Nepal Trekking Days 17-18: Pangboche to Lukla

Our descent was largely uneventful. Leaving Pangboche, we passed through Tengboche, site of the largest monastery in the region (and yes, that's yet another rescue helicopter over Tengboche!). The weather actually clouded over quite heavily by the time we arrived in Namche Bazaar, which made for some dramatic scenery along the way.

Back in Namche we engaged in the traditional bakery crawl... I don't quite know why, but apple pie is a bit of a tradition! The plan was to spend another two days on a leisurely walk out, but there had been more flight delays due to weather so we decided we had better return in a single day in case we needed to wait. Judging by the crowds on the trail, everyone else had the same idea! To make matters more interesting, we were just missing the weekly market at Namche so there was a steady stream of porters coming in the other direction carrying all manner of goods, including animal carcasses in the hot sun. This is why I was vegetarian for the month.

Last but not least... the celebration with the Shyams! (porter and guide, if you've lost track). We had tried a few different local alcohols on the descent, but this was probably the nicest: it's called "tongba", which is actually the name of the vessel I believe. They are filled with fermented millet, which is then drowned with hot water from a thermos before being left to stand for five minutes. Then you drink it through a straw (pinched off at the other end with a small hole, to act as a filter), before refilling with water and waiting again. The waiting is no doubt good for pacing and for conversation, although that doesn't really help when there is little common language (which there wasn't with Shyam the porter), but it was fun anyway. In the group shot, porter Shyam is giving the thumbs up (yes, that man carried his own bodyweight in our luggage, and did it quicker than we could walk relatively unencumbered), and our guide Shyam is on the right.

The next morning, we miraculously managed to fly out more or less on schedule, and thus ended my dream holiday. (Thank you for joining me -- there will be a couple of remaining posts on how we filled in the rest of the time after the mountains!)

Mark Hepburn 27 December 2010
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