'Buddha's birthday today. The valley is echoing with an almighty ommmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.' When I received that text message (Nepal has remarkedly good mobile phone reception!) I was quite envious and knew I was missing out on an amazing experience. But, you know, there was all that walking! ;) This is Mike's second guest post, documenting his trek in Nepal. You can find his first post here.
After breakfast we got ourselves organised to start walking towards Phakding, our finishing point for the day. Starting altitute: 2840 metres / 9300 feet.
We wandered through the valley with the river on our left, seeing sights that would become commonplace along the way. Porters with massive loads, horses, donkeys, all navigating their way around us bumbling tourists with ease.
We arrived at our first suspension bridge, the first of many. Any hesitation I had was relieved after seeing several tonne of animal wandering across. If it could hold them, it could hold us.
By early afternoon we had arrived at Phakding (2610 metres / 8560 feet). We had some lunch then went for a wander around the town. Not much to see but a good view up the valley.
Maski has warned us not to eat at the bakery, their window didn't convince me otherwise. ;)
On our walk, up and down the mountain, we stayed in a series of teahouses. The food was simple but good, the accommodation basic but did the job. Being our first teahouse, we didn't yet realise the menu that seemed interesting now was exactly the same at every teahouse. Fried rice with or without egg, chips with or without egg, potatoes with or without egg, pancakes, chapati and, the staple of many a seasoned hiker, dal bhat which is vegetable curry, rice and lentil soup. Oh, can't forget my favourite, fried dumplings called mo mo.
After dinner we watched a 1960s documentary on the first successful English expedition to the Everest summit.
The next day we continued through the valley where we officially entered the National Park. Maski took care of the paperwork while we admired the view.
We reached the bottom of the valley then began the climb towards Namche Bazar. Along the way we came face to face with the highest pedestrian (and yak) suspension bridge that I have ever seen.
We crossed the top bridge and if it looks high in the photo, it felt higher in real life!
It was hard slog uphill towards Namche Bazar. As I stopped to catch my breath, Maski approached with a big smile. 'Slow down, we've got 4 hours. And if you have a head torch, we've got all night.' :)
After slowing my pace we eventually turned the corner to reveal Namche Bazar.
I could feel the altitude (3440 metres / 11280 feet) with every uphill step, constantly reminding myself to slow down. I was glad we had an acclimatization day here for our bodies to catch up and adjust.
The next morning we woke up to an epic view out our window. After breakfast we left for a half-day walk up the mountain to acclimatize to the altitude.
We came across this runway that made the Lukla airport seem quite civilized. Apparently it is only used by Russian helicopters these days, bringing in supplies.
After admiring the views and a stop at a teahouse for a drink, we descended back into Namche Bazar to the sounds of Buddha's birthday celebrations.
The parade progressed around the town, the sound of 'Ommmmmmmmm' ringing out across the valley. We were told how old Buddha was (would have been?), although I've managed to forget since. Safe to say, old.
In the afternoon we went to 'Starbucks' for a cappuccino and lazily wandered around Namche Bazar.
Highest altitude reached: 3860 metres / 12660 feet.