Revisiting Nepal, Part 2

Daily Posts: Adding a bit of light to the darkness as we get through the pandemic together.
This series features travel photos from my archives, shared with you as we shelter in place.

May 12th, 2020

Today, I’m continuing with the second (re)post from my trip to Nepal in 2005. We had arrived in Lukla and started our trek toward Namche Bazaar.

Yesterday’s post is located here, and we have two more to go for tomorrow and Thursday.

Until then,
Kelly

***

Bridge over the Dudh Kosi

Bridge over the Dudh Kosi

Having officially entered Everest National Park, we continued our northerly trek along the Dudh Kosi crossing the metal bridges draped between its banks. It was November and the water level was low, yet the power of the water churning down the valley was palpable, not to mention cold. You do not want to mess with the Dudh Kosi — it’s an extremely rocky river that could pulverize you if it whisked you downstream in its icy, painful bath. It’s just one of the dangers of the Himalayas, and there are many more — like altitude sickness, hypothermia, injury, dehydration, food poisoning, avalanches, weather, limited medical care, lack of transportation and a whole mess of similar conditions that can ruin a trip. The further into the valley you trek, the more aware of this you become.

A guesthouse in Phakding

A guesthouse in Phakding

We were approaching the base of the climb up to Namche Bazaar and I was still feeling sick, for the fourth day in a row. Having been here in 2000, I knew what was ahead — a substantial elevation gain in a short distance. In other words, painfully steep switchbacks. Luckily, the valley is always buzzing with activity and there’s lots to see to keep your mind engaged in the trek instead of drifting off into a pool of worry and doom. The guesthouses are painted in vivid pinks and blues, often with a row of colorful prayer wheels out front in case you need a little divine encouragement to get up the hill.

Carving the Tibetan prayer

Carving the Tibetan prayer

Throughout the valley, masons carve the Tibetan prayer along the trail — sometimes onto huge boulders like this one near Phakding, and sometimes onto stacks and stacks of smaller, flat mani stones. The ping-ping-ping of hammers carries on through the valley with devotion everywhere in beautiful calligraphic displays.

Lunch before the hike to Namche Bazaar

Lunch before the hike to Namche Bazaar

We stopped for lunch near the base of the climb to Namche Bazaar. We inflated the air mattresses and warmed up in the sun as we enjoyed cheese sandwiches, potatoes and some canned tuna (not exactly the finest tuna, Charlie). Here I am, keeping my ears warm and looking a little squeamish as I think about getting to Namche on a bad stomach. It’s not surprising that I have no pictures from the the next three+ hours of the trip. J sped up the hill ahead of me as I plodded along, making my way at a snail’s pace. Ashish hiked along with me and, as expected, he was stopped at the Namche checkpoint and questioned by police to make sure he was a legitimate guide and not a Maoist rebel (one more danger of the trip). Approved, we continued on up.

After several arduous hours we arrived at the base of Namche Bazaar. The village is positioned on a very steep, concave slope and its pathways funnel down to the main trail at the bottom of the hill. There we stood, looking up at Namche — success, yet I was exhausted. We needed to find camp and unpack.

After one more push uphill, we located camp on a flat lawn outside one of the guesthouses. We pitched the tent and relaxed before dinner — a welcome rest at nearly 12,000 feet.

Dinner at the mud shack

Dinner at the mud shack

Dinner was lovingly set up with a red tablecloth in a wood and mud shack outside the guesthouse. Had we stayed in guesthouses, we would have eaten there too but since we opted for the down and dirty camping experience this was our fancy dinner. We enjoyed watching the Sherpas cook and having our dinner with them. They’re amazingly crafty in their bare-bones mobile kitchens and they make some really good food. When I was on my trek here in 2000, the Sherpas actually baked me a chocolate cake for my birthday, at 15,000 feet in Machermo. Take that, Martha Stewart.

