Day 17: Tengboche to Namche

Feels like we’re finally on the homeward leg. We left Tengboche this morning for Namche, and then it’s just another day or two to Lukla.

While we were having breakfast this morning, the Sherpa crew got moving along to the funeral. Apparently the back story was that this nun lama, back before she was a lama, didn’t want to get married. She became a nun and meditated for 40 years to gain enlightenment. It apparently resonated with the people because the entire valley is on the move to come to the ceremony. As we headed down the steep path from Tengboche many others were coming up for the service, including whole families with children who must have gotten a really early start.

The path down to the valley was steep and slippery and all of us took turns slipping on the dirt. Renche took probably the most spectacular digger, slipping quickly right onto his butt. The depressing part of the morning was that all of the elevation we lost we then had to immediately gain back as soon as we crossed the river. But, we knew we were closer to the end than not and that helped to lighten the mood if not always the step.

We grabbed tea and Sanasa, where we were finally at the elevation we needed to be at to make the final traverse to Namche. Here we were able to sit on a nice terrace facing the sun and look across the deep valley to Tengboche, only a small elevation above us. I made both our guide and porter laugh by mistakenly using the ladies toilet rather than the mens (there’d really been no previous distinctions for pit toilets, so I didn’t even both looking at the door).

After warming ourselves and drying our damp socks a little, we were back on the trail. It only took about an hour more to reach Namche. Along the way we passed some photogenic chortens and a monument to Tenzing Norgay, the Sherpa who in 1953 along with Sir Edmund Hillary made the first successful summit of Mt. Everest. We took pictures of it all, knowing it was our last good change to take pictures of Ama Dablam and Everest, sad and yet happy at the same time.

About 4 hours after leaving Tengboche, we were headed down the last little hill to the Moonlight lodge where we checked into the same room we’d had on the trek in. Since we got to Namche around noon, we had all sorts of time to stroll about town. We’d heard great things about the Namche Bakery, so we made our way there first. I grabbed an Americano and Anne and I shared an apple strudel. The strudel, as promised, was excellent. After weeks of trekking and eating only teahouse food, the strudel was downright divine. We scarfed it down quickly, resisting the urge to go back and help ourselves to more of the enticing pastries.

Instead, we strolled down to the “bottom” of town to check out the Tibetan market. A semi-permanent fixture, the market takes up most of the main square in Namche. The Tibetan proprietors actually sleep right there, in makeshift tents and tarps. We wandered around looking at all the variations of imitation Mammut, Mountain Hardware, and North Face clothing, piles of fake Adidas and Nike shoes, and all sorts of other stuff. It was boggling to behold, I have no idea how anybody finds anything they might want. From there we wandered about town, stumbling onto the official Sherpa Adventure Gear store and finally the authorized Mountain Hardware and Cascade Design store.

Back for dinner, I indulged in my first beer of the trek. I’d made up my mind when I first saw Everest Beer in the teahouses that I’d needed to drink it along the trek. Since we were now on our way down and at a sensible altitude, I figured it was safe enough and about time to grab a beer and celebrate. Needless to say, it was great and made the perfect pairing with the spaghetti I had for dinner.

Tomorrow the plan is to check out the Saturday market and the local gompa before heading down the Phakding for our last night on the trail. From there we’ll hike out to Lukla for a flight out the following morning.

Stats for the day:
Miles: 5.95
Ascent: 476m
Descent: 814m
Total Time: 4:21
Moving Time: 2:54