Shortly after leaving Lukla we came across a colourful pheasant in the trees and someone else’s guide told us it was the national bird of Nepal. Right after that a young cow/yak hybrid came up to Sean begging for ear rubs, which really made his day. Even though I had trekking poles I had bought in Lukla, Sean insisted on hiring a porter to carry my bag in the town of Phakding, an hour or so out of Lukla. It ended up being a great idea and allowed me to enjoy the hike way more than I would have. The porter’s name was something like “Cherling” and he was only 18, having started portering and guiding at the age of 15. It cost the equivalent of $15 for the 6 hour hike with him to Namche. Before we left we stopped at his house so he could grab some things and his mother invited us to wait in her kitchen while she mashed potatoes into a paste using a board and roller on the floor. She was very friendly and insisted we eat a couple of apples from her tree, which were good despite being quite brown inside. I gave her an orange in exchange and I think she was happy about that. It was very cute to watch her nag her son and say her farewells to him. We had a really good experience with Cherling because he went above and beyond acting as a guide, pointing out a lot for us and teaching us about the area.
Ever since departing Lukla we were suddenly on a highway of tourists, which was strange after having the trail mostly to ourselves for the last week. We followed a steady stream of other people, sometimes at a crawl. One Spanish woman was making ridiculous attempts at passing people, once climbing up on a steep ledge where she was almost knocked off. A Nepali woman grabbed her arm to steady her and was thanked with nothing more than a glare. Then the Spanish lady tried to bust her way through a yak train, which are much more stubborn and aggressive than donkeys. Everyone else was waiting as they should, and the yak train drivers had to yell at this woman to get out of the way. Finally at a crowded rest stop that same woman used the toilet clearly marked “paid” rather than the one marked “free” and put up a huge fight with the Nepali employees trying to collect less than 50 cents from her; they didn’t even know how to react. Our guide later told us he thought she might be Israeli, as they are known to be so rude that some guides refuse to work for them. Sean had told me similar stories from around the world about the Israeli reputation, and it was funny to hear it coming from our guide.
While listening to the ridiculous antics at the rest stop, we finally got our first glimpse of Everest. I thought it was the plainest looking mountain I’ve ever seen; maybe it will be more impressive from another angle. Throughout the hike we crossed 4 suspension bridges, one that towered above another and was so high it swayed in the wind enough that you couldn’t walk straight. When we finally got to Namche, we rested for a couple days while getting things in order to start our major trek, the Three Passes. The day before we left for our trek, I came down with a nasty cold. After talking and planning for awhile, we decided Sean should carry on and test out the first mountain pass, while I stayed behind to kick my cold. We planned on reconvening in a week at a town a days hike from Namche, and heading to Everest base camp and Gokyo lakes from there. So lucky for you I’ve had more than enough time on my hands to be writing blog posts!