Namche Bazaar 3446m/11270 ft.
Lukla: 2845m/9383 ft.
17km, 11.1 miles, 7-8 hours hike time
We spent a day relaxing in Namche Bazaar and trying to transition our minds to reconnecting with reality. Namche has a measurably better wifi connection than other stops along this route so we all updated friends and family, sent photos, and shared them with one another. We also kind of quietly retreated into groups of two or three, picking cafes or bars for lunch or a drink rather than congregating in the communal dining room at our teahouse. There is definitely a sense that the worst is over. Where once the team was our focus, now exploring the local experience is more prevalent on our minds.
I was still tired but felt better after a solid night’s sleep. I went out to stock up on the local cold meds, using my pantomime skills to explain to the Nepali woman that I needed relief for a cough and (now) head congestion. I wandered the streets for a bit, enjoying the warm sunshine and odd sites you only find in towns like this. I found an ATM and marveled that 400 rupees will tide me over for a long time here in Nepal and only cost me about $40USD.
I noticed a bar that our friends had mentioned going to and ducked in, to see three of them already several drinks into enjoying a fun afternoon. This is the elevation where drinking is relatively safe again and won’t cost you tomorrow on the trail, so everyone seemed to be taking advantage of that along with the cheap prices. A glass of wine cost about $1.50 and since we were still above 10,000 feet it only took one or two to be completely lost in enjoyment.
The next morning we left Namche for the last leg down to Lukla. Now we wandered about on the trail at our own pace, catching up when whoever was in front stopped for a break or tea. I enjoyed noticing more about the local area now that I wasn’t worried about my trekking capabilities like I was on the way up.
We arrived in Lukla near sunset, which was the perfect time to change clothes an regroup in the dining room for a celebratory dinner with our porters. (It also happened to be my birthday!)
Each day during this journey our four porters would tie our overnight packs into large loads and shoulder them up the hill to our next stop. Even with all that weight they could move faster than we did, so when we arrived our packs were waiting for us in the lobby or our rooms. It was a great luxury that made me feel like a soft American, but it’s how things are done here, and it portering can be a good, albeit hard, way to earn money. The porters slept in bunk facilities located nearby the teahouses, so we never really saw them during our trek unless we passed them on the trail when they took a break. This last night our dinner was to celebrate all our porters had done for us.
We all sat at a long table, though we were divided into groups according to our language barriers. We Americans and Brits were on one end of the table, our guides were in the middle of the table, and the porters, who spoke Nepali and broken English, were at the other end. We all enjoyed a hearty meal and lots of drinks though and the group picked up the tab for our porters. After we were done we moved into a private room that was a bit quieter than the dining room and said our thank yous to the porters while handing out their tips for the trip.
This ceremony ended with a cake arriving from the kitchen to celebrate my birthday. Cake all around, then we reconvened back in the dining room where a dance party had begun.
There were probably 6 or 8 different trekking groups in the dining room who were wrapping up their trips that night with the same dinner. Many of us took to the open space in the middle of the floor, shedding our outer layers as the room warmed up with body heat. We danced into the early morning to music from someone’s phone that was hooked into some decent sized speakers. I got the feeling that this is a common occurrence in these Lukla teahouses.
The next morning was rugged and painful for most of us as we nursed a night of too much fun and too little sleep. But we were still in high spirits as we laughed over breakfast about our behavior and horrible dance skills. Then it was time to head to the airport for our short flight back to Kathmandu. The trek portion of our adventure was behind us as we gazed out the windows of the small plane, watching newly arrived trekkers start up the trail.