Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Nepal Trek Day Thirteen: Debuche - Khumjung - Namche

Over the next three weeks, I'm taking a trip down memory lane with a look back at our trip to Nepal last December. For all of the entries about our trek, click here.

We made our breakfast order the previous evening, with the stipulation that we'd like to eat at 6:30a. Typically, we would order our meal in the morning, and then wait around in the cold (since the woodstove was usually not lit in the morning) until our food arrived. Given the cold mornings of late, we hoped that we would arrive just in time for our food. Alas, our food arrived in the dining room 15 minutes after we did. Luckily, we were bundled up in our down jackets, hats, and gloves anyway, so we didn't freeze too much.

After downing our breakfasts, we packed up our stuff, and headed back on the trail around 7:30a. Day thirteen featured two highlights: seeing several musk deer and even more exciting, seeing a purported yeti scalp! We had heard that the Khumjung Monastery was home to a yeti scalp, and we couldn't leave the area without seeing it for ourselves. Thus, we made a quick detour on our way to Namche with a stop in Khumjung to see the yeti scalp with our own eyes. But, I'm getting ahead of myself.

Our morning hike took as back up to Tengboche, and we stopped for a moment at the monastery. After taking off our shoes and making a donation, we entered the monastery, and quietly walked around the sanctuary as the young monks completed their morning prayers. Soon after we were back on the trail, which included a lot of hiking down-down-down to the river, and then hiking back up-up-up the other side of the mountain. On our way down to the riverside, we were lucky enough to spot several musk deer. What cool-looking creatures! Both male and female deer have upper canines that extend out of their mouth and look like fangs. (If you look closely, you can kind of see them in the picture below.) Musk deer are often the target of poachers as their musk is used in a number of different Chinese and Korean traditional medicines.

After a long-haul of upward hiking, we made it to Khumjung around 11a. We stopped in at Bharat's friend's house, where his friend's wife served us black tea and offered to also cook us lunch. While she cooked, Bharat, D, and I headed over to the Khumjung Monastery to check out the yeti skull. After paying our 100 rupee donation, the lockbox was opened, and voila, the yeti skull! It was definitely an interesting sight to behold.

After eating lunch, we headed back on the trail to Namche, taking the roundabout way to get there, as I wanted a few last pictures of Mt Everest before we headed into town. Poor Bharat was tasked with taking a zillion photos of us. He was a good sport about it, though. After having my fill of Kodak moments, we headed down into Namche, arriving around 3p.

D and I dropped our stuff in our room, which this time featured its own private bathroom with sink and flush toilet. (Oh, how I had missed flush toilets! Though, I suppose my quads did get an excellent workout from all the squat toilets.) Our first priority was heading down into town to do a little souvenir shopping. We ended up purchasing a few yak bells (my favorite sound from the trek), a couple necklaces, and some prayer flags. After getting our fill of souvenir purchases, we headed to the Namche Bakery. During our first visit to the bakery, we decided that our return visit to Namche would include a "day of gluttony" at the bakery. I opted for a slice of chocolate cake while D got an apple strudel. We both sipped on espressos, too. For round two, D got a cup of coffee and I got a Sprite. Pretty delicious. As we were paying, D asked the shopkeeper if he knew where we could find a tokma, a T-shaped walking stick used by porters to rest on while carrying their heavy loads on their backs. The shopkeeper ended up taking us right to the tokma dealer, and D chose his favorite one from the bunch to purchase. Our purchases finally complete, we headed back up to our lodge for dinner.

One of the things that D and I immediately noticed about the Namche lodge was how bright it was compared to all the places we had recently stayed at. Given Namche's hydropower, the lodge was lit by a number of fluorescent lights, including ones in our room. Most lodges up at higher elevations had solar-powered or small LED lights that emitted little light, so being in such a bright place was a welcome change. Our day of gluttony continued with veggie cheese pizzas for each of us and a shared plate of "fingerchips." After listening to a few more podcasts of This American Life, D and I called it a night. Our stay in the Everest region was quickly coming to a close.

Here are a few pictures from day thirteen of our trek:

{me and D leaving Tengboche Monastery}

{morning light}

{more mountain views . . . and me}

 {musk deer}

 {save the musk deer!}

 {yeti skull/scalp in Khumjung}

{the story of the yeti skull}

{me and D with Mt Everest in the background}

{loving it}

{slice of chocolate cake in Namche}

{D enjoying an espresso}

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