Trekking from Monjo to Namche Bazar
Thursday 5th January 2006.
Trek day 3: Monjo to Namche Bazar
In the first hour we crossed several suspension bridges. The last one, at the confluence of the Dudh Kosi and the Bhote Kosi, was the highest. I have had no trouble crossing all these bridges despite the swinging, both sideways and vertically. One tries not to be aware of the enormous boulders and the raging water below.
The steep climb up the valley sides towards Namche Bazar was unrelenting. There are hardly any breaks, very few down slopes or level paths. Two and a half hours of steady slog. In that time we climbed about 600 metres (nearly 2000 feet). Until the last twenty minutes my leg muscles were fine. They have given me so problems so far and surprisingly no residual stiffness the next day. All my training paid off, it seems. About ten minutes from the lodge my daughter Rose ordered me to stop and apply a patch to the developing blister on my heel.
Lack of Oxygen
My major problem is still the breathing. I am constantly gasping for air. The lack of oxygen at 3446 metres (11,100 feet) is really telling. Every step becomes an effort, not only physically. I am surprised at the mental effort needed to keep going. You know that you have to keep each foot moving, one after the other, until your reach the goal, the lodge for the night. Just when you think you canâ€™t take another step, or step up another rock, you come around a bend in the track and you realise that the track continues to wend its tortuous way up yet another steep pinch.
A dayâ€™s rest for acclimatisation tomorrow will be most welcome. What worries me is that we still have another 400 metres of altitude to gain the following day. Included in this is a steep descent of 200 metres to cross a river, followed by another 600 metre climb to Tengboche where our next lodge is located.
Ananta our guide is very encouraging. He, or another of the guides, stayed just behind me all the time this morning. He says that today was the most important day of the trek. The fact that we all made it is a good sign. It is even more encouraging that I made the distance and the climb in three and a half hours today instead of the five hours I set myself.
On the downside however, I could hardly eat lunch. I was seriously dehydrated I think. Jade and Kane were marvellous and shared their drink with me. It was a special drink that assists with re-hydration. Although it didnâ€™t taste all that good it was quite beneficial.
After lunch we had to wait a long time for our bags to arrive. The porters decided to stop along the way for a drink in a local pub. At the same time Ananta warned us not to drink alcohol at this altitude because it is like a poison to those who are not acclimatised.
Namche Bazar is quite a large village perched on the sides of a steep amphitheatre. The beautiful houses and lodges are very quaint with white stone walls, green or blue roofs and blue, green or orange window frames. It is the commercial centre for this part of Nepal and is important for trade between Nepal and Tibet. In days past salt from Tibet was traded for other goods. It has now the highest per capita income of any town or village in Nepal, principally due to the trekking and mountaineering business. Tourism is the backbone of this area.
After we had unpacked our bags and settled into our lodge rooms we arranged for some washing to be done at a local laundry, essentials like socks, undies and t-shirts. Getting things dry in our rooms would be impossible, as there is nowhere to hang things and little air circulation. Other items will have to wait until our return to Kathmandu.
It is now 3:30pm as I write this and the sun has disappeared behind a huge mountain to the west. This mountain has many small glaciers in the valleys and the white snow and ice glows in the sun. During the wet season these are probably waterfalls. As the sun went the temperature dropped several degrees immediately. The sun coming in through the dining room windows has been beautiful â€“ until it goes. I hope that they light the fire soon.
Our lodge room, like the others, is small, basic but adequate. Itâ€™s better than camping outside â€“ and probably quite a deal warmer. It seems that the rooms we have had on this trek are far superior than what some of the trekkers experienced on their trek in the Annapurna region last week. They are quite pleased with the accommodation we have had on this trek.
This afternoon, one of the group, James, found out the scores in the Third Test cricket match in Sydney between Australia and South Africa. There are several internet facilities here in Namche, but they are very expensive. It is expensive because it is a satellite connection. I have seen about 5 or 6 satellite dishes on buildings around the town.