We woke up this morning with the impression of waking from a bad dream; we found out the previous night that Trump had won the US presidential election. We met Kelly and Tim, an American couple, for breakfast at our teahouse and shared our disbelief and confusion. Originally from Colorado, they have been teaching at international schools for years, and to our surprise, they were actually close friends with one of Tibo’s teachers from his time at Shanghai American School (years and years ago….). It really is a small world!
Trying not to let the disastrous political news bring us down, we set off at around 8:30 a.m. for a new day of trekking under an azure blue sky. The path is mostly flat, with small uphill sections that make your heart beat faster than you’d imagine, given that the oxygen is getting thinner and thinner the higher you go. Every time we get a headache or another symptom due to the cold or altitude I panic, but then I tell myself I should just enjoy every moment. Every day brings us more than its fair share of magnificent landscapes and vistas.
Kind of like this…
We pass through large coniferous forests and rhododendrons, until reaching a bridge to cross over the river to the other side of the valley. We are then faced with a long uphill section, the first stop along which is a white stupa decorated with the eyes of Buddha. The valley offers fabulous views of Ama Dablam.
Did you know there was a sacred mountain, by the name of Khumbila, that was forbidden to be climbed? During previous attempts to conquer the summit, not one single expedition managed to reach it, let alone make it back alive. Rescue operations led to similar results: team members disappeared and were never found. Today, the mystery remains unsolved. The Nepalese government therefore decided to close off access to Khumbila. In Buddhist teachings, Khumbu Yul-Lha means ‘Goddess’. Be it for reasons of security or religion, no one is allowed to (attempt to) conquer Khumbila.
We stopped for lunch at the last little village before our final stop of the day, where we (finally) reached 4,000m (13,123ft) of altitude!
Tibo ordered his dhal bat again (last one of the trek for him, now even thinking about it makes him feel a bit nauseous…) and I ordered an instant noodle soup to rehydrate. Staying hydrated is one of the best ways to fight off the effects of altitude sickness. It is recommended to drink 4-5 liters (140-175 fl oz.) per day.
We spent some more time chilling with our new friends the yaks, while Bhim and Sandip (our second trekking companion and porter) finished their lunch. Guides eat separately, usually with their friends in the kitchen of the teahouse or restaurant.
Ginger tea and honey/lemon tea with a view!
The second part of the day’s trek, given that we were getting closer and closer to Dingboche, was rocky and desert-like. The terrain is relatively flat so it felt a bit easier to us. We walked through valleys of stones and grey sand. It was a real contrast compared to the luscious green landscapes we had grown accustomed to.
The Solukhumbu region is the native land of the Sherpas, a Buddhist ethnic group with similar language and customs to Tibetan Buddhists. Sherpas call themselves ‘Sharwa’, meaning ‘people of the east’. The term is commonly used to describe porters of mountainous regions of Nepal, but only those ethnic to the Solukhumbu region are true Sherpas. Since the first expeditions to reach the summits of the Himalayas in the 1950s, Sherpas have been famous for their mountaineering qualities and exceptional endurance allowing them to carry heavy loads at high altitudes. It has been scientifically proven that since they have lived at these altitudes for centuries, their blood is structurally different and carries oxygen more effectively.
Being above 4,000m (13,123ft) today, we have finally reached the tree line, which means there will be much less vegetation in the valleys we cross.
We arrive in the village of Dingboche in the middle of the afternoon, where we will be spending two nights. Tomorrow will be the second and final acclimatization day of the trek. Like our acclimatization day in Namche Bazaar, we will try to climb to the same altitude as the following day (Day 7) and then descend back to the village to spend the night. Certain trekkers prefer staying in Periche (a village close by where we will stay on the way down) since Dingboche is 130m (430ft) higher in altitude, which could hurt your acclimatization. However, since Dingboche was only slightly touched by the earthquake in 2015, it is more animated with a wide array of teahouses and little stores.
After changing into more comfortable clothes and washing ourselves a bit (a daily task done with…baby butt wipes), we make our way to the teahouse restaurant to enjoy the last rays of sun. This is the time of day when we relax, eat a snack or two (we’d like more but we need to ration them for the remainder of the trek), write, and chat with Bhim and other trekkers before dinner.
Tibo feels pretty bad again tonight, with his headaches increasing in intensity. Let’s hope that after a good night’s sleep the symptoms subside. We’re both happy that we have an acclimatization day tomorrow to let our bodies get used to the altitude!
Starting point: Tengboche (3,870m / 12,700ft)
70m (230ft) descent / 560m (1,830ft) ascent
Arrival point: Dingboche (4,360m / 14,300ft)