Namche to Pheriche

March 12, 2015

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Namche Bazaar is a transition. It is the end of the world, and the start of Khumbu. It is the last place with a reliable power source, free internet, quality bakeries, and stores where you can buy high quality mountaineering equipment. Although most journeys into the region start at Lukla by flight, or Jiri by foot, Namche Bazaar has always been the embarkation point.

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On our acclimatization day, Katie, Reuben, and I visit two villages further up the hill from Namche: the villages of Khumjung and Khunde. Both villages are known for having green rooftops, to reflect the fertile farmland of the valley in which they reside. From the path to Khumjung, we get our first real look at Everest, Lhoste, and Ama Dablam. The village itself has spectacular views of Ama Dablam, which is one of the most incredible mountains I have ever seen.

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Khunde is home to a clinic whose clientele is 98% Nepali. The doctor who runs the clinic, Dr. Kami, is very famous in the region. It is important for us to visit this place, because this is where we will be sending many of our Nepali patients throughout the season.

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The trek to Khumjung and Khunde is arduous, however, as the snow is melting in the warm air and the trails turn to mud. By the time we make it back to Namche, we are very hungry, and an exquisite piece of apple pie and an cappuccino at one of the local bakeries hits the spot nicely, then we head over to a bar that shows a documentary called “The Sherpas: The True Heroes of Everest” every day at 3pm. The movie highlights a group of Sherpas, and the work they do to prepare the way for Westerners to climb Everest. It is truly remarkable how these people toil and prepare so that people from a far away place can bask in the glory of standing on the highest point on Earth.

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After the movie, we return to the Panorama lodge for some Dal Bhat, which is the local staple. Dal Bhat is a combination of white rice, a liquid called Dal, and stewed vegetables, sometimes with meat. It’s actually very good, and there is always a lot of it, because it is traditional and expected for you to get seconds when you are eating Dal Bhat.

The next morning we have a last delicious breakfast at the Panorama Lodge.  It is more pricy than the other places we stay, but it is well worth it because the proprietors treat you like family.  Before leaving, they blessed us each by presenting us with prayer scarfs to take on our journey with us.

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We start off early to take advantage of the night’s cold to cover some distance before the heat of the day brings back muddy trails. Again transition: below Namche, the terrain was pine forests familiar feeling to many parts of America. Above Namche, the terrain transitions into an alpine zone, where trees become more like tall bushes and life becomes harsher.DSCN0404

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Our goal for the day is the hilltop outpost of Tengboche, which is most famous for its Buddhist monastery, and also has a few rugged lodges for guests. After a long, seemingly never ending, uphill hike, we reach Tengboche. After checking into the lodge, we make our way over to the Monastery to have a look. Respecting the wishes of the monastery, I took no photos inside. The main room houses a large Buddha statue, and places for the monks to sit. The walls are adorned with colorful images of gods and scenes that hold no meaning to me, and I walk away with little understanding of what stories and lessons were being taught on the walls of the Tengboche Monastery.

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The accommodations at the lodge were extremely crude, and the difference in quality between the lodges of Namche and those of Tengboche is striking. However the Sherpa stew is good, albeit being made with some unknown overcooked meat. The secret jewel of the stay, however, was being able to eat dinner watching the sun set on Everest and Ama Dablam. The whole room was silent as we watched these mountains transition from white to gold, to rose.

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The next morning began early. Our porters wanted to be off with our bags by 6am. Their goal was to drop our luggage off at Pheriche, and then be back to Lukla. These three young men make their money carrying goods uphill, and when they reach their destination, they want to spend as little time as possible on the return journey. There’s simply no profit on the way back. Starting early again allows us to benefit from walking on frozen ground, instead of mud.

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The trail continues to get higher, the air continues to get thinner, and the trains of animals carrying goods, so frequent below Namche, has become a rare sight.   Reaching the stone mounds and prayer flags that mark the top of the pass before entering Pheriche is a cause for celebration. We now just have a short downhill hike before entering the town that will become our new home for the next couple of months. The hours cramped in an airline; the days breathing dust and exhaust in Kathmandu; the miles of hiking have all been for this: to reach the Himalayan Rescue Association aid-post at Pheriche.DSCN0477

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