We awoke in Namche Bazaar to Lal’s familiar voice outside our tent announcing, “Tea time!”. We felt the cold morning air as we unzipped our sleeping bags and enjoyed a hot cup of tea. “Washing water!” followed and we rinsed our faces and dressed for the day, quickly putting on layers to keep out the morning chill. We packed up to move further into the Khumbu Valley — backpacks, Thermarests, sleeping bags and finally the tent. We finished breakfast and headed northeast on the trail.
We stopped to marvel at the view shortly after leaving Namche. Ama Dablam loomed in the distance. Exquisite Tibetan jewelry, singing bowls, yak bells and masks were displayed on a table alongside the trail — the tangibles of trade in the region.
We began the uphill push to the next milestone — Tengboche Monastery at nearly 13,000 feet. The dusty trail led us up, away from the river, past stacks and stacks of mani stones, finally reaching the monastery on an auspicious plateau amidst the topography of the Khumbu valley.
Tengboche Monastery has withstood an earthquake and a fire in the near century since its construction in 1916. The monastery is a sight to behold on a bluebird day in the Khumbu. A decorative gate opens to a staircase leading up to an assemblage of rectangular forms, accented with symbolic colors of Buddhism. Prayer wheels line the south side of the monastery’s exterior and ornate fenestration adorns every facade, in traditional Tibetan architectural style.
We were thrilled to be there, with the sun shining intensely and Everest in the distance. Perfect timing, too. We arrived during Mani Rimdu, a Sherpa festival with nineteen days of ceremonies and mask dances. It was early in the day so we hiked on to Pangboche where we dropped our bags and set up camp, then returned to Tengboche to await the start of the day’s festivities.
The monastery was slowly coming to life, with horns blaring from the windows in a buzzy, unharmonic drone. Sherpas from around the region were starting to arrive, dressed in layered garments, hats and beads. Women sat patiently in groups, chatting away and catching up just like neighbors do in every part of the world. I imagined what their banter was about — the coming winter? Dinner that night? Trail conditions? Love? Maybe everything.
We took it all in and admired the view around us, then the monastery doors opened and the procession of Mani Rimdu began.