EBC Day 2, Phakding – Namche Bazaar
All together we are a group of 6. Our guide Dorji is not as chatty as the sherpa guiding our Australian friends, but he seems polite every time we ask a question and genuinely concerned about our well being. I make a mental note to ask him to teach me few words in Nepalese later today.
The other two member of the stuff are our porters Nima ans Lapa. They are just kids in my eyes but here their ages of 19 and 21 make them breadwinners in their prime. Like many of the porters we meet on the trail they are skinny, nearly fragile looking on their matchstick legs, but the appearance is deceiving. The amount of weight they can carry strapped to their back with a simple rope is incredible.
The two of us create majority of the clientele. With us treks Derek from Minessota. Our goal, Island Peak, would be his 3rd major peak to climb preceded by Kilimanjaro and Elbrus.
The sun leaks into our room. One peek at my clock tells me it’s way before out “wake up tea” time but we get up anyway. The room we spent our first Himalayan night in is small and simply furnished. Two beds, nigh stand, and a dim light, that’s all.But it is also clean, comfortable, and warm.
About an hour later we blend in the mix of trekkers, porters, yak herds, and donkeys. It’s not even 8:00 a.m. and the route is already busy.Everybody is taking advantage of the several sunny morning hours.
There are 5 suspension bridges to cross. Some sturdier, anchored firmly into the cliffs they are connecting, some not so much. I don’t look down and I don’t stop in the middle to take photos but otherwise I surprise myself and manage to cross all of them without butterflies in my stomach, wobbly legs or other sign of my uncontrollable fear of heights.
Today we also face the first significant ascent of the trek, a 2600 feet climb to Namche Bazaar. We are able to maintain a steady pace but knowing we are in altitude, we don’t push too much, hoping we are giving our bodies enough time to adjust. Viewpoint of Mt.Everest and the line at the Sagarmantha National Park entrance where a fee of 3000 rupees per trekker has to be paid, provide opportunity for short breaks.
Our destination for the day, Namche Bazaar, is the biggest village en route to Everest Base Camp, and the biggest trade center in the region. It sits on crescent shaped slopes in elevation of 11,286 ft (3,440 m)and enjoys spectacular views of surrounding mountains.
It’s 2:45 p.m. when we arrive, the clouds are rolling in.There isn’t a compulsory acclimatization hike on schedule today, and as tired as we are, it’s tempting to fall in the bed which by the way has a warming blanket, but curiosity wins and we set out for a short exploratory walk.
The village with its narrow cobblestone streets and countless steps charms us instantly. We walk past store fronts and coffee shops until we reach the end of the shopping district. The path continues and we pass several dwellings before we find ourselves on an open slope. Faint, the path is still there and we follow, finding a great viewpoint where we call it a day and after snapping few photos we retrace our steps to Namche Hotel.