Mera Peak - Day 1 Puyan

Said goodbye to the last of the Annapurna group and started to get to know the new Mera Peak team. Counting me there are 7 men, all with the same or more experience of altitude trekking than me.  Christine of course left for England yesterday. Started the day feeling just slightly apprehensive.

The trip really began yesterday with inspection and briefing.  Jangbu is a the tour leader again and knowing him already is a big help. He has a nice way with him, good sense of humour, cracks jokes, but happy to act as a leader.  His kit inspection was not a formality and a number of items were politely rejected.

I hired my boots and crampons in Kathmandu later in the morning. Got them from a place call Shonas which is near Kilroys in the Tamil.  Shonas is a cut above your normal Tamil gear shop and is a bit of an institution.  It's run by a brummie, ex-climber and his Nepalese wife, they were helpful and very funny.  As well as hiring huge climbing boots and crampons, I've bought some fantastic gloves - three layers in all - so my hands should be warm. Started to feel a bit more comfortable as soon as I got my kit.

Early start today and then a lot of hanging about at the airport. Had no idea what was going on but I think it's a sort of shuttle service with flights piling in and out of Lukla airport, our destination, as quickly as they can. As well as people, bags and climbing gear, our luggage includes food for the next three weeks.  Somehow four trays of eggs survive the crush of the airport and journey to Lukla.

Trip Gear
Twin Otter taking off at Lukla
The trip to Lukla is special. The tiny airport, the Tenzing-Hillary airport, is a shelf on the side of a mountain.  Somebody had seen a History Channel programme that said it's the world's most dangerous airport and hearing this didn't  make things better. The turbulence of the last part of the trip was bad enough as the plane seemingly skimmed the mountain ridges but hitting the tiny aircraft-carrier-like runway with its solid wall at the end was truly unnerving.

Really nice to meet a previous guide from my Everest Base Camp trip in Lukla, especially as he recognised me after three years and hundreds of clients.

Had to hang around in Lukla to see if the rest of the gear would turn up on a following flight.  It didn't, cloudy weather, as it often does, closed the airport and lots of passengers are left in Kathmandu hoping for better luck next day.  It meant we were just a bit late leaving and Jangbu set a very fast pace out of town as we try to catch up with out schedule.

The first part of walk seemed to involve visiting a series of sites of plane crashes. The only good news is that all occurred on inbound trips so the worst perhaps is over. 

It's a tougher day 1 walk than I had expected, 1,000 metres of descent followed by 1,000 metres of climb. A nice path, an important route for porters taking stuff up to Namche Bazaar  and the views would have been great if it been clearer. The rhododendrons and in particular the magnolia were were spectacular. Lots of wonderful birds especially the Himalayan Magpie, much more glamorous than its European cousin with a huge a sophisticated tail.

Setting up the first camp at Puyan
Arrived before our bags at about 5.30pm, 30 minutes before sunset.  No mess tent tonight, our food is being served in a nearby tea house. 

There are some traditions which I recognise from previous trips, tea and biscuits as soon as you arrive in the camp and washing your hands before entering the eating area.  In the morning there will be a bowl of hot washing water and a cup of tea before breakfast. The tents are top quality, enormous, and for some reason I have my own tent. Not sure if this is permanent or something that happens on rotation.  Anyway so far so good, great first day and already I'm starting to relax.

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