Day 7: Phakding to Namche Bazaar
Pikey Peak, Nepal
Ascent: 1080 m
descent: 250 m
Distance: 11.2 km
Elevation at Destination: 3440 m
Despite sleeping at a lower elevation than yesterday, it felt much colder outside this morning. Our hike began in a valley, where the sun took an eternity to reach us. I wish I had started with a couple of extra layers.
We followed the gushing Dudh Koshi (Milk River) for the first 8 km, traversing from side to side multiple times via wobbly suspension bridges. I did not enjoy any of them, and by the end of the day I think I had developed a phobia of the unsteady crossings. At least the path was easy to follow and not too strenuous, although we were held up multiple times by security posts checking our permits.
As expected, the trail was crowded the entire time, not only with hikers but also with porters. At times it seemed that the porters outnumbered the tourists. There weren’t hikers many carrying their own packs like we were.
After our easy start, the path took a vertical turn and we commenced a long, difficult ascent along dusty trails through a stunning pine forest. Even though I could see white peaks through the trees, the forest rarely opened up to give me a photo-worthy view. We were both dreading this climb at the start of the day, but once we got into a rhythm we found it wasn't so bad, just very, very slow. It wasn't so cold anymore.
At the top, we rounded a corner to find Namche Bazaar, the busiest and most well-known village in the region, spread out before us. Rows and rows of off-white houses with blue, green and red roofs were built up on the side of the curved mountain, giving the appearance of an amphitheatre. It was a relief to make it to this point in our travels.
Once we had dumped our bags in a cheap lodge with a decent view, we went out in search of lunch. Since we had eaten nothing but Nepalese food for a week, we changed up cuisines and ordered Mexican/American. I shouldn't have been surprised by the subpar quality.
The early afternoon was spent wandering around the stone paths of the tourist mecca, passing dozens of guesthouses, bakeries and hiking shops. I'm not sure how roughly 30 stores all selling identical clothing and gear can survive in one town, but somehow they do. I stocked up on snack food and did well to resist all the warm clothing I would love to take with me. The narrow, labyrinthine laneways were full of backpackers, mules and yaks, and any hiker that wasn't perusing the stores were crammed into the warm coffee shops. We did the same once the clouds came over and the temperature plummeted.
Our accommodation was the most lively place we had stayed so far, with over 20 people crowded into the dining room for dinner. We were the only hikers without a guide. It was disappointing that there was no heater to stand in front of, but with that many bodies packed into the small space we didn't feel the cold.
I opted for dal bhat again for dinner, mainly for the free refills. For the first time ever in Nepal, I wasn't given the option. Later on I noticed another table being offered a second helping of everything on their plate. Ripped off.