Day 18: Namche to Monjo

Change of plans this morning. We chose to stop short of Phakding to break up the trip to Lukla a bit. That allowed us to get a slow start this morning and check out the gompa and Saturday market, enjoying our time and taking lots of pictures rather than rushing the whole affair.

Dorje had plans for us that were slightly contrary (wanting to do the market first and then the gompa, us wanting to do the reverse) and it was hard as hell getting him around to what we wanted to do in the order we wanted to do it. Finally, we said we’d just do it on our own, specified a meeting time, and took off. Not more than two minutes out the door and along come Dorje and Renche, now apparently having a change of heart. Dorje helped us find the most direct path over to the gompa (a path that involved a lot less up and down) and even though the place was closed managed to get us inside!!! We took a ton of pictures, made a donation, and I even followed along with Dorje as he made a blessing to the lama. All in all, it was a great time.

Next we made our way towards the market on the other side of town. The market was a crazy scene, reminiscent of the sort of chaos you’d expect in Kathmandu. Lodge owners from all over the Khumbu descend on the market to load up on supplies and it’s not uncommon to see yak trains inbound for the market on Friday and leaving Namche on Sunday loaded with goods. Again, we took lots of photos trying to capture the life of the market and the people who frequented it. After we tired of trying to find places to stand where we weren’t in the way, we again made our way back to the Namche Bakery where we both enjoyed a latte before heading back to the lodge for lunch consisting of tomato egg drop soup.

Around 1PM we left for Monjo, saying goodbye to Natang and the Moonlight lodge for the last time. We took an interesting turn that lead us through the market and almost immediately thereafter Dorje was gone. We’d later find out he was grabbing yak butter but assumed he was running some errand for his family up and down the valley. Renche took on the role of guide and the three of us carried on. As we made our way along the trail, we looked back frequently to see if Dorje was catching up but as we reached the valley below it became apparent that Dorje was further behind that we’d all thought.

It only took about an hour to drop the elevation to the valley floor and reach Jorsale. Apparently, Dorje had instructed Renche to get us a room there to which Anne and I both protested. In fact, Anne pressed for Phakding (still another 2 full hours away). Renche looked as though he didn’t quite know what to do, but acquiesced to the request and so we kept moving along. In the end we wound up stopping in Monjo, which was the next major town down the valley. We’d probably have gone further yet had it not been getting late in the afternoon. Because we didn’t know precisely how much longer it would take to get to Phakding and because it was clear daylight wouldn’t last much longer we figured it was better to take what we’d gotten than to push it. Dorje was still nowhere to be seen so we found what looked to be a nice lodge, asked a couple guys sitting on the patio if it was any good, and checked ourselves in. While Anne got the room set up, I stayed and chatted with the two while waiting to see if Dorje passed. Scott was from Canada and Murray was from Australia. Both were hiking along but had paired up after meeting each other on the plane.

After about 10-15 minutes Dorje came trotting along. It was a frustrating experience. You hire a guide to be a guide rather than run personal errands and leave you alone all day. We felt bad for our porter, who’d clearly been put in a position that he wasn’t entirely comfortable with. We resolved to adjust the tips based on the experience, dinging Dorje 1000 rupees for being more interested in his motives than his clients. It wasn’t the first time. On our rest day in Namche it became apparent that Dorje wanted to get a coat at the Tibetan market rather than spend additional time walking to Khunde. That not only resulted in our day being cut somewhat short, but also his racing ahead of us and feeling pressured to keep up at a pace that wasn’t ours. It was also apparent leaving Tengboche as Dorje had wanted to get an unreasonably early start given the distance we needed to cover in the day, again apparently due to some ulterior motive in Namche. All up, we’re starting to feel a little tired having to “fight” to get some of the things we want. Hopefully, it will all be over soon and we’ll be relaxing in warm beds and hot baths.

Stats for the day:
Miles: 2.9
Ascent: 168m
Descent: 756m
Total Time: 2:00