Day 176: E.B.C. trek day 2, Phakding to Namche Bazaar (3440m)
Namche Bazaar Travel Blog› entry 215 of 260 › view all entries
Thanks to the people I met here and/or travelled with: Nick (UK) & Sebastien (France)
The second day of the trek is considered the hardest day of the entire trek. From Phakding you start an undulating two hour walk to the entrance of the Sagarmatha National Park, from where it is a very steep 3 to 4 hour climb to the town of Namche Bazaar, 800 vertical metres higher. For many people this is also the point where they get the first symptoms of altitude sickness.
I had spent quite a while between 3000 and 3800 metres in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, but that had been almost two months ago, surely my body would no longer be adapted to the altitude. The climb went surprisingly easy though.
Yesterday had been a nice introductory walk, today it was the real thing. As soon as we entered the Sagarmatha National Park everything changed. The surroundings, the people, this was Sherpa country. Ever since the first expeditions for the peak of Everest set out in the early 1920s and enlisted the services of Sherpa porters these people have been synonymous with the Nepalese Himalayas, or more precise, the Khumbu region. Had Darwin bothered to travel to Nepal he would have had less trouble proving his evolution theory, since Sherpa are genetically different from other human beings, having adapted to life at high altitudes.
Sherpas really friendly and humorous people, seemingly always smiling, and carrying outrageous loads on their backs. Everything has to be carried up here, including the building materials for the lodges in the mountains, as well as ridiculous things like snooker tables (amazing but true, snooker and pool seem to be the favourite pastimes of young Sherpas). It is amazing to see the small, stocky men (and women!) carry up loads two or three times their own weight, everything carried on the back, but with all weight on a single strap which is wrapped around the forehead. Did Western backpack makers get it all wrong when they decided the optimum weigh-distribution is on the hips, with support on the shoulders? The Sherpas seem to think so, even when they carry a modern backpack they will wrap a rope around it in order to hang it from their forehead.
After the exhausting walk up I was glad to reach Namche Bazaar, only to find that my guesthouse was all the way at the top of the village. Another 50 metres vertical climb. I was absolutely wasted when we arrived.
I felt somewhat better after lunch and set out to explore the town. Despite the fact that some 90% of the people living in Namche are associated with the tourism industry, I did like the town. There are many shops, bars and restaurants and even several internet cafés. Compared with Murghab in Tajikistan, which lies at similar altitude and even has a paved road leading to it, Namche Bazaar is a metropolis.
I met Nick and Sebastien in a French bakery (virtually every town in the Khumbu region has a French bakery) where we had some wonderful Dutch apple-pie and delicious Italian espresso.
I didn't do much else that day. I found a book store in Namche and bought a book, “Into Thin Air”, by John Krakauer, about the 1996 Everest disaster, when 9 people died in a single day. It is quite a page-turner and I finished the whole book in a single day!
There weren't many people staying in the guesthouse, besides me there was only a group of four Danish, whose names I never learned, despite bumping into them on several occasions in the next ten days.