Saturday, 21 January 2012

Namche Bazaar

A day of crossing and re-crossing the thundering glacial ‘Dudh’ (milk) river, walking through pine forests and cleared areas of terraced fields, growing a surprising variety of crops. A series of small hamlets mark the way as we slowly gain altitude, with spectacular 6000 m mountain peaks unfolding above.

We pass through the gates of the Sagarmartha National Park, the establishment of which has seen a significant attempt to stem the use of firewood in the area. Today, self-contained trekking groups must use only kerosene fuels for cooking, and tea-houses and lodges are encouraged to use kerosene or yak dung.

We follow the river course to the confluence of the Dudh and Bhote rivers, and cross a spectacular high bridge before commencing our ascent to the village of Namche Bazaar, the Sherpa ‘capital’ of Nepal.

It is a tough climb towards the end of the day as the trail zig zags steadily upwards through a forest of pine to a vantage point that provides our first glimpse of distantMount Everest. The trail continues to climb and meander to Namche, and the sight of this prosperous village spread within a horseshoe-shaped valley opposite the beautiful peak of Kongde Ri is worth every step.

At Namche we have emerged from the narrow lowland valleys and after an acclimatisation day will continue into a changing landscape of broad glacial valleys punctuated by the moraines left by retreating glaciers.

This stunningly located gateway to so many paths in history straddles the sides of the valley at some 12,000 feet above sea level - you can almost taste the atmosphere in the air, the sense of hope, joy and wonder to come.

It was called a rest day but after breakfast we were off, thought this time with a light pack. We climbed steadily up the side of the village to a museum and then up towards a view point. It was hard going as we put on 500 m.

The skies had been rather cloudy to start with but the sun came out mid-morning. It was a steep twisting climb, but first chance to see Everest in the distance though was thwarted by distant clouds.  Some of our group walked on to the Everest View Hotel but they didn’t see it from there either.

The walk back down was equally punishing in the heat of the day - twisting hairpin footpaths with wonderful panoramic views of Namche at every turn.
By the time we got down I was tired with a headache, even though it had been a fairly slow pace. After drinks and lunch the headache disappeared and so did the weariness.

I spent time in the afternoon looking round local ‘shops’. Very colourful and spread along tiny, steep streets with Yak passing-room only. I bought a fake North Face down jacket at a bargain price which I thought might be useful later for the cold nights at higher altitude.

It seemed my body was adjusting to the altitude. Today’s up and then down again walk had helped. Breathing was now easier than the first night at Namche.

But we would be back at square one tomorrow After the climb out of Namche the first part of the day would be fairly level, then a descent into the valley followed by a steady and steep climb.

The Lighthouse Keeper is written by Clive Simpson - for more information click here 
All photos: Clive Simpson

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