Wednesday, July 18, 2012

EBC TREK: Namche to Tengboche (Day 4)

     At 7:30 I finished my cheese omelet and cinnamon roll at the Everest Bakery, ready to leave Namche Bazaar for the tiny mountain-top town of Tengboche. The day started out beautifully. The weather was perfect, bright and clear. It was the first time since reaching Namche that I didn't need a jacket. We weaved our way up and out of Namche, a giant nest in the side of a mountain. As soon as we reached the peak and the trail rounded the ridge there were insane mountain views in every direction. I could see far in the distance. There were ivory snow caps above and an icy river carving its way through the valley below. The trail itself was one long, snaking pathway wrapped along side the mountain.

     An hour into the hike we came to a Sherpa woman in the middle of the trail. She was sitting on a chair behind a table with a box of money. It read “donations” and next to it was a log for passing trekkers to sign. She manned her post with a smile and I gave her the equivalent of a dollar, a voluntary toll. The log displayed the names and countries of hundreds of trekkers that passed before us. I wrote my name. Next to it, large and with pride, I represented in giant capital letters... U.S.A.!
Ya gotta pay the troll toll...

     I took pictures as we walked. I closed my eyes and concentrated. I tried to burn the scenery into my memory. I always thought that I preferred the beach. I do prefer the beach. But there was something magnificent about the mountains that struck me. Something ancient and grand. It was awesome in the true sense of the word.

     The first half of the hike was fairly easy. When I felt my knees bothering me a little bit, I realized that we had back walking downhill for quite awhile. The difference in altitude from Namche to Tengboche is only about 500 meters. The hike so far had been so easy because, after hours of progress, my friends and I had gradually gone down in elevation. Now we had to go back up.

     We crossed a small suspension bridge and came to the foot of the mountain that Tengboche sits atop of. The day's final climb was a steep 610-meter ascent. The dirt trail was filled with obstacles, fallen trees and small boulders to trip over. It zig-zagged back and forth all the way up to Tengboche.

     Mike power hiked ahead of us. Britt and I trailed far behind and Leanne was somewhere in the middle. We were still sick and the long day was starting to take it's toll. I notice Brittany wasn't looking too good. We'd foolishly skipped lunch and she seemed tired and frustrated. I offered to switch packs for awhile. I put heaved her pack on to my shoulders. “Holy shit! A midget? Is that what you have in there?” I knew her pack was heavy but, WOW! We continued up the trail and I was impressed that she'd gone so far with so much weight! She didn't find my jokes about packing extra granola bars, clothes, and possibly an anvil very funny. The sky turned cloudy, foreshadowing bad weather ahead, so we bundled up. We toughed out the remainder of the treacherous trail and reached the top before dark. 

     Mike greeted us as always, full of energy. He'd already arranged rooms for the night at The Gomba Lodge (200 NRS/night). On the way to the room I looked around Tengboche. The tiny “town” consisted of a handful of tea houses and a beautiful Tibetan Buddhist monastery. It was positioned like a fortress on an open plain at the top of the hill we'd just conquered. The Tengboche Monastery is the largest gomba in the Khumbu region of Nepal. It was originally built in 1916 but was annihilated by an earhquake just 18 years later. It was then rebuilt only to be destroyed for a second time by a fire in 1989. Volunteers from around the world helped to construct the monastery that stands there today.
Tengboche Monastery

     We were now at 3,867 meters in elevation and as soon as the sun began to set the air became frigid.
I walked around outside admiring the monastery and taking pictures. I watched as a few yaks and some horses roamed the giant field freely. I stared into the distance searching for the panoramic Himalayan views that Tengboche is renowned for. The peaks of Tawache, Nuptse, Ama Dablam, Lhotse, Thamserku, and the mother of them all, Everest, are all visible from Tengboche. The sudden change in temperature had pushed a thick cloud over the town. Quickly and stealthily the fog crept in and laid on top of us like a damp blanket. The mountain views would have to wait til morning.

     We ate dinner in the warm bakery attached to our tea house. We talked about the incredible views and the arduous hike at the end as I nursed my sore throat with lemon tea and apple pie. The day had been full of peaks and valleys, both metaphorically and literally. I went back to the room and laid in bed, fully dressed and under a gigantic wool blanket trying to get warm. A failed attempt to read put me to sleep and continued the trend of an early bedtime. It had been the most scenic view day yet, but also the most demanding.

Tengboche the next morning, clear and crisp.
prayer rock.  one of many.


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