Chocolate cake baked by Sherpas from scratch at 15,000 feet.
Thanks guys!

Dinner was dal bhat — a traditional Nepali dish of rice with a lentil curry. Exhausted from the day, we retired to bed shortly after dinner and I was yet again sick to my stomach as I laid in my sleeping bag listening to the sounds of the village.

Good morning, sunshine

Good morning, sunshine

We managed to get some sleep, waking up to this guy in the morning. Yaks and dzopkyos (yak-cow mutts) wander around Namche throughout the night, sometimes with bells on. They’re pretty harmless as long as you watch out for their horns.

After breakfast we hiked to the Everest View Hotel. This helped us acclimatize to the altitude by going a little bit higher than Namche and coming back down to camp for another night.

Above Namche, the biggest baddest peaks of the Himalayas were finally revealed and the enormity of the trip we were making really hit home. Here’s J pointing to Mount Everest above his head. Just below that, the unique serrated edge of Nuptse juts upwards with Lhotse to its right, the fourth tallest mountain in the world.

Ama Dablam

Ama Dablam

Ama Dablam (above right; 6,812 meters/22,349 feet) is by far one of the most emblematic and beautiful peaks of the Himalayas. Once you get above 12,000 feet, this mountain seems to follow you wherever you go. Being closer than Everest (far left), Ama Dablam or “Mother’s Necklace” often seems higher and mightier than anything around it.

At the Everest View Hotel

At the Everest View Hotel

We stopped for a Fanta and a photo at the Everest View, the most upscale hotel in Namche. Most tourists who stay here hire a helicopter rather than walking up through the valley. In my opinion, this is missing the point entirely. The Khumbu Valley is NOT a fly-in, fly-out kind of experience. It really is about the journey. But on a clear day, the Everest View Hotel offers a killer view of its namesake.

We continued on to Khumjung where I made the most important discovery of my day. (It wasn’t the supposed Yeti skull stored at the gompa in a glass box with a very secure padlock.) It was here that Ashish and I discussed last night’s dal bhat and what was in it… rice, lentils, milk, etc. Milk?! EUREKA! It was the raw goat’s milk that was making me sick. The milk was in the curry, the muesli and the dal bhat — sick, sick and sick. I slurped up a big bowl of watery ramen noodle soup to celebrate my discovery, relieved to know I’d soon be feeling better.

Bust of Sir Edmund Hillary at the Khumjung School

Bust of Sir Edmund Hillary at the Khumjung School

We made one more stop before returning to Namche — Sir Edmund Hillary’s Khumjung School, built in 1961. Over 350 students attend the school from villages all around the Khumbu valley. We had read that the school appreciates receiving supplies, so we dropped off a bunch of pencils we brought with us from the US.

Completing our day hike, we arrived at the west side of the mountain above Namche Bazaar and began our descent back to camp. That’s our tent — the little yellow speck at center frame in the photo. Namche Bazaar is the center of trade for all the villages in and around the Khumbu Valley. The weekly Saturday market draws people into Namche from all over the region — even Tibet — who arrive to buy and sell everything from batteries to blankets to goat carcasses. Namche is one of the wealthiest towns in Nepal, reaping the economic benefit of the constant flow of trekkers and mountaineers stopping here to acclimatize on their way to the high peaks of the Himalayas. A bank, post office, charming guesthouses and even the Everest Bakery — apple pie! — offer all the comforts of home in a most unlikely place.

It was magical being in Namche — the light changed and the clouds shifted around the valley, intermittently obscuring and revealing the surrounding peaks. It felt like Mother Nature didn’t want to show all of her cards — we hadn’t earned it yet, even though we’d slogged up the hill and were begging for a clear view of the mountains from where we were standing. She teased and tantalized us as the sun went down and we slipped into our sleeping bags at 7:00 p.m. like it was Christmas Eve and we were six years old and we couldn’t wait to see what the morning would bring.

