Day 8: Namche Bazaar
Pikey Peak, Nