi. Do check it before going again. If you need any other details, let me know.
www.trekthehills.com

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