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Dienstag, 14. Dezember 2010

Himalaya reloaded 2011 - 3rd day-Sherpa Villages

3rd day of trek, December the 15th, 2010,
Namche Bazaar (3.440 m) – Sherpa Villages of Khumbu: Khumjung and Khunde (3.870 m)
5 hours slow walking, 430 m ascent, acclimatisation walk
Wow! What a wonderful morning after a sleepless night!! Pretty cold in the room by night. I put the blanket over my sleeping bag and it was very warm inside, but don’t dare to get out your arms or nose! It was the first night when I couldn’t sleep at all, at least 10 minutes. What are you doing when you have to confrunt this situation? Nothing. Yes, I know, it sounds stupid, but every single minute you just hope that in the next minutes you will fall asleep. You are tired for doing anything else. It is too cold and the light you have is not enough for reading. You don’t want to use your batteries at the beginning of a long trek, this would be much more stupid. So, you just lie in your warm, but limited sleeping bag and struggle with the strong wish of sleeping. You start to count elephants, then sheeps, as they are easier :-)), then stars. And if the number of the elephants or sheeps is a finite one, the number of the stars is infinite ...... So, in the morning, you are really very tired. To my total unfortune, I also had to go to the toilett three times. But still lucky, the toilet is inside house, even the same level as your room :-) And I had big breathe problems, coming from my cold. I had a stuffy nose and nothing to help me, because I had been so smart in the last moment and left the tiny Chinese wonder box home, please, please don't ask me why!!!!
Very quiet in the night, I have the feeling we are actually the only 3 guests in this huge building (OK, don’t make the comparison with the Pentagon size, please! Or with a Marriott Hotel! Huge for this area, for this altitude, for this general conditions, after all you are almost close to an end of this World, just some days of walking apart, right?)
I had a small standard breakfast
2 fried eggs (excellent taste!), 
6 slices of fried potatoes, 
2 toasts and 
a cup of coffee. 
The coffee in Nepal is terrible tasteless, they don’t want or they don’t know how to prepare it and I have no doubts they do it so weak just for saving the coffee. The standard breakfast includes a tiny fragment of butter and jam/honey, but they forget to bring it and I just wasn’t in the mood to ask for it. I knew the portions are so incredible small, that you don’t feel the lack of it, only the feeling you are cheated in some way.
In the nice big dinning room there was a lot of activity. About ten people were discussing and arranging and rearranging the pillows or other kind of details. The owner’s family is expected tonight a group of 76 monks. They are coming down from Khumjung for a special private religious ceremony, which will take one week long! They will be welcomed, have accommodation, meals and beverages for free. Seventy-six monks! Their role is to read about 80 religious books for the welfare of the family and their business, to bless the entire area. It is a big, long and for sure complicated ceremony, hold once per year. Now, that it is off season and very few tourists, the owners have the time and possibilities to do this. They have also a special religious room, which we had the honor to visit later in that evening. They keep there all the tools, all those mysterious books, some monks – probably the most important of them – are spending their time inside that room, talking, drinking tea, eating, debating.
This is a crop from a picture I could take about 10 days later in an isolated village. I didn't had the nerve to ask for permission of filming or doing pictures. The long orange thing on the table is the form of the book. To be very honest, I had 3 different occasions to take real pictures of all these things, but in a strange way I just felt there are to holy issues and I am sure the locals are so tired about simple tourist asking stupid questions and photographing everything, doesn't matter what. I call this a sort of old fashion common sense, but next time I will leave it back home (!)
Anyway, it will be something important, for sure something very interesting to see or to feel. I don’t think we will be allowed to stay with the monks when they pray. Those books are not looking like a book at all. Between two wooden boards there are 780 pages. Sizes I appreciate 50-60 cm x 10-15. So, 76 monks will come here and for one week long they will read and sing and mumble as special prayers about 62.400 pages.
So, this morning, the entire staff here was starting to be excited about the big event, but we were allowed to stay for 2 nights longer. It was funny in a way to see how worried the 10 persons in the morning were, in the big dinning room, about arranging the improvised banks and to move their position for some centimeters and then to move it again and again and again, looking for total perfection in such an imperfect world....
I was surprised to see bottles of wine for tourists. White wine, red wine, cheaper or more expensive. To carry wine up to here .... impressive! Costs between 1.000 and 1.400 NRP (13-16 USD)
As the British couple agreed I accompany them on the today’s trek, we left the lodge at 10:10, going for the higher circuit of the Sherpa Villages of Khumjung and Khunde. This area was very loved by Edmund Hillary and he invested here a lot of work, so the area has even an airstrip in Shyangboche at 3.790 m, a big school in Khumjung, a hospital. Impressive work! They have power all the time, much better than in the big cities of Nepal, Kathmandu or Pokhara!!

