Mount Everest Base Camp Trek, Day 2: Phakding – Namche Bazar

Around 3 o’clock in the morning we are both being kept out of our sleep by the ticking rain on the tent canvas. When we finally get up around 6 am, there is still a lot of fog. But the weather is dry. We drink a cup of coffee in the lodge, break up the tent, rearrange our backpacks, take our daily dose of medication against altitude sickness and get going.

After a few hundreds of meters we have to cross a wobbling suspension bridge. We think it’s quite spectacular, but at that point we don’t realize yet that we have to cross about six more of these bridges today. The one more wobblier than the other. A farmer who has to lead his heavily loaded yaks (that’s the name for the local cattle with big horns) over one of the bridges hits the buttocks of the hind animal with a stick. The farmer is angry with his yak, because he is walking too close to the bridge’s side. And the sharp, protruding metal wires on the railing – where I also suffered a scrap wound – cut the load on his back. As a result, precious hay lands in the river below. The yak doesn’t understand why he is being punished so severely. My little animal lover’s heart breaks into a thousand pieces. I whisper some comforting words to the poor animal when I pass him by. As if he understands what I mean, he gently pours his horns into my back.

We walk through a village where a child puts his head out of a window. “Chocolate”, he asks most sensitively. He is immediately tapped by his mother. If we had chocolate, we would certainly have given the sweet little boy a few bars of our national pride.

In one of the following villages we eat an apple on a few pieces of wood that are messily nailed together, and have to serve as a bench. Clauthilde walks past us. Clauthilde is a French woman, whom we met in the airport of Kathmandu. Together with her Canadian friend Lindsey she also hikes the Everest Base Camp trail. They have little experience in the high mountains and we are afraid that they might underestimate the whole thing a little bit. In addition, it appears that Lindsey has left Clauthilde, because she was going faster than her. A choice that we can hardly understand. The number one rule in the high mountains is that you never leave your hiking comrades alone. On this part of the trip it may not be that dangerous yet, but once we have passed the 4000 altitude meters, this is really not done. However, it doesn’t seem to bother Clauthilde and she says that her friend will wait for her in the Village named Monjo. Unfortunately that turns out to be false hope, since a few kilometers further we see in Monjo that Clauthilde is still all alone.

In Monjo a soldier in uniform is keeping watch in a small hut. He checks if every hiker has bought the mandatory permit, which gives you access to the Sagarmatha National Park. The locals call Mount Everest the Sagarmatha, hence the name of the park. Wim has our permits stamped and we enter the National Park through a beautiful entrance gate. We get a view of colossal mountains, which immediately remind us what we came to do here.

The sun breaks through the clouds and we take advantage to have a picnic on the banks of a river. Wim spreads out our moist tent so it can dry during our little lunch break.

A bit further on the trail, we see two suspension bridges above each other at an impressive height. It is the bridge on top we need to cross. A steep path takes us there.

On the railing of the bridge countless colorful prayer flags are waving in the strong wind. It is cold, although we get instantly warm again during the next climb.

We still have to climb 400 meters to Namche Bazar, but it feels like more than 1000 meters. Wim has difficulties breathing on the way up. I’m not sure if it is due to the height, or is it just because of his asthma?

We are constantly walking in the wake of a sherpa, who is burdened by a large load of food. We pass each other a few times. Eventually we win the “competition” and we are the first to arrive in Namche Bazar. To get some strength, we drink something in a cozy bar. We have a beautiful view on the new stupa, which has just been built in the village. For three days, the residents of Namche Bazar are celebrating to consecrate the stupa in style. We see people in traditional clothing and hear monks humming incomprehensible prayers. What a difference to a traditional Belgian feast, where the barrels of beer would probably be empty after day one.

We are looking for a place to sleep. We are not spending the night in the tent doday, but we are searching for “real” accommodation. That’s because we will be staying two days in Namche Bazar to have an acclimatization day tomorrow, with a shorter trip to a slightly higher altitude. We don’t want to be struck by altitude sickness, so we try to follow all the advice that is given to us. In a few days we will have a second acclimatization day.

In the first lodge we stumble upon, we can get a room for 300 Nepalese Rupees. That is less than € 3 per night! We get a 2 meter by 2 meter room, without sockets, nor heating and only moderate lighting. It seems as if the blanket on the bed hasn’t been washed in months. It doesn’t matter, we have our sleeping bags. We take some time to explore the village, after which we play cards and drink liters of ginger tea. Rumour has it that ginger tea prevents altitude sickness. Let’s hope it works.

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