Trekking in Nepal – Everest Trek Schedule 15

Wednesday 8th November
Last night I slept well although I was awake at the crack of dawn. The lodge did not start serving breakfast until 6 a.m. I had some delicious porridge and Tibetan bread with jam.

Departure for Deboche was at 8 a.m. The path passed through several yersas (yak herding areas) before crossing a little bridge over the Lobuche Khola. It was an hour’s walk to the first yersa, Orsho. Here, there is a single teahouse-cum-lodge and we stopped for a drink. Several locals passed us carrying bundles of wooden planks on their backs. This is no mean feat because one plank looks heavy enough. A young Nepalese boy had a conversation with me on his way to school.

The next yersa was Shomare, owned by the villagers of Pangboche and used for growing potatoes. There was a gentle descent to Pangboche along the Imja Khola. Stone fences line the path for most of the way. The weather was lovely and there wasn’t a cloud in sight. There were breathtaking views as we walked through the valley. More vegetation grows here, whereas it is practically non-existent in the higher reaches of the Khumbu.

Pangboche at 4000m was our next rest stop. A climbing expedition was making an attempt on Ama Dablam. We tried in vain to spot them, using a local’s binoculars. A helicopter flew over to rescue someone suffering from AMS at Pheriche. There are simple lodges in both the upper and lower parts of this pleasant village. Rumour has it that a yeti (abominable snowman) scalp is kept at the gompa in the upper village. Coming down the valley from Pheriche the turn-off to Upper Pangboche is by a small chorten, where the river widens and the first fields of Lower Pangboche are visible. Potatoes, radishes and a few vegetables are grown here.

After Lower Pangboche the path passes through some fields. Then you come to a cleft in some rocks with a mani wall virtually in the middle. A little further on, there are some superb mani-carved boulders and a single large chorten. The latter resembles the pyramid of Ama Dablam, which dominates the skyline.

Just before Deboche a suspension bridge crosses a spectacular narrow rocky gorge of the Imja. The stream and waterfall on the opposite bank helped generate a cool breeze. After passing a few small hamlets, we came to Deboche. The first building was a small nunnery hidden behind a barrier of trees. It is home to twelve nuns. We put our backpacks down by the entrance and popped inside for a quick look.

Round the corner from the nunnery was Ama Dablam Garden Lodge. It had been highly recommended, but the proprietor said that there were no beds left. Peter, being persistent, decided to have a look round. Contrary to what we had been told, there were some beds available. We ended up getting a twin room. It pays to check things out!

The lodge is really good and is even better than the Snowland Lodge last night. It is very clean, modern and spacious. There is the widest selection of goods on sale seen so far on this trek. Here, you can buy postcards, camera film, maps, chocolate bars, etc. Outside, there are superb views of Khumbui Yul Lha. It looks formidable from here.

Lunch was hash browns with fried egg, and toast with jam. While waiting for the water to be heated for my shower I shared a Toblerone bar with Peter. A water carrier with 15 litres of hot water was given to me to take to the shower room outside. I used a jug to wash myself down with hot water. It was very soothing, and easily the best wash I have had since Kathmandu.

The lodge is run by PD Sherpa who is Anu’s brother-in-law (we had stayed with Anu in Namche). He informed us that the chief monk of Tengboche would be blessing people that afternoon. We decided to go and watch the ceremony at Tengboche. Leaving Deboche, the path to the monastery passes a stream then through a haunting wood of juniper, rhododendron, and curly barked silver birch. It was a steep climb.

Tengboche was packed to the rafters. There were tents everywhere. The world and its dog had come to see the Sherpa festival. The monastery is built on a spur high above the confluence of the Imja and Phunki Drangkas. Its appearance suggests that it was built in homage to Ama Dablam, which rises loftily northeast of the gompa. Ama Dablam seems omnipotent when compared with the nearby giants of the Everest group.

Tengboche Gompa, the most important monastery in the Khumbu, has recently been rebuilt. Electricity was installed in the old monastery in 1988. It burned to the ground in 1989 because of a wiring fault! The monks follow the Nyingmapa sect of Buddhism. Everybody was congregating around the Sherpa cultural centre, about several hundred metres on from the monastery, where the afternoon ceremony was taking place. The chief monk was going to give his blessing here. People had started taking up their positions.

Local people were selling jewellery, food, clothes, ceremonial scarves and other bric-a-brac. All their wares were laid out on the ground. From the upper tier of the monastery several monks blew a fanfare on their horns and conch shells. This was to signal that the afternoon ceremony was about to begin. Nothing seemed to happen so I sat on the grassy area by the cultural centre and waited. Peter bought some oranges for us to eat and a white silk ceremonial scarf for the blessing.

While waiting I got talking to a deafened English woman from Sheen, near Richmond. I needed a scarf for the blessing so went and bought one. At 3 p.m. a procession of monks with banners, trumpets and cymbals emerged from the monastery. At the front of the line were the senior priests. They were followed by a musical ensemble, led by horns called dun chen, with the lama, the chief monk, at the rear. It is a very colourful occasion and spectacular to watch.

A prelude to the rilbu, the memorial service, is played on several musical instruments for about ten minutes. The chanting came next. This took place in front of several hundred people from neighbouring villages as well as the tourists. The rilbu is held on behalf of various holy figures, in the outdoor festival grounds on the west side of the gompa.

The ceremony was a serious occasion and quite boring. Tea and food were served to the local people from neighbouring communities. Money was also given to them. All this took place while the chief monk and the leading priests looked on from the cultural centre. Each person went up in turn to be blessed. After a couple of hours the main doors to the building were closed. Entry could now only be obtained via a side entrance. This caused a mad scramble to reach the front of the queue for the blessings. Peter and I looked on in amusement at the chaotic scenes and stayed in the background. We were quite happy to receive a blessing from the second most important monk. To mark the occasion we had our picture taken with him.

We were pleasantly surprised when we met up with some old friends. They were the trekking group we had shared stories with round the campfire at Lobuche. Eventually, when the queue had dwindled to a trickle, we went inside the small building and received our blessing. I offered my kata, the ceremonial scarf, as a mark of respect. On exiting the building, a sweet of some sort and a loaf of bread were given to me.

The loaf of bread came in handy for our soup at dinner time. As it is nearing the end of the trek I decided to treat myself to yak steak and chips, apple pie and a Mars bar. All this was washed down with beer – very healthy! It is my first beer in weeks. Mike, whom we had met at Dragnag, shared some popcorn with us. He gave me his address, should I ever want to go walking in the Malvern Hills where he lives. Before going to bed I went to look at Ama Dablam that was magnificently silhouetted against the clear night sky.