Himalayan Travelogue Part 14 – Namche Reunion, Back to Lukla

Posted: February 19, 2011 in Himalayan Travelogue
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Had a great night sleep in Namche, woke up and took my morning constitutional on an honest to goodness sit down toilet, ah the joys in life we take for granted on a daily basis.  Fantastic breakfast and with my back still a bit sore and finally tired of walking I decided not to go up to Thame to meet the group and instead spent the day in Namche.  I walked around the town for the day, did a little shopping and looked at some amazing Thankas (religious paintings), did some internet, sat in the sun and ate apple pie at the Everest Bakery, damn good apple pie.

The rest of our group came in that night and it was a raucous and emotional reunion, we ate a lot, we drank a lot, and general relaxed.  It was also starting to set in that we would be leaving each other soon, people were tired and emotions frayed, so like any good family party people were on edge.  Over the last three weeks we had become a family in some sense of the word, we’d bonded over hard work and high altitude and had gotten very close.  Like every family however, you had your obnoxious loud cousin, the weird family members, the quiet ones, the mom – I can see all of my former companions reading this and trying to figure out who I thought was who.  We’d been living together for three weeks and that brings with it all of the positives and all of the negatives.  However what I will say is that in doing these sorts of adventures, I’ve noticed that the people who show up to these things are typically a little easier to get along with than the general population.  I do not like to be part of groups as a general rule but anybody willing to pay to walk up mountains and used squat toilets for a couple of weeks has an adventurous nature and those folks are always easier to get along with, our group was no exception.  In our group, after we picked up a couple of stragglers, including scientists, teachers, computer programmers, business people and a doctor.  The countries represented included the United States, France, Hungary and Slovenia a pretty diverse group.  The age range and I’m guessing a little bit here, ranged from late 20’s to the early 60’s and every shape and size, this diversity provided for great conversation and a full rewriting of the Slovenian National Anthem.

Our Group

The morning after our Namche reunion we walked down to Phakding, on the website for Project Himalaya it says this walk we came up two weeks before will seem remarkably easy and quick and it was true.  It really is amazing after two weeks in the high country how much easier it was to walk at 10,000 feet and lower.  We spent the night at a lodge in Phakding eating popcorn and watching Bollywood music videos.  The next morning we were off to Lukla.

The next morning uncharacteristically I was one of the first people to be ready and I set off down the trail toward Lukla.  I was the second person out and was wondering down the trail looking at some of the amazing Mani Walls in the areas:

Mani Wall

Some of the beautiful homes and gardens:

The Little Bridge

I was even stopped for awhile so that a train of mules essentially could go through, and at times stopped to let some of the unbelievable porters to come through:

10 Sheets of plywood on their backs

Porter with a 4 foot high load

The porters are absolutely amazing, small men by American standards, thin, wearing sneakers and sometimes even sandals and they are carrying crazy loads from 9000 to sometimes 15, 16, or 17,000 feet.  I saw porters who were carrying five foot high stacks of can goods, with ten sheets of plywood (the picture above) and the most amazing, a five foot man carrying eight, seven-foot long pieces of rebar.  The rebar was so long that he had to go backwards downhill, the same downhills I was carefully picking my way down with trekking poles.  Effectively the porters and Sherpas of the Khumbu are supermen.

Now one of the questions I often get was aren’t you afraid you’ll get lost and I always said no, the trails are fairly obvious and they were.  Particularly on the way to Lukla, it’s a trail, mostly stone covered that thousands of people walk daily.  Of course, this was the day I got lost.  It was a short detour, I missed a turn around a little school and instead went off along the river.   The trail kept getting narrower and I stopped seeing people come the other way so I realized pretty quickly I’d gone the wrong way.  It was a nice little diversion down a quiet part of the valley and I was happy for the mistake.

I backtracked to the trail and ended up coming up behind the group and freaking people out as they were all sure I was up ahead of them.  We walked leisurely that day, stopped for tea on a highpoint and enjoyed the sun.  There was one last hill to climb and then we entered Lukla a full circle in the Himalayas

Gateway to Lukla

We dropped down through the village and stayed at the lodge next to the airport and settled in for lunch, it was Thanksgiving Day back in the states but there was no turkey on the menu in Lukla.  I was hungry and so I decided to order the sizzling Yak platter and when it came out steaming and sizzling I was the envy of the lunch crowd.  We spent the day in Lukla picking up souvenirs, catching up with the world on the internet and then me, Mark and Tom decided to have a beer at the Everest Rock Bar.  It was a fabulous little place, just us and the bartender who I’m sure thought we were nuts, we drank, we laughed and listened to the same loop of music over and over and it was wonderful.  The girl who hiked in a skirt and her boyfriend even stuck their head into the bar in a nice little coincidence and said hi.  It was a good afternoon.

The Everest Rock Bar - Lukla

That night was Thanksgiving Dinner, our last night party, we bought a box of wine and we all ordered the sizzling Yak, within minutes of our dinners coming out the steam had fogged up the entire lodge and they were opening windows.  The other groups in the lodge, Italians and Japanese couldn’t stop watching our table.  We were happy and rowdy and then it happened, perhaps the funniest thing I’ve ever seen in my whole life.  One of the add-ons to our group, Chris had gone to an international nursery school as a small child and had learned a Japanese Nursery Rhyme.  Suddenly, with no warning Chris leaped up and burst out in full Japanese song mode and started dancing and singing the rhyme.  Some of the older Japanese ladies jumped up out of their chairs and joined right in, it was madness as the other Japanese trekkers went for their phones to video the whole affair.  Every once-in-awhile I search YouTube hoping someone has posted it, the search continues.  A late night and lots of drinking would be followed by an early flight to Kathmandu.  As I was nodding off Philippe came into the room and proceeded to spontaneously launch into a flying Tatanka massage.  Nothing like being half-awake, buzzed and having a 250 pound flying Frenchman land on you full force to give you a full body Tatanka massage.  After my screaming stopped I heard lots of laughter from the other rooms of my mates.  I would sleep with one eye open for the rest of the night.

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