The walk we did today is a circuit from Namche Bazaar that climbs over 400 m to Khunde and Khumjung, then returns to Namche.

      Airstrip in Shyangboche
To leave the teardrop formed Namche to Shyangboche we followed the stairs to the Gompa uphill the village, followed the narrow road and then went to the right. It is partially a chaotic amount of path which steeply leads you after about one hour and half of uphill to the Shyangboche airstrip (3.790 m). I say “chaotic” because there are many paths on a large plateau, on very, very dusty and dry ground (I recommend to protect your boots by wearing leggings, I was happy having mine all the time), which meet to a single path when you reach Shyangboche. The airstrip there was built to serve the Hotel Everest View and is meant only for cargo, no persons transport by helicopter. It is – like Lukla airport, actually – just a tongue of land, arranged in the middle of a partially forested small area. The difference is not the space, but the fact that the airstrip in Lukla was paved. This one here seems to be even longer and not so dangerous. Here are coming only helicopters, so asphalt is not needed. But in a way it is impressive to see the place (picture above).
A segment of large rock stones road, climbing up to Khumjung, if you follow it to the right. Heavily loaded yaks, basis of commercial activity in this area. The yaks feel better over 4.000 m, but some local people are keeping them lower, for using them for such of activities. The human being generally make the rules .... up to a certain moment, when the mother-nature says "stop, it's enough now!".
There are also two lodges and even an (closed) office of Yeti Airlines. The trail crosses the west end of the runway towards a telephone relay tower and the intersection of three trails. The schoolchildren will follow the direct route to Khumjung, climbing past a chorten atop the ridge at 3.870 m (myself I will pass by there only at the end of my adventure, so in about two weeks, when returning from Gokyo&Everest area).
The trail to Khunde branches west off the trail crossing the airstrip a short distance after it starts uphill. Once you branch off, climb to a small chorten on the ridge, then descend to a kani and a large chorten at the south end of Khunde (in the picture above, see also Khumbila Mount, 5.761 m).  
Here I saw for the first time the spectacular peak of Ama Dablam, which accompanied me by his fully majesty for the next days. If you ask me, Ama Dablam is one of the most spectacular mountains you can see in your life path (only 6.812 m - see the bump on the right side of the picture?). 
I will write more about it in another day - with more pictures -, otherwise the story for today never ends and I'd like to keep my readers awake :-).
Khunde appears in a large valley fulfilled with a lot of green roofs. Of course that the first monument at the entrance is the big white stupa and here we met an old Sherpa who told us about Sir Edmund Hillary (died in January 2008 in New Zealand), who is still very respected and loved here, somewhere on the high hill might be a memorial for him and his wife. Maybe I am too sensitive or maybe others are not at all, but on this trek I often felt I live a legend .... The old Sherpa also told us, as we asked him, that he reached Everest Top several times in his life. 
I was at the beginning of my adventure, but when you are there, already almost 4.000 m, the perspectives of sizes are changed. A lot. Yes, you feel that the particular end of the world, that far and that high point isn’t so far and so high anymore. It is very simple actually: you take your things and you go there. Slowly. But every day some steps further and higher. The time does not exist, did I told you this before, right? Not the time is here the leader, although still stay as important element, because you cannot live outside the perception of your time or at least you think you cannot live outside there. Just try it and you’ll be surprised!
There is a hospital  (see this picture) in Khunde, which serves the people from Khumbu district. It was founded by Sir Edmund Hillary in 1966 and operated by The Himalayan Trust until 1976, then supported by the Sir Hillary Foundation. Maybe I already mentioned earlier, if not, I do it now: after climbing Everest and reaching the top in May 1953, Edmund Hillary led many further expeditions to Nepal and these had a focus on improving the health and social welfare of the people of Nepal, including improvement of water supplies, building of schools, bridges and an airstrip at Lukla, and the provision of medical care and a program of vaccination against smallpox.
(picture above: connection "canal-street" to Khumjung, larger road)
In 1966, Hillary, with overseas volunteers and local people, built the hospital at Kunde. The hospital was initially staffed by overseas volunteers, provided through the Volunteer Service Abroad organization and later by The Himalayan Trust and the Sir Edmund Hillary Foundation, but since 2002 it has been wholly staffed and run by local people.
We went further on and crossed Khunde Village through the upper side reaching Khumjung. The both villages are twin and very closed connected through that sort of “canal-streets”, this is meaning .... just imagine you are on the left side of a very big amphitheatre and walk through the banks’ rows to the opposite side. So, you don’t have a large road you walk on, just a path, because the banks are higher than your foot and limit your steps. The “canal-streets” are limited by low-level walls arranged from all kind of stones, which mostly seem not to be fixed, so it doesn’t look like a masonry. You see this almost in all villages of high Himalaya. I cannot say if it is only by chance, without any purpose, if it is something which should be appreciated only from the point of view of aesthetic and desigh, or if there is anything with a certain purpose and preserved in the local architecture.
We stopped in Khumjung for lunch, at Valley View Lodge. Very nice family. Only the man seemed to know English, good English. He actually looked europenized: modern glasses, blue jeans, collared shirt, nice hair cut. You hardly could make the connection between that place and his person. Is he a local or a tourist? Then, having a longer talk with Andi and Claire, I understood he was high mountain local guide and went every year to Swiss, to a friend. I didn’t pay attention to their talk, so I am not sure if he is going to Swiss for working, making some money, but I supposed that was the main reason, in a sort of professional exchange, as his Swiss friend also came here to Himalaya on a regular basis. Summer time in Himalaya is meaning rain and no tourists, so going to Swiss is the perfect combination. Asking if he travel with his family, he said no, always alone, his wife and children stay at home. So, the wife is a specific Sherpa woman, just now having a baby to take care of and a teenager girl. She learns Nepali and English in the school built by Sir Hillary. Yes, the legend of Edmund Hillary again ....
