The final four days of the trek involved re-tracing our steps back to Lukla, stopping at Tengboche, Namche Bazar and Phakding.
These days also provided an opportunity to recuperate from altitude sickness and associated loss of appetite and lack of sleep. My mild case of altitude sickness disappeared as soon as we reached Tengboche – the headache I’d had for the past four days went and my appetite returned with a vengeance. I also managed to get my fist good night’s sleep for five days, and the following night in Namche Bazar was even better with almost 10 hours of blissful, uninterrupted sleep.
We celebrated the final afternoon and night in Lukla by playing pool with our guide (a Lukla native), as well as consuming several beers, at one of Lukla’s bars, followed by dinner with our guide and porter. A quick coffee at Lukla’s fake Starbucks (had free wi-fi and better coffee than the real thing) completed the evening and the trek.
There was one last item of “excitement” though – being the take-off from Lukla’s airport the following morning. There’s no messing around, straight down the hill and pray that the wheels have left the tarmac before the end of the disturbingly short runway. Surviving this we had one final night in Kathmandu (with a good dinner at K-Too Beer & Steakhouse in Thamel) and that was it, for this trip at least.
Overall, this was a hugely enjoyable two weeks and some of the best walking I’ve ever had the pleasure of doing. The issues with altitude didn’t detract in any significant way from the trek, and I vowed I’d be back to Nepal, which I am pleased to say I will be later in 2012…
An early start and another short, sharp climb to kick things off – heading eastwards and then turning north-east to pass the Tenzing Norgye Memorial Stupa. The path from here through to Kyangjuma afforded superlative views of the Himalayan mountains.
There’s a steep descent to Phungi Thanga, where we stopped for a tea break, before another long slow climb to Tengboche.
Tengboche is a magnificently situated monastery, one of the oldest in Nepal. After climbing up a ridge to the east of Tengboche to visit a couple of Chortens and take in the views, I returned to visit the monastery for a service at 4pm which was open to, and indeed packed with, trekkers.
Once the sun passes behind the mountains it gets very cold, so in the evening I donned my down jacket and took a stroll around the area, again admiring the amazing views, including Mt Everest, before finishing the day at the bakery with another excellent coffee..
Namche Bazar (3440m) to Tengboche (3860m) (net height gain 420m)
About 4 hours / 6 kms
There was no official trekking today, instead it was a rest day to explore Namche and adjust to the altitude. We did do a bit of walking though, visiting the National Park Museum and getting our first view of Everest from the ridge near the museum. After taking plenty of photos we then took a shortish but sharp climb up to the Everest View hotel, a Japanese owned facility with, as the name suggests, extensive views of Mt. Everest (the photo above shows Mt Everest reflected in the windows of the hotel). The outside dining area was an excellent spot for a drink and rest while admiring the truly stupendous views.
After climbing back down to Namche, I spent the afternoon exploring and enjoying a real (Lavazza) coffee and pastry in the Namche bakery.
No trekking – acclimatization
Due to delays in arrival at Lukla, the previous day’s walking had been a bit of a forced march in gathering gloom. Day two of the trek felt like the first real day of trekking – we woke up to a beautiful but rather chilly morning and proceeded up join a lot of other trekkers on the path to Namche Bazar.
The trail first enters a forest of Rhododendron and Magnolia and then passes though a village called Tok Tok. From here a canyon is entered and the trail climbs moderately upwards to the village of Chumowa before crossing a bridge into the village of Monjo where we stopped for an early lunch.
Shortly thereafter, the official entrance to the Sagarmatha National Park is reached. We took the opportunity for a short rest while our guide dealt with the paperwork (permits are required to enter the park). From this point the path descends steeply for a short while before levelling out and following the Duhd Koshi (river) to Larja Dobhan. We had another short rest just below the Larja suspension bridge (see photo above) before beginning the final slog up to Namche.
The final slog is a climb of around 600m beginning after the bridge is crossed. The climb up is relentless and surprisingly tough, although I didn’t complain too much given that we kept passing porters carrying a lot more than a daypack. The weather by this stage of the day was very warm and this combined with the altitude made the walk thirsty work. At a couple of rest points along the way, enterprising locals were selling drinks and fruit, and one of these points also provides the first view of Everest – that is if it is not obscured by cloud as it was when we arrived.
Passing up through Blue Pine forest the path eventually reaches the bustling hub of Namche Bazar, where we very happily collapsed into our room for a rest before venturing out to explore Namche’s narrow streets.
Phakding (2610m) to Namche Bazar (3440m) (net height gain 830m)
About 5 hours / 7 kms