Monday, December 3, 2012

A trip to Nepal -- Part 3

... continued from Part 2
Just want to see the pictures? Follow these...
For Day 5, our destination is Khumjung (12,434’). We headed back down the busy main trail (busy, as in hundreds of trekkers daily) for a few hours until we reach the trail junction for Khumjung. You might notice the sign says 2 hours to Tengboche, 20 minutes to Khumjung, for a total of 2:20. We did it in 4:30 flat: yep, a gentle pace indeed. Once we leave the main trail between Lukla - Namche Bazar - Tengboche, there is a dramatic reduction in the volume of traffic on the trail; we don't have the trail to ourselves, but it is much more peaceful.

The village of Khumjung sets in a broad kilometer-wide valley, much different from the ruggedly narrow valleys we've been in from Lukla to Tengboche. Khumjung is home to the Khumjung Secondary School, founded by Sir Edmund Hilary in 1961; it is the only secondary school in the Khumbu region. On a hill outside the village there is a chorten dedicated to Hilary; he is highly revered in this part of Nepal.
Khumjung does have a fair supply of trekking lodges and craft vendors, but much less so than anyplace else we've been so far. It has a much more authentic feel to it; the small farm plots (potatoes, mostly) are ringed by stone fences, and it is clear that the valley is not totally dependent on tourist business. 
Khumjung is also home to a small monastery. The monastery is no longer active (no monks living there) and is only used on special occasions. However, the temple does house a yeti scalp in a locked cabinet (!). After we all contributed some rupees, the caretaker unlocked the cabinet for our viewing pleasure. I won't waste pixels here on the picture I took, you can Google "yeti scalp Khumjung" if want to see some pictures. Some scientific analyses have indicated that it was once part of an antelope rump; but hey, I've paid more and got less ... I mean, how often do you get a roadside attraction tourist trap that is a yeti skull?
In Khumjung, we stayed at the Sherpa Land Lodge and Restaurant, "Internet Service and Wi-Fi available". Surprising, perhaps, but typical of most of the lodges we've seen. We also have great cell phone service, four bars worth. We've had good cellphone service all along the trek, and the guide says there is good coverage all the way to Everest Base Camp. Nonetheless, the toilets are down the hall and there is only cold running water in the sink; I'm not complaining here, just reporting...
On Day 6, we headed up over a low saddle, passed the Syangboche airstrip that we saw on Day 3, and headed up the Bhote Kosi valley to the small village of Thame. Bhote Kosi means "river from Tibet"; this was (and is) a major trade route from the Khumbu region of Nepal over into Tibet and eventually into China.  I'm quite taken with the beauty of this valley, the views east and downstream to the peaks Kangtega and Thamserku, and the peaks Nupla, Tarukha, and Teng Kang Poche to our south. These peaks are all "just" 6000m-class peaks, but they are stunning nonetheless.
Thame is a small village at 12,467'. We stayed at the Everest Summiteer Lodge, which is owned by Apa Sherpa. He holds the record for the most times summiting Mount Everest: 21 times as of 2011. The dining room walls are covered with framed certificates from the Guinness Book of World Records for each time he set a new record, as well as other mementos. He now lives in Salt Lake City, and it was a bit incongruous to also see framed certificates for his children making the honor roll at Alta High School! Speaking of incongruous, there was a television in the dining room, and the innkeepers' two young children (ages 4 or 5) spent hours watching the Cartoon Channel (yes, in English). For the record, we had great views from our lodge room, and the toilets were down the hall.
We had clear skies and spectacular views in Thame. Our guide was equally amazed, he said it was the first time he had ever been in Thame without clouds and fog. I had taken lots of pictures of Everest and Ama Dablam and etc on this trip, but I absolutely fell in love with the views here in Thame. Looks vaguely like the Tetons from the Jackson Hole side, doesn't it?
continued in Part 4 ...

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