Written yesterday, posted today, because time travel is weird.
I awoke at 2:30 this morning because apparently even when I’m on vacation hiking in the Himalayan mountains, 5 hours of sleep is plenty.
Rick woke up a little after me, so we spent the early morning chatting, reading, and perusing the interwebs. Because why shouldn’t we peruse the interwebs in the Himalayan mountains on our trek towards Everest base camp?
We started our trek to Tengboche after we were stuffed full of breakfast and various hot beverages. Once again we were greeted by blue skies and incredible mountain vistas.
Our trek would take us first back down the mountain to the base of the valley, approximately 3200m above sea level. Our path was shared by other hikers and plenty of yaks. As the path wound around the mountain, every turn gave rise to a new and more amazing view of the mountains, including some spectacular views of Everest.
All told it took us about 3 hours to descend to the valley basin. There we stopped for a quick snack before continuing on the last major leg of today’s journey; ascending more than 600m to Tengboche – which sits at 3867m above sea level.
The hike up was challenging, but no worse than any I’ve done with Rick out west. The air was thinner – so I made sure to pace myself accordingly. One foot in front of the other, slowly making my way to the top. We stopped for water breaks regularly, which also afforded us the opportunity to sit back and absorb the scenery around us. Before long we had reached our destination.
Situated at the end of our hike was a Buddhist monastery. While we were allowed to wander the premises, we were informed that the temple was closed. Fortunately, on our way out, some of the monks agreed to open it for us. As we returned to the courtyard that leads to the temple, a horn sounded to call the nearby monks to prayer.
The doors of the temple were opened. We removed our shoes and sat down on carpets to the right side of the room. It was colourful – golds and reds and blues sparkled in the sunlight that shon through two six-paned glass windows. Two large drums were to my left. Before me, four long benches. To my right, a large statue of the Buddha. Candles were lit and several monks made their way into the room. One monk sat with his back to me. The rest were on the far two benches facing me. After settling in, they began chanting.
It was a surreal experience, and in some ways very humbling. We sat watching and listening to something I think few people get to experience. And despite the chill in the room, I didn’t seem to notice how cold I actually was. Instead, I sat there trying to take in everything I could. I tried to memorize the location of each monk, the way their robes fell around them, the architecture of the building, the design of the window panes, and the way the light cast shadows on the drum farthest from me. I counted nine intricately decorated ceiling tiles in the area directly before the large Buddha. There were three hanging decorations – one on either side of the two main pillars, and one between – that hung down to about 5 feet from the floor. The walls were covered in various images of Buddha. Everywhere I looked there was something to take in.
The chanting lasted about half an hour, and then, just like that, it was over. We silently left the temple, put on our boots, and made our way to our lodge for the night.
Our lodge, located in Deboche, turned out to be far more rustic than our last lodge in Namche Bazar. The common area is heated by a wood burning stove, while the rooms are left unheated. To fight off the cold and ensure a good night’s rest, I’ve opted to wear my thermal socks and long underwear, plus my hiking pants, a thin fleece sweater, and my lighter down jacket. All of this, while snuggling up inside my fleece liner and my -20C sleeping bag, underneath a thick blanket provided by the lodge. And for good measure – I’ve also opted to wear my scarf and toque.
Because yes, it’s just that cold.
Tomorrow, assuming I haven’t turned into a popsicle, we will ascend to 4400m above sea level – which leaves just 1km between us and base camp. Here’s hoping the altitude change doesn’t affect me too much.