Day 16 - Dingboche ▸ Pangboche ▸ Tengboche
Distance: 10.8km Start Elevation: 4,410m End Elevation: 3,860m Elevation △: -550m
It's all downhill from here... Having had descended from the highest point of 5,700m for close to 1,300m yesterday, it's going to be another 550m from Dingboche down to Tengboche, with a stop at Pangboche for lunch.
After lunch, the group just bolted downhill. I merely stayed at the Pangboche Monastery for 1 minute to take the 2 photos above, and they lost me completely. I stuck around the area in case they stayed to look for me. But after a while of not seeing them, I was fully ready to trek to Tengboche by myself. This was until I finally found them 10 minutes later. I thought to myself: where the heck did their pace come from? Why weren't this pace and determination seen when we were going up Island Peak instead?
We arrived at Tengboche and it started to fog over, becoming really cold. To the point it was even colder than the higher elevation villages and base camps we were in the previous days. I guess this is what fog and clouds can do if it shaded out the sun starting 3pm.
Tengboche is famous for the Tengboche monastery. This is one where you can enter and listen to the monks singing their prayers and doing their ceremony. Unfortunately no photos were allowed inside the ceremony. All I can say is that it was interesting, and a little eerie at the same time.
Win-10 and alcohol in the evenings. Let's just put it that way, life is chill when going down hill~
Day 17 - Tengboche ▸ Namche Bazaar
Distance: 9.6km Start Elevation: 3,860m End Elevation: 3,434m Elevation △: -426m
Leaving Tengboche, we immediately encountered really steep descend. 600m of decline in 2km of distance. That's almost how steep the infamous North Vancouver Grouse Grind is, only that we were going downhill. We basically flied through that, passing everyone whom was not a Nepalese.
Past the steep decline, villages, lodges, shops and restaurants became a lot more numerous. It also got really warm. The sun coming out along with the 600m decline made a huge difference in temperature.
We stopped for lunch about 2 hours before reaching Namche Bazaar. We were very far ahead of schedule given our rapid pace. I wondered to myself: why were we always in such a hurry? The realization that the trip was coming to an end started to hit me. What actually happened over the past two and a half weeks? Everyday was just one rush after another, one place to another, one challenge after another. There were barely any enjoyment. The sceneries were magnificent, but instead of admiring them, we focused exclusively on getting to the destination as quickly as possible. We didn't really take the time to enjoy, to soak it in, and to appreciate.
It's kind of similar to how we live in our everyday life. Each day we focus on the problems, the desires, the challenges and the obstacles. How many times have we left the most important neglected until it's too late?
After lunch, knowing that it was basically one easy way to Namche Bazaar, I deliberately slowed my pace to a crawl and trekked by myself. This was so I could better appreciate the magnificent sceneries and to fully soak in the Himalayas. I paused to observe the view after every single photo I took. The crisp air, the quietness, the serenity - it was meditative.
Even with the slowed pace, Namche Bazaar was soon reached. We have completed a giant loop through the Everest 3 Passes, starting from Namche Bazaar, and ending back at Namche Bazaar!
We spent the afternoon hunting for post cards in Namche Bazaar. Nothing really caught my eye much. In the end, I created my own post cards with the help of the only digital print shop in Namche Bazaar. I sneaked out there a couple times while the others waited for me at the 8848 cafe. The printer at the shop was definitely poorly calibrated. There were strong color cast to the print-out, but there weren't much alternatives there...
At night we were the wildest group of 'Comfort Inn' with plenty of alcohol flowing. I made Win-10 a drinking game and I started to get the hang of the game a lot better, perhaps because everyone else was half drunk~ Even Sanu lost plenty, but always slipped his way out of the drinking. What ended up happening then was Longshen and Kilik getting totally wasted, as seen below~
Day 18 - Namche Bazaar ▸ Phakding ▸ Lukla
Distance: 17.5km Start Elevation: 3,434m End Elevation: 2,860m Elevation △: -574m
After we got our postcards and my emotions tossed into the the mail, we took off with Lukla as our day's destination. Remember that on the way up, this same distance was done over 2 days, hence this was actually one of the longest distance day of the entire trip.
