Pheriche ( 4240 m) to Namche Bazaar ( 3440 m)
Vignette of a river valley – journal entry on Day 10 outside the lodge at Pheriche:
The river gushes through its rocky bed; its valley is wide and green. Juniper bushes grow in clumps here and there, and birds chirp perched on these bushes. The human settlements are neat; stone walls mark the perimeter of each yak herder’s property, his animals are grazing inside these enclosures. The houses too are made of stone. A single dirt road goes all the way down the valley, following the river, while snow-capped mountains stand guard. The climate is more sublime than the higher reaches. A yak train goes by, led by the whistles and shouts of its herder, a woman, dressed in sweat pants and jacket. The lodges are clustered together at one end of the valley. The sun is rising, spreading its warmth. The valley is waking up to another spring day.
The day has started well as Ali Bhai has done a miraculous recovery – the man never ceases to amaze me.
We get together for a group photo outside the lodge, and start off. The order of walking has changed on the downhill; Ramesh and Shweta are leading the pack all throughout and seem eager to get back to Lukla, Javed Bhai, Ali Bhai and Sachin are walking fast ahead of us ( invigorated by the abundant oxygen), Abhishek is somewhere in between and Cheekala, Sudhir, Aditya, Padmaja and I, accompanied by Kiran, are walking really slow; almost as though we don’t want to leave.
A long walk bring us to Debuche, and my very own natural garden full of rhododendrons. We decide to lie down on the grassy meadow and just stare at the skies – as we have done many times on our way up. This time though its not because we needed a rest but because we wanted to enjoy the place before we moved on.
Just as we are about to start the walk up to Tengboche monastery along comes a jaunty teenager with Tibetan music playing on his phone. I love the music; in fact, I ask the boy to walk with me so I can listen to the music while I walk up. It feels great listening to this music and walking to its rhythm. He comes with us all the way to Namche, and in fact, turns out he is the son of the owner at the Kamal lodge where we were going to stay the night.
Lunch is a quick affair at Phungi-Thanga – after which we hurry up the hill, eager to reach Namche Bazaar. Cheekala, Sudhir, Aditya and I decide that our first stop at Namche would be the Everest Bakery. This motivates us for a while, but then we seemed to be walking forever with no destination in sight. Thick clouds blanketed the valley at places, and it seemed as though we would be walking off the edge any minute.
We kept looking out for landmarks, and haranguing poor Kiran who had to keep answering inane questions from us. How much longer? How many hours? How many kms? – and so on and so forth.
At long last, after many a stop, Namche came into sight. We would have sprinted to Everest bakery were it not for the fact that the last km or so was all steep steps down-hill. Aaah.. the cozy comfort of a warm bakery with the wafting aromas of baked goodies. We were a sight as we wolfed down everything we could think of – apple pie, pizza, coffee, french fries, chocolate brownie, I think pretty much in this order. The apple pie, which was the first to arrive, suffered the fate of meat thrown into a pond-ful of piranhas. It felt good to indulge after living on daal-bhaat-aloo for 10 days.
Back at the hotel I have my first hot shower in 10 days. Yes, I am filthy!
This luxury is followed by another – local beer ( Tongba) which we all share from a huge metal jar full of fermenting millet, and which I have the happy job of refilling with hot water.
I plan to sleep in late tomorrow – the hot shower, beer and weariness all make for deep sleep.