It was a very long and nice lunch outside in the sun..... I had a very consistent tomato noodle/egg soup and a ginger tea. I also asked for a tiny piece of fresh ginger for my stuffy nose and it helped for the next hours, I could breathe again. We were honored to taste a Sherpa milk tea, having a strong taste and smell of fresh cow milk. The small child got from me a small toy I had by chance on the backpack and we left the lodge at 2:45 (yes, I noted sometimes the times in order to offer information about timing and distances on the trail). At the moment we left, the mother breastfeeded her baby, outside, in the sun, in front of her home. I took a picture of entire family and .... I left without looking back.
At a time of discussion I asked the Sherpa man: “How do you feel every time when you return from Swiss back here?” This was for sure a cruel question. He sighed. He had no reply, just the willing to have a reply. I didn’t continue with my next question about if he would change his home for living in Swiss. Finally he said only, like ending a long story which he never actually told me: “ ..... But this is our country .... and .....” Trying to alleviate the effects of my question I said: “Of course that Swiss is a special country in Europa and a lot of European are dreaming to live there, you probably know that.” Yes, he knew, he was told by others too.
Khumjung is much bigger than Kundu, has a Gompa – here should be the debated Yeti scalp -, an impressive school, being situated at the feet of Mount Khumbila, a big mountain, a little bit “lonely” in that landscape, which caught my full attention actually.
Khumbila or Khumbu Yul Lha, roughly roughly translated as "God of Khumbu" is one of the high Himalayan peaks in the Khumbu region of Eastern Nepal within the boundaries of Sagarmatha National Park. Considered too sacred to be climbed by most local Sherpa people, the mountain is considered home to the patron God of the local area. Rising some 5.761 m above sea level, the mountain overlooks the famous southern approaches to its larger neighbours including Ama Dablam and Chomolungma.
Khumbila has never been climbed; one attempt prior to the 1980s ended when climbers were killed in an avalanche, and there have been no subsequent attempts.
  We reached the down side of Khumjung and had in front of us a stupa. It seemed to be a main road of the village. Left side you could go to Gokyo or Everest, right side you could go to the school and further to Namche Bazaar. Crossing the road, a very modest path climbs the hill in front of us and we followed it. It was for sure not the right trail to the Everest View Hotel, but after about 20 minutes we found the unusual big and luxuriant hotel at 3.888 m (I’ve read about it as being the highest placed hotel in the world). You cannot see the hotel until you are almost there, it is hidden on a ridge, overlooking Mount Everest, Lhotse (very far and still very small actually), Ama Dablam, Thamserku and Tawoche. 
In March of 1999, the Guinness Book of Records bestowed upon Hotel Everest View the title of Highest Placed Hotel in the World. This hotel is situated 13,000 ft (3,964 m) above sea level in Sagarmatha National Park in the Southern Khumbu region of Nepal. With its luxurious accommodations, guests stay overlooking the Himalayan peaks and Mt. Everest.
A Japanese construction company, Trans Himalayan Tours Ltd, built the Hotel Everest View in 1968. In October of 1973, the hotel opened its doors for the first time. The hotel was built with the intentions of attracting wealthy Japanese tourists seeking luxurious getaways that offered a breathtaking view of Mt. Everest. In order to accommodate tourists, the Shyangboche airstrip was built to receive private plans and helicopters.
Unfortunately, the Japanese tourists encountered some difficulties adjusting from a lower altitude to 10,000 ft above sea level. Tourists flying into the Shyangboche airstrip from Japan experienced horrible motion sickness, including nausea and vomiting. Even though Hotel Everest View offered a beautiful view of the surrounding peaks and high-quality accommodation, guests were unable to enjoy themselves.
Hotel management tried desperately to resolve the issue by supplying guests with oxygen tanks, but the problem still remained. It was after several deaths were reported that the government finally took action and forced the Shyangboche airstrip to shut down, leaving Japanese tourists to fly into Lukla and walk three-days up the mountainside.
Elimination of chartered flights into Shyangboche airstrip caused a devastating affect on tourism for Hotel Everest View. Very few tourists would endure the three-day hike up the mountainside to enjoy the amenities of the hotel. Business declined rapidly and left the facility bare. Since than, the Shyangboche airstrip has reopened to transport gear and supplies to Mount Everest. Tourists that are accustomed to the altitude fly into Shyangboche airstrip to visit the Hotel Everest View.
Tourists still climb up the mountain side from Namche Bazaar, in the Himalayas, to stay at Hotel Everest View. Although the menu has changed from ravishing meals to light food and hot and cold beverages, this Japanese run establishment's accommodations are still breathtaking. For a reasonable rate ($170 - $270 per night), guests can enjoy a luxurious room overlooking the surrounding peaks.
Hotel Everest View is staffed with Sherpa people, who are natives to the Mt. Everest region. 'Om mani padme hum', a Tibetan Buddhist mantra, is inscribed on the hotel interior walls. These ancient stone carvings serve as a constant reminder of the Sherpas' deep religious beliefs. A Sherpa tour guide is on hand for guests. (I'm sure you see the thermometer on the wall and want to ask me about the number :-) It was 5 degrees C at 3,30 p.m., shortly before sunset. I supposed it provides the guests motivation for sleeping inside :-)) But it must be a true wonder during the summer and I will never know, as I will probably never have such of amounts for spending there).
Plane or helicopter charters are available for guests that desire a more direct flight to the hotel. Guests may also take advantage of a 50 minute flight over Shyangboche from Kathmandu and walk 45-minutes up the mountain trail to Hotel Everest View.
Reservations and transportation can be arranged through:
Hotel Everest View, P.O. Box 162, Durbar Mar, Kathmandu, Nepal
Tel: 977-01-224854
Shyangboche: 977-038-40118
Fax: 977-01-227289