We thought it was going to be an easy hike given it was relatively flat and mostly downhill. But the long distance really took a toll on us. We didn't stop at all starting Namche Bazaar until we reached Phakding for lunch. That was 4.5 hours of non-stop down trek. Lunch tho was almost 2 hours, because it took over an hour for our food to arrive! It was another 2.5 hours before we reached Lukla. If you look at the elevation chart above, after some 12km of repetitive downhill, that last stretch of 5km uphill was quite taxing!
We arrived Lukla around 3pm in the afternoon. After a long day, there was free shower in this guest house! This sounded great, until the water went cold on me mid-shower... It was freezing trying to de-soap myself with ever chillier water... Apparently the hot water simply have ran out after several guests showered back to back. It took hours for the water to heat back up again.
We presented tips to our trekking guide Sanu and all the wonderful porters who've helped us through the trip. The trip couldn't possibly have happened without their assistance! The 5 of us bought the crew dinner and drinks. Unfortunately all the porters were rather young and did not drink with us. Many of them were still studying. They were only able to take on the job because most schools were not in session for the bulk of October and November for the Dashain and the Tihar festivals in Nepal.
Without us realizing, 18 days of Everest region trekking was concluded amidst card games and drinking. We were actually 3 full days ahead of schedule. We clearly could've taken our time and made life easier for ourselves, and to spend more time enjoying and appreciating the experience... This, however, would only be meaningful as post mortem to readers that might also be considering to take on this trek. Because we were to fly out of the Everest region, back to the capital of Kathmandu on Day 19.
Day 19 - Lukla ▸ Kathmandu
Distance: 133km Start Elevation: 2,860m End Elevation: 1,400m Elevation △: -1460m
There's no elevation chart and no trekking route for Day 19, because all we did was to wait for our flight back to Kathmandu from Lukla.
After breakfast, we were told by Sanu we needed to wait for our flight. We would be called once our flight was secured. There was almost 2 hours of free time which we hung around, played with our phones and did some rounds of Win-10s at the guest house's dining room. I also ventured out to do some photos and video of the crazy Lukla Airport. With some of the content already seen in Part 1.
Then we went to the airport to get checked-in. Our luggage was re-weighted before we went into the secured area. This was when the real wait started...
At the secured area, there was no heat, and the windows were for some reason widely opened. With not much activity, we were freezing. We started our wait around 10:30am in the morning, and strangely there weren't any more planes arriving into the airport. We were given no estimated boarding time. With phone batteries draining fast, noon eventually rolled in with still no planes coming by. Cold and starving, the only hot thing in sight was Korea cup noodle available for purchase at a small food vendor at the side of the secured area. The vendor boiled hot water with an outdoor gas canister stove to cook the noodle for us.
There were a few dozens of people also in the small secured area of the airport whom have been there before we even arrived. We eventually learned that they have been checked in and waiting since 8am in the morning!
Finally around 2pm two planes rolled in. We learned that the problem was the lack of passengers going from Kathmandu to Lukla. As such to not leave the planes empty on the way in, they had to load the planes up with cargo. So we had to wait for them to unload the plane and re-configure the seats before we were able to board the plane. That took another good half hour. By the time we boarded a plane, some that claimed to have waited since 8am were still not able to board!
This flight concluded our Everest 3 Passes trekking trip! This was definitely the trip of a lifetime! There were pain, sweat and struggle, but also inspiration, reflection and a deep sense of achievement as a reward. I don't know if I'd ever take on the Everest region again, but I'd definitely recommend the Everest trek to be a part of everyone's travel bucket list!
This also makes the last part in the 8 parts Everest 3 Passes journal series. I will follow up with an article on the gear guide which I have previously promised. I will also bring along another article to provide recommendations and tips for anybody who might be considering to take on this trip themselves! Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more!