On Day 2, we left our teahouse in the tiny spot of Tok Tok (9,000 ft / 2,800 m) at around 8:45AM to head, following the route to Everest Base Camp, to Namche Bazaar, a rather bigger town than most in the area (actually, THE biggest). This would have us climb over 2,000 ft in the last 2.5 hours of the hike that day, a rather ambitious and challenging effort (except for the super fit and those used to the altitude, perhaps – I fell under neither success category…).
Leaving our spot in Tok Tok, we stood for a group photo as one of the trekkers was not continuing beyond Tok Tok.
On the trail to Everest Base Camp…
Soon thereafter, off we went walking on terrain that was becoming familiar to us: rocks, dirt, steps, pack animals, farms, debris from the earthquake, reconstruction, and the river. It is a rugged but peaceful terrain; except when the pack animals come – at that point you make a quick move towards the inside of the trail, not the side facing the steep dropoff! On this day, we would cross the river four times if memory serves me right.
Entering the Sagarmatha National Park
Later that morning, we officially entered the Sagarmatha National Park (which is the park where Mt. Everest sits) via the Jorsalle gate (which is right outside of Monju on the way to Jorsalle). There was signage offering good advice for trekkers in dealing with acute mountain sickness (there are always those who are unprepared…). More importantly we passed a traditional kani gate which incorporates prayer wheels and colorful paintings on the walls and ceilings. This gate marks our entrance in the sacred valley of the Sherpa (a term that refers to an ethnic group, not a job, as we learned…): the Khumbu. I loved the rules suggested to those who enter the valley (see photo).
Breaks from the trail: tea and food
While the actual walk is rewarding despite the challenging parts, one of my favorite moments is when we stop 🙂 Yes, it is about getting a break from the effort. But it is also about the camaraderie over that cup of tea, lemon or mint with the latter being my favorite. As we all have different paces, non-walking time is when we get to share with those we don’t keep up pace with (or those who can’t slow down easily!). After tackling the first mile (which was not a walk in the park), we made a restroom stop at Benkar but did not even sit- this was not our morning break for tea.
So we trudged along and, after we entered the Sagarmatha NP, we later hit our morning break at Monju (or Monzo) at a place that I would stop at on the way back to Lukla. The outdoor terrace was very spacious and comfortable (perhaps because we were the only ‘crowd’ there) and the temperature was great so we enjoyed sitting in the terrace sipping our tea!
And then we proceeded to Jorsalle where, not 30 minutes later, we would have lunch outdoors by the river at a teahouse there. It was a great stopping point right by the trail (as most are). It was a good break before the final push, and I mean PUSH, to Namche Bazaar – we would be starting a serious vertical climb over a rather short horizontal distance. Heaven help me! We left our lunch ‘resting place’ at around 1 PM.
Bridges crossing the Dudh Kosi River
Before I get to the monster climb… This day was made fun by the many bridges low and high, short and long we would cross. If you are not a fan of suspension bridges, this may not be your favorite day but the most important thing to mind are the pack animals, not the height of the bridges! Here are some images from the “day in bridges.”
And our awesome endpoint: Namche Bazaar
The route to Everest Base Camp is not a steady uphill. No place ever is (even Mt. Kilimanjaro has its downhills as you climb) but this was as much going down as you have gone up in many stretches.
In fact, this day, on a 5.3-mile (8.5 km) route, our net climb was around 2,300 ft (about 800 m) – we climbed much more (upwards of 4,000 ft) and descended a good bit. But after lunch what we faced was mostly a severe uphill, especially after the last suspension bridge (the highest one). And the trail was very rugged to boot. Hard stuff. I didn’t know how I could finish it. And remember, we were climbing to our end point at over 11,300 ft (3,400 m) so the thin air was having an impact (as a reference point, once in Namche Bazaar, we would be at 67% oxygen level vs. sea level!!). I had to stop every now and then just to catch my breath especially after a stretch where the ‘steps’ (rocks) were higher. Not knowing how much more I really had was both a blessing and a curse. Certainly I would not want to know how much more most of the way but maybe during the last 30 minutes I would have wanted to know that Namche was THAT close.
With the incredible climb at the end, Namche Bazaar could not have come sooner. So, it was awesome when we rounded a corner about 2.5 hours after lunch and we saw this town incredibly nested in what looked like mother nature’s own amphitheater: Namche Bazaar! It was a photo op moment for sure and we had earned the rest day coming up on Day 3!
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