Entering the Khumbu & the road to Namche Bazaar

March 9, 2015

This morning I awoke to sore shoulders, which often happen to me when I sleep on a hard surface. Breakfast was a basic “rice pudding”, which held none of the cinnamon-y goodness of what we have in America, but was basically a porridge made out of the previous night’s left over rice.

Monjo is the entrance to the Sagarmatha National Park, which is home to the Sherpa people and some of the highest mountains in the world, including Ama Dablam, Cho Oyu, and Mount Everest. Today we continued to follow the Dudh Koshi Nadi river upstream. It is a tough day starting at 2835m (9,300 ft) and ending up Namche Bazaar, which is 3440m (11,300 ft).

DSCN0222The route feels like continuous steps, although the Sherpa people are more forgiving in their step building than the Incas were in building the trail systems in Peru. The steps are lower and wider than the steep steps built by the Incas. We walk through a pine forest for most of the day, following the river, and occasionally crossing suspension bridges tenuously hung high above the river. The surroundings remind me of the story For Whom the Bell Tolls by Hemingway, which is about an American explosives expert who is fighting in the Spanish Civil War. He spends the book with a group of resistance fighters in the secluded forests of Spain, where he is planning to blow a bridge. As no one in the group had ever read the book, I remarked that it also reminded me a lot of hiking in the Colorado Rockies, albeit the mountains here are much higher.DSCN0251

About an hour out of Namche, we get our first glimpse of Mount Everest, its peak shrouded in cloud. To think how remarkable it is to be able to travel this land, which has been held sacred to so many, both for religious and adventurous purposes. It is easy to see why travelling in Nepal can become very addictive.

Namche Bazaar itself is sprawling, at least by the standards of villages in the Khumbu. It is a town in a small bowl, with many hotels on terraces up the sides. My dad would be happy to know that there is a Comfort Inn located in Namche, so he could earn “frequent stay” points with that company if he came here. It must be the highest chain hotel, at least from a Western Hotel Company, in the world.DSCN0271

The town looks across the river to the Kongde Ri mountains, which include several 6,000 m peaks, including Mupla, Shar, Kongde, Nup, Thyangmoche, and Paniyo Shar. The names are foreign, but the mountains looming through the windows of the lodge illustrate for the first time how truly massive these mountains really are.

DSCN0288There are other signs of Namche’s unique standing as the economic epicenter of this rooftop kingdom. There are several bakeries, and the one we went to today makes very tasty desserts and cappuccinos. There was even a mountaineering store that carried gear from North Face, Black Diamond, OR, Solomon, and other recognizable brand names, and the prices seemed very comparable to what would be seen in the US. Although there are a lot of “knock-offs” in Kathmandu, these are clearly real. It is amazing they can get there stock delivered up here, likely on the back of donkeys, and still manage to charge prices comparable to REI, Backcountry.com, or other American mountaineering stores.

We are staying at the Panarama Lodge and Restaurant, which I have been told by many of my colleagues who have previously worked for the Himalayan Rescue Association, is one of the best lodges in Namche. It has been frequented by such famous climbers as Reinhold Messnier, who is famous for being the first person to climb Everest without supplemental oxygen. A large American climbing company, Alpine Ascents, stays there each year.  They charge us approximately 400 rupees per room per day. There are about 100 Nepali rupees per 1 USD, which means that our lodge costs us $4 per night. The arrangement, however, assumes that you eat your meals at the lodge that you stay at. When it comes to the Panorama lodge, this is not a problem, as their sunroom is cozy, and their food good. I had Thukpa with Buff for lunch, which is like a cross between chicken noodle soup and egg drop soup. The “buff” is a bit of a mystery, although it is assumed to be buffalo meat, again shipped up to Namche on the back of some beast of burden to end up in my soup. Dinner was fried noodles with egg. The Thukpa cost Rs 500 ($5), and the noodles Rs 550.

By the ornamentation and craftsmanship of the Panorama Lodge, and the bakeries and shops in town, you can tell the wealth of the Sherpa people compared to their compatriots in other parts of the country. Tomorrow will be an “acclimatization day”, which means sleeping in, and an acclimatization hike up to Khunde and Khumjung. This serves the duel purpose of allowing some movement to higher ground to help acclimatize in the “climb high, sleep low” mindset, as well as allowing us to visit the clinic at Khunde, where we refer many of our patients.

The others have gone to sleep, and our Nepali guides, along with two other Nepali who are heading up to Pheriche to work on our solar system, are talking at one end of the sun-room, while I write on the other. There will be enough time for a little reading, and then soon it will be to bed.

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2 Responses to “Entering the Khumbu & the road to Namche Bazaar”

  1. Bonnie Hankinson said

    Again..thank you for today’s adventure~makes Minnesota feel
    like a boring little spot..hoping your beds are more comfortable,
    knowing your “sights” are incredible. God Bless you, Andy.
    XOX Auntie B & Uncle J

  2. TJ said

    Andy did you tell the mountaineering shop that you have a friend in Utah looking for a hardwoods buyer position.I bet that was a cool shop.

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