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Welcome to Nepal

Tuesday, 24 April 2007

Dingboche to Tengboche [Day 13]

Descent to familiar places

I seem to spend the night tossing and turning beating myself up over whether I could have forced myself to carry on at Pheriche. I feel a failure, to myself and to all those people who backed me on this initiative. I know I felt absolutely awful at the time, but its remarkable how even after a short while, one tends to forget how bad pain was.

Anyway, that time, that opportunity to go to Everest Base Camp has come and gone. It is in the past now. Somehow I must get over the disappointment and get on with life. Despite many of Trek C saying EBC was really inhospitable and uncomfortable, and they wouldn't want to do it again, I would have liked to experience it.

Looking to the positive, I am walking in the Himalayas and seeing these great mountains with my own eyes. I am getting to know the marvellous Nepali people, always happy despite living in hardship a lot of the time. I have achieved a 'summit' of 4,400 metres which is more than many do in a lifetime. I am therefore going to make the most of the remaining time I have here in Nepal and hopefully re-join Trek D.

Leaving Dingboche

After breakfast, I accompany Trek C as we walk out of Dingboche. Cold at first, it soon warms up. The trail is still very dusty despite the snow and cloud of the previous day. Many of the ascending trekkers have scarves over their faces to keep this at bay.

Route out of Dingboche

There is a lovely line of mani stones on the ridge as we head down towards Pangboche. I have stayed on the periphery of the group, not wishing to upset the dynamics of the team. I have to say this is quite nice, wandering along on my own, just occasionally interacting with members of the team.

Mani stones - always pass on the left

Arriving at the junction for Upper and Lower Pangboche, Machma (Sirdar for Trek C), takes us up the hill to Upper Pangboche.

Upper Pangboche

We descend into the village and stop at the Gompa Lodge & Restaurant. This is located in a yard and there is a smell of wood smoke pervading the area. White stone walls surround us and there is the sound of crows in the background. The sun is beating down and I feel very content and at peace with life. For once on this expedition, I do not have a headache, despite the exercise.

Gompa Lodge

We all remove our backpacks and stack the trekking poles along the wall. Many of Trek C go to see the service at the Gompa - I stay behind to take photos. Suddenly, the clanking of bells alerts me to a procession of yaks. Before I could get out of the way I am surrounded by beasts coming every which way. A young Nepali girl beckons me to safety in her yard and the yaks clank past, eying me with baleful eyes.

A proud and dominant Yak

Yaks take priority on the trail

After lunch, the path out of Upper Pangboche is delightful. We walk through carefully tended crop terraces, all contained by neat stone walls, no mean achievement at this height. The attractive painted Chortens along the trail commemorating Buddhist remains or artefacts.

Commemorative Chortens

We have a colourful walk through the flowering rhododendrons towards the Deboche lodge we stayed at on the way up. This is one of my most favourite parts of the trek as it contours the mountainside and follows the Dudh Kosi river. However, it is a hard final slog up the hill to Tengboche where we were to stay for the night.

I am 'billeted' with two older guys in a very cramped three bed room, with just leg room in between.  Reflecting on my day today, I feel superbly fit with no hint of a headache at all. Was my burden due to altitude... who knows? Even the medics don't seem to be that sure - all I know is that I was in a lot of pain much of the way up the Khumbu to Pheriche, especially in the afternoons.

As we have some time to kill before tea, I decide to disappear off on my own and explore Tengboche. I find a pathway up to the prayer flag ridgeline, where the wind whistles away the prayers, delivering them to the higher reaches of the Everest mountain range. Pure solitude.

Prayer flag ridge - Tengboche
Seed offerings and prayer flags

I have been in the company of others for most of the trek and yet here was real peace and quiet. No sound of man... at all. Just the shriek of the wind cresting the ridge with the flapping prayer flags.

Feeling emotional, about failure to get to EBC, my health, missing my family, I'm not ashamed to say I have a little cry. Why is it shedding tears always seems to help the inner psych, as I certainly feel much better afterwards?

Feeling quite spiritual and at peace

I decide to place an expensive call to my wife to reassure her about my state of health - also to tell her that I am missing her loads. Furthermore, I don't want her accessing the web to find a report that Trek D had arrived at EBC and then find I'm not on the photo. This would worry her no end.

She is upset I hadn't been able to continue to EBC... but I reassure her that I am functioning well now and will give more detail in an email to our son tomorrow when I reach Namche.

I am now sitting in the teashop with two members of Trek C, Chris and Jacquetta, enjoying a mug of hot chocolate. Both are delightful company. Jacquetta Megarry is an author who writes/publishes trekking and walking books. I manage to remember her website, a wonderful resource for anyone interested in walking and trekking: www.rucsacs.com.

I have had a really good day which makes up for some of the disappointment with the trek. I feel it can only get better here on in... and yet I am looking forward to getting home too.

To kill more time I wander into the Tibetan Eco Centre and watch a film on Buddhism. This religion seems to have a lovely approach to life... being peaceful, gentle, happy and helpful to others... all things we in the western world can improve at.

I return to the lodge where all the Sirdars and porters are singing around a roasting yak dung burner - a wonderful atmosphere. I sit with the Trek C members whilst they give a recital of their 'trekking song'. John (the trek leader) has a guitar and is playing along. In response, the sherpas and porters sing a terrific melodic ditty that has everyone clapping to the rhythm.

The lodge is filled with us Brits down one side, South Koreans down another, French at one end with the Nepali sherpas/porters at the other. To our surprise, Harry (who is in the music business and worked with George Martin), announces that there is a Choonhae Juliana Lee in the room (a famous Opera singer from S Korea).

Juliana is on her way to EBC to sing for the South Korean Summit Team, but will give us a short impromptu performance. Harry said this will be the highest altitude that Juliana had ever sung before... and has to be careful with her voice. Juliana promptly stands up, introduces the song 'Arida - a National Folk Tune', and burst into voice. She gives a stunning performance and brings the house down. What a memorable evening.

As I depart for bed with my head torch on, in the periphery of the light I notice the old Tibetan mastiff that I'd seen padding around earlier. Poor lad and obviously in discomfort, he scratches away at his numerous sores and boils, as he lies down to sleep. I feel quite fortunate - at least I'll be comfortable in my sleeping bag... poor thing.

Tibetan mastiff

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