Magnificent mani stone near Namche Bazaar

Magnificent mani stone near Namche Bazaar

31 comments

  • This whole post gives me chills. I can’t believe the milk was the culprit. On our build we ate dal bhat every, every, every day for two weeks. I just couldn’t stomach it the last three days, but I know it can be sustenance for workers and hikers. I love your post, the views, the people, and the fact that sherpas can bake a cake — anywhere! What an experience!

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    • Thank you, Rusha! So happy you enjoyed the post. The Sherpas we were with ate dal baht EVERY day as well. I was so happy to have that bowl of ramen soup and to start feeling better. Great to hear from you! Hope you and Bert are doing well.

      Liked by 1 person

  • Absolutely brilliant blog Kelly. Really enjoyed this. My eldest superhuman son, Scott raced up inclines too while I inched my way up. Not enough oxygen in my red blood cells I think.
    Lol!!! MILK!!!! Making you sick … here I am thinking Kelly is pregnant & suffering morning sickness & doesn’t know it. 🤣🤣🤔 Fantastic trek this one & photos feel like I’m there.

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  • It’s a thrilling series, and what a beautiful scenery. Many thanks.

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  • Hanging on every word; loving it. I felt every step as you slogged up the switchback having felt the same climbing to over 15000 feet on Salkantay on the way to Machu Picchu. Look forward to tomorrow’s post.

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  • Wow! Even though I remember this from reading it before, and even though I know it because I am your mom, and even though I know you guys made it home all in one piece I am reading this again on the edge of my seat. What an incredible experience! It seems surreal to me that you and Jay made that arduous trip. I am still so proud that you bit that off and have such great memories of it.

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  • This series of stories from your trip to Nepal was probably published before I found your blog. So I’m really glad you decided to share it with us again. I loved my trips to Nepal and Bhutan, and looking at your photos of Namche Bazaar as well as those in the previous post makes me miss these Himalayan nations so much! There’s something peaceful about the landscape, and the architecture is absolutely beautiful. Also the food! I wonder what actually happened to your stomach, but I guess I have to wait for the next post.

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    • Thanks, Bama! I wrote these posts in 2014 when I had far fewer followers, so I was hoping they would be “new again” to some readers. Great to hear you’re enjoying the photos and details. I definitely agree with you about the peaceful landscape. No cars, no planes overhead. Truly remote and special. Great to hear from you! Hope you’re well.

      Liked by 1 person

  • Gotta be careful of the milk. 🙂

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  • Great tale, Kelly. And climbing to high altitudes when your body isn’t adjusted to it is plenty of challenge without suffering from food poisoning. You are tough! 🙂 I am really impressed with the mani stones. –Curt

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    • Thanks, Curt! The Himalayas make you earn every step deeper into the valleys. I had to be tough! Aren’t the mani stones incredible? Stacks and stacks in some cases! With small writing chiseled out of the stone. A bit like petroglyphs in some ways I suppose. I have one particular photo of them I should share so you can see more. I’ll tack it onto tomorrow’s post if I find it. Thanks for the comment!

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  • Pingback: Revisiting Nepal, Part 3 – Compass & Camera

  • I’m so enjoying reading about this trek. It sounds awesome but not likely something I’d do myself so this is a great way for me to get something of the feel of it. So good you figured it out about the milk! I bet things got a lot better after that.
    Alison

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    • Yes, much better! Full speed ahead! So happy I can take you there with these posts. Still, you would LOVE Kathmandu and the areas that can be hiked/walked outside the city (Nagarkot being one of them). So much culture to see. Thanks Alison!

      Liked by 1 person

  • That’s not your average alpine trek.

    I didn’t consider lactose for your stomach problems. I was thinking bacterial infection. But then, with as much as you travel maybe you’ve developed a stronger immunity to exotic micro-critters. Or do you travel with antibiotics?

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  • Pingback: Travel Challenge Day Eight: Nepal |

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