1.2.1: Namche

Day 36: Kathmandu

Today was stressful. I got up and tried to pay my bank bill online before meeting up with Jagat at 10:00 but the electricity was out. Instead I took a walk around Thamel and grabbed some breakfast. I got back just before 10:00 and the electricity was back on, but the internet site was down. Jagat and Kanchha turned up and we discussed the itinerary for the Khumbu trek. We went to a bank to try to withdraw money to pay for the trek but they wouldn’t accept my card. I went to an ATM and made three withdrawals of 30,000 rupees before my card stopped working. I guess it had come up to its daily limit. My other card didn’t work at all even though the ATMs had the symbol for maestro. Jagat and I walked all around Thamel trying to find an ATM that would work but in the end we had to give up. On the way we stopped off at a travel agent and I was able to arrange a plane ticket to Bangkok on the 8th November. I gave Jagat my few remaining US dollars and we agreed that I could pay the remainder when I returned. In the afternoon I chatted with my mother over Gmail and she said that I’d had lots of phone calls from the bank. I’d also had missed calls on my mobile. I guessed it was related to the failed withdrawals around Kathmandu.

36.1. Kanchha, Jagat and I out for dinner in Thamel.

The evening was much more enjoyable. Jagat, Kanchha and I went to a Tibetan restaurant. I showed Jagat some of my photos from the Annapurnas and we chatted about some of the projects he is involved with in Nepal.

Day 37: Kathmandu to Lukla (2850 m) to Phakding (2640 m)

I awoke this morning at 5:00, packed my bag and met with Kanchha in the lobby at 5:30 before getting a taxi to the airport. At this time of the morning Kathmandu is totally different. It is very quiet and there is no one on the streets. When we arrived at the airport however, there was a huge queue of tourists. We got through the queues and just about managed to get on our plane, the first of the day, the 6:30 Sita Airways flight to Lukla. I managed to get a window seat on the left hand side from which there were amazing views of the mountains as the sun was rising. It was noticeably colder when we got off the plane at Lukla.

We met with Bhoj, a Tamang about the same age as Roj, who would be my porter for the Khumbu trek. We went for breakfast at a lodge in Lukla and then went to use the internet as I was worried about the calls from the bank. I had an email from my mother that said that the security department had called regarding my debit card, which seemed strange seeing as was completely unable to use my debit card. There wasn’t a lot I could do up here so I decided to leave the matter until later.

37.1. Arrival in the Khumbu region at Lukla.

We walked mostly downhill to Phakding and arrived in about 2 or 3 hours. In the Khumbu, only guides and tourists can stay in a lot of the hotels, so unfortunately Bhoj had to stay elsewhere. In the afternoon, Kanchha and I went for a walk up to the gompa on the hill on the opposite side of the river. The lodge was quiet in the evening which was a little surprising as the trail had been very busy during the day. Kanchha and I sat in the corner playing cards. We hadn’t played cards for a while because Kanchha had lost his last pack in Ghorepani.

37.2. The Dudh Khosi from Phakding and Phakding gompa.

Day 38: Phakding (2640 m) to Namche (3450 m)

It was a very clear morning and the weather remained good for most of the rest of the day. After breakfast we witnessed a pair of dzopkios (cow/yak crossbreed) getting tangled up in their ropes. It was an amusing sight as the tour guides struggled to untangle them.

38.1. Dzopkios tangled up in trekking bags.

The morning walk was very pleasant and we stopped for tea break at Benkar where there were spectacular views of Thamserku across the valley. After tea break the trails started to become very busy, particularly at Jorsale, where the entrance for the Sagarmatha national park is located.

38.2. Thamserku in the Dudh Khosi valley near Phakding and Bhoj and Kanchha at the entrance to Sagarmatha national park.

We stopped for lunch shortly after getting the permit and entering the park. After lunch we began to climb steeply walking along switchbacks up the hill towards Namche. About halfway up the hill we got our first views of Everest (Chhomolungma/Sagarmatha) in the distance.

38.3. First view of Everest on the hill up to Namche.

As we entered Namche the clouds descended and it quickly became cold. We had some difficulty finding a lodge and eventually got a room at the Everest Hotel, the third place we tried. It was a nice room but unfortunately I could only get it for one night and had to change tomorrow morning. In the early evening we went to the shops and I bought a warmer hat and gloves and a towel to replace the one I’d left in Pokhara.

Day 39 Namche (3450 m)

Today was a rest day in Namche for acclimatization purposes. In the morning Kanchha went to get a room and I moved my stuff to the Namche hotel which was closer to the centre of the village. Afterwards I went for a walk with Bhoj up in the hills above the path towards Thame. There were many prayer flags and chortens as well as large coloured and monochrome Mani stones with the ‘Om mani padme hom’ inscription (hail to the jewel in the lotus). The weather was very clear and there were good views of Thamserku and Khonde peak. At around 10:00 we came back down and I ordered lunch before going for a walk around Namche.

37.2. The Dudh Khosi from Phakding and Phakding gompa.

I came back for lunch and noticed on the wall an image of a Korean adventurer called Park Young Soek who had climbed all fourteen 8000m peaks, the highest mountain in each of the seven continents and been to the north and south poles.

39.2. A major adventure.

After lunch Kanchha was feeling lazy so I went for a walk on my own to the Everest view hotel. I walked past Syangboche airport, where no planes can come after a row with the people of Lukla, who were unhappy about the reduced tourist trade. I stopped for a drink at the panorama hotel before walking to the Everest view, an expensive Japanese hotel. Unfortunately Everest, Lhotse and Ama-Dablam were all obscured by cloud at the time but the views into the valley were spectacular nonetheless. I could see out to Tengboche gompa and the valley beyond. I sat about on the hill for a bit before heading back to Namche.

39.3. The walk to the Everest view hotel.

In the evening the lodge was very busy so after dinner, Kanchha and I went to a café for tea and played some cards. Kanchha had to wait until all the tourists had had their dinners before he could get Dal Bhat.

Day 40: Namche (3450 m) to Khumjung (3790 m)

Before heading off to Khumjung, Kanchha and I went to the Sagarmatha National Park museum just above Namche. The museum itself was unimpressive but the views from outside were awesome. We could see right down the valley, the Panorama hotel and the Everest view just beyond it on the left hand side and Ama-Dablam on the right. At the end was the huge wall of Nuptse and Lhotse with Everest behind.

40.1. View from the museum near Namche.

The walk to Khumjung was very nice and Khumjung itself was impressive located under the giant rock of Kumbhui Yul Lha.

40.2. Khonde peak rises above Namche and a mule near Syangboche airport.

40.3. Afternoon walk near Khumjung.

Later on we went to visit Khunde. We visited the Khunde hospital, which was set up by Edmond Hillary and is very well equipped considering its remote location. Afterwards we visited the Khunde gompa. There was a ceremony going on and we were able to sit in with the monks. There was intermittent chanting and playing of Tibetan pipes, cymbals and drums. It was very interesting to witness it. During the ceremony a 3 year old Sherpa girl came in and started playing with the butter candles, eventually putting them all out. One of the monks had to come over and relight them. In the evening we played ludo and cards and I went to bed quite early. The night was very cold and in the morning there was a ground frost.

40.4. Ceremony at Khunde gompa.