We visited only the front side of the large hotel and the restaurant. It was empty, no guest. Two people from the hotel staff appeared, one of them with the menu in his hands. But we were such in a rush, it was 3:30 p.m. and the sun was almost gone and we still had at least one hour to reach Namche on day light.
Empty space, cold, stone and wood, colorful manufactured carpets, peace and quiet, a lot of big pictures everywhere on the walls showing different spectacular Himalayan peaks and flowers. A place like that, in that particular location, gives a weird feeling. I cannot explain why, but I felt much better leaving the place. It was just to much to see such a great building at almost 4.000 m in the middle of that cold and almost dark isolation, between such of high mountains.
The path meanders ahead as you can see, along the hill on the left
There was the place I first saw the man carrying the door 
The way to Syangboche again and then further to Namche was a downhill march. I run to keep the rhytmus with Claire and Andi, but I enjoyed a bombastic sunset and I made a lot of pictures. The single human being we met was a poor man carrying at that late hour, a wooden door!!! A man of maybe 150 cm tall carried a wooden door of probably 230 m high! On a narrow climbing path. What a life, really!!! It was for sure a new door for the hotel uphill.
Namche Bazaar appeared after 20 minutes down in the valley and we still had to walk for at least 20 minutes. No rush actually, but the ground is so steep, that you really don’t wish to walk on the darkness, no joke. At 4:05 sharp the sun was gone, a sensational sunset. At 5 p.m. we were in our lodge, ready for having dinner. The lodge was like an anthill, the 76 monks were everywhere in their long  blood-colored robes.
Excellent day, peaceful, warm, sunny, soft, 6 hours of relaxes walk (except the last hour), long and nice lunch, emotions which cannot be described.
My advice for such of trekking trips in Himalaya: 
Buy the services of a local travel agency. 
If your backpack is over 12 kg, hire a porter. 
Think about hiring a local guide.  

READ HERE about the next day  
My first adventure in Himalaya can be read by December 2008


2 Kommentare:

  1. Hi Anca
    Sorry we missed you before we caught our flight, and didn't get chance to say goodbye and that we really enjoyed your company on the trek. You are a very strong and individually minded person and we were both amazed by your determination to carry on trekking even though you were suffering from a nasty cold.
    Best of luck with your exams, i hope the English one goes well. It would be good to keep in touch and share future tales of yours and ours exploits. You would be most welcome to stay at ours if you ever come to the UK, their's lots of good cycling and walking!.
    Anyway all the best and be in touch soon.

    Claire & Andy

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