Our first night in the mountains could’ve gone better. It took a while before I drifted off to sleep on that first night only to wake up again at 11pm and again at 12:30am and again at 3am until Allan woke me at 6am to get ready for breakfast.
Today was going to be another easy day, with an estimated 4 hours of walking on a flat trail, so we could afford to savor our breakfast and not rush getting ready for the walk. Up in the mountains though, “flat” had a completely different meaning. Days back we were told that from Lukla (our previous day’s trek), we would enjoy a “flat” trail to Phakding. While the trek was manageable, it definitely was not flat. It had its fair share of uphills and downhills that were significant enough to merit running out of breath, but were still reasonably acceptable. Knowing that today would be similar was a welcome thought.
The trail involved snaking around one mountain to the next with another steel suspension bridge that had to be crossed, passing by small waterfalls and always with a view of the river. At this height I was constantly reminded of home — it felt like we were walking through what would be the combination of my impressions of life in the provinces with what I had seen of mountains and forests in trips at home. An exception to this was when we had sighted the snow-capped mountains in the distance…now those were not something you would see in a tropical country. The view of those mountains above the lower, greener ones would stay with us for the rest of the day as we stopped in Jorsale. Our lodge had a sign that said it was the last stop to Namche Bazaar, which was 3 hours away and that trekkers are encouraged to have lunch before heading off.
We were told that most groups go from Phakding straight on to Namche Bazaar, which was a gruelling 6-8 hour walk altogether. Some, we were told, even go straight from Lukla all the way to Namche. At that point, Allan and I were happy that we were stopping for the night. We had been warned repeatedly that the way to Namche was uphill. No downhills and very, very little flat trails….it was all uphill for about 2 hours. For us at least, that is still one day away. For the time being, we were enjoying the short day and lounging about Jorsalle and a nearby steel suspension bridge (the first of the two we were to cross the following day) enjoying the views of the mountains and the river. Also of the constant stream of trekkers, porters and djopkes that constitute “traffic” in the mountains.
Consequently, we learned that what we initially thought were yaks were actually djopkes. Yaks are more commonly found in Namche and higher whereas these lower altitudes are more suitable for this breed. They are also noticeably less hairy than their more famous counterparts…I was told they differ in size and in their horns as well, but those were less obvious to me even after seeing “real” yaks days later.