Trekking the middle hills between Jiri and Lukla
Here's a typical day of trekking, which starts with me sleeping in a trekking lodge. The roosters in the village start going between five and six. I'm not sure why a village needs that many roosters. One always finds my window makes noise just outside. I'll be out of the sleeping bag at 6:30, get dressed, then breakfast. By the time I'm done other trekkers come trickling into the common room. We chat, I go back to pack up my pack and the duffel bag for Nara. Nara comes to collect his load and ties his naamlo (headstrap) to the duffelbag. I clear the bill with the lodge owner, and we'll be on the trail by 7:30. The air is nice and cool, but the temperature quickly rises and by 8:30 it starts to get hot and humid in the valleys. We stop at a bhatti for a cup of Nepali milk tea, hike some more, then more tea, etc.
Lunch is usually between twelve and one. Some days we'll have reached our destination, but other days we continue on for a few more hours in the afternoon. The weather has been clear all morning, but in the afternoon clouds start to build. We check into the trekking lodge, I get settled into my room, come back out and have a cup of tea. I then decide on an afternoon excursion, perhaps check out the village, hike up a hill. If I'm not feeling well I may crawl into my sleeping bag with my book. I may order a dish of hot water and wash my face, shave, wash my body, my hair, and then my socks. By five o'clock, other trekkers will have arrived, and a game of cards is going on in the common room. The clouds have now rolled in now and visibility outside is nil. At the higher elevations, a kid will come and fill the stove with dried yak dung, pour on some kerosene, and strike a match to light it. We put aside the cards and order dinner, perhaps garlic soup and fried potatoes. After dinner there's usually more cards. I drink lemon tea. One hour after dark I may walk outside to go pee, and all the coulds will be gone and there are stars everywhere. I contemplate the situation and go back in. I try to keep my eyes open for a while, but 8:30 is a late night. Time to hit the sleeping bag and do it all over again the next day.
Hillside, near Lamjura La.
A typical hillside in the middle hills of Nepal. The dots on the hill are farmhouses. This hillside is about 2000 m high and the ridgetop is at about 3500 m. These are elevations typical of the highest peaks in the Canadian Rockies! The trail to Namche Bazaar goes right over top of the ridge, after which there is another ridge. Then another. And another.
The village of Junbesi lies at the bottom of the Lamjura La, the highest hill between Jiri and Namche. It is surrounded by pine forests, and the Sherpa people here grow apple trees. The freshly squeezed apple juice served at the trekking lodges is refreshing after a long day of hiking.
Butterfly and wild marigolds.
One lazy morning in the village of Kenja I wandered down to the river. I contemplated going swimming, but the water was fast and I was coming down with a cold. Instead, I sat and reflected on the scenery, and started photographing some bugs that were buzzing around. At the start of the trek after all the planning and anticipation at home, after the long flight to Kathmandu, and after the bumpy busride to Jiri I was bursting with energy, keen to cover as much ground as possible each day. But after only a few days on the trail I had settled into a relaxed pace, doing most of the trekking in the mornings and spending the afternoons exporing my surroundings.
Corn is drying in a basket alongside the trail, near the village of Bandhar.
Porter crossing suspention bridge.
Since the expeditions of British explorers like Shipton and Tilman in the fist half of the 20th century, much has been written about the strength and perseverance of the Nepali porter, almost to the point where it seems to be a cliche. But until you see with your own eyes what kind of physical labor these guys are capable of... Even toward the end of my trip I would still rub my eyes in disbelief. It must be a hard life, and it only pays a few dollars a day.
Packs resting on a chautaara.
On the left is Nara's load followed by my backpack, a 80L expedition pack that I use for multi-day trips in the Canadian Rockies. On the right are two porter loads. Nara estimated these loads to be about 60 kg each. Porters sometimes carry loads up to 90 kg, supported only by a headstrap (naamlo) that puts all the force straight down the spine.
Making Lokta paper.
A boy is making paper from the bark of Lokta trees. The bark is pounded in a tube, and the pulp is then spread out to dry on the frames. Behind the boy is some finished product, which may end up in the souvenir shops of Thamel.
Chorten and mani stones, Trakshindo La.
The Mani stones in the foreground are inscribed with the Buddhist mantra Om Mani Padme Hum, which translates to Hail to the Jewel in the Lotus. They are found alongside the trail and always must be passed on the left. They are a sign that the area you are in is inhabited by Sherpa people.