Most of the good or beneficial effects that come about in the world are based on an attitude of cherishing others. The opposite is also true.
Day 3 – Heading to Namche Bazaar
Our first night in a teahouse at Phakding was decent and we got a good feel for the upcoming routine. Rooms in a teahouse are very basic with some windows, two small beds on either wall, and just enough room to put down your packs and move around slightly. The beds are typically some kind of platform that has a basic mattress on top and then some sheets and blanket of some sort. Especially since the time-frame of our trip is in late December and early January, the sleeping arrangement is to put your winter-rated sleeping bag on the mattress and pile on any blankets they provide. This will keep you sufficiently warm, especially at the lower elevation villages like Phakding. The bathrooms here had Western-style flush toilets and running water available in the sinks, something we don’t expect at higher elevations. This particular teahouse had a dining room that was separate from the building with the guestrooms. The dining room (or “dinning room” as it’s often spelled in the region) is the center of activity, especially in winter. The guests, guides, and porters all congregate here for meals and tea. During this time of year, there is a lot of jockeying for position around the stoves that they have in the dining room for heat and boiling water.
The trail out of Phakding north takes you up the river valley. We cross multiple suspension bridges to cross the river as we zigzag our way up the valley. We stop mid-day in the village of Jorsalle at 8,990’ / 2,740m (73% of the oxygen available at sea level) at a teahouse for lunch. So far, we’ve ordered a lot of egg and vegetable fried rice dishes since they are filling, delicious, and seem a safe choice. Our guide, at the beginning of the trek, advised us to avoid dairy and meat. The reason is, that on this entire journey, animals or humans bring everything to this area and there is no refrigeration during transport. So, there is a high risk of developing issues by eating these types of foods. Here, we meet a family from Perth, Australia that we hiked path earlier on the trail. We chat for a while and learn that they frequently do these types of adventurous outings together as a family.
This is the heaviest day of trekking, in terms of the amount of elevation that we have to gain to reach Namche Bazaar. We set out after lunch, cross the river via a suspension bridge one more time and then we see the large hill guarding Namche. We see two final suspension bridges in the distance above us; one is in disrepair and there’s a newer one above it that we’ll actually use. We walk past the river, climb on top of boulders, and make our way to the high suspension bridge. Here, we get a great view of the lower river valley that we’ve hike the past two days and feel the colder winds that are swaying the bridge while it also bounces with our footsteps. We continue for another hour of steep climbing of switchbacks and dusty trails until we reach the first view of Mount Everest that is available to trekkers.
We are in luck as the sky is clear and blue and there’s a beautiful far away beacon of Everest’s pyramid peak giving up snow like a pole waving a flag. The summit of Mount Everest is at 29,029’ / 8,848m, which is in the upper troposphere of our atmosphere. This is where commercial jetliners typically travel and where the jet streams live. Whether snow or just specially formed clouds, much of the time that we saw the Everest peak on this trek, a long white banner was flying off to the East. A couple of Sherpa women here sell us some tangerines and the sweet tartness hits the spot on this dusty and warm section of the trek.
We then set out for the remainder of the switchbacks to finish the climb to Namche. We see a few large yak and donkey trains that are carrying supplies up the mountain to Namche and higher towns. There’s always dung on the trail from these animals that we look to avoid. The great thing about yak dung is that it’s virtually odor-free. It’s also an important fuel source, especially at higher elevations above the tree line. Most of the time, the stoves in the teahouse dining rooms are fueled entirely by yak dung.
We arrive at Namche Bazaar in the mid-afternoon and it takes another 20 minutes of climbing just to reach our teahouse that situated up further in the town. Namche is an amphitheater styled town that is brilliantly carved into the mountainside here. The sight of some of the multi-story teahouses and overall scale of the town is astounding, given the rough and steep trails we’ve traveled the past two days and knowing virtually everything comes here on foot. The setting of the town is also stunning; dramatic ice- and snow-covered mountains immediately look down on us in Namche. We arrive at our teahouse and are quickly greeted with two cups of hot Tang orange drink, which taste like the most wonderful thing you could have after the amount of work we just did in getting here.