Porters and the Valley
Namche Bazaar Travel Blog› entry 109 of 115 › view all entries
The afternoon sees us striking for Namche Bazaar, the way is longer than I remembered. Throughout much of this leg of the return we walk in step with a group of Nepalese porters whom are carrying enormous loads of wood back towards a village near Namche.
The porters all use woven wicker baskets that are a wide rectangle shape at the top, tapering inwards towards the bottom. The baskets fit close to their backs but are not supported by shoulder straps. Instead the porters wear a strap around the forehead. They tend to bend over to support some of the weight on their back whilst the remainder of the strain is carried by enormously powerful neck muscles. These muscles are developed from a very young age; children are trained to use the forehead straps to carry weights so that, when they are older, they will be able to carry huge loads.
Angie’s Nepalese guide estimates that each of the porters we see is carrying an average of 40 kg of wood. Even he shakes his head in disbelief at one of the young men; his load towers above the top of his basket, tied on with green twine. The guide estimates that this load must be closer to 90kg. As a comparison, the porters on the Inca Trail in Peru are now bound by regulations to carry no more than 25 kg.
Each porter chops the wood before loading it as best they can into their baskets. There are no roads or cars up here and yaks are very expensive. Human transportation remains the most economical way of transporting goods between villages over long distances. It's the most incredible feat of strength I’ve ever seen. All of these people, many woman carry alongside men, are, by Western standards, pretty small.
One of the porters is an older man and he’s clearly struggling compared to many of the younger ones in the group. He stops to rest at the tip of one rise and Angie shares some nuts and chocolate with him. He speaks some English and, whilst giving me the warm Nepalese smile, tells me that he is 62 years old. He carries wood for a month or so each year; it brings some money in, he says, otherwise he is effectively retired.
He says that he earns the equivalent of about five pounds per day for the work. I am humbled both by his endurance and that this is considered normal up here. Angie tells him to keep the packet of fruit and nuts; he needs them more than we do.
The porters eventually turn off to their village and, late in the afternoon now, we walk a path high on a valley side closing in on Namche Bazaar. There are many things that will linger in my memory about my time in the Everest region. As the afternoon wears on, the light dims slowly. The sun gradually bows out behind a ridge in the West as the vast valley below and ahead fills with cloud.
It’s one of the most ethereal and beautiful things I’ve ever seen. I tell Angie and the guide to walk on a bit, I’ll catch them up. I just want a few minutes alone; this is perhaps the last amazing natural scene I will see on m thirteen month odyssey. My experience at Dughla, combined with a general tiredness and malaise, has unavoidably turned my thoughts homewards.
I stare out across the layers of clouds; my last true taste of the high Himalayas. It looks almost like you could walk across them all the way to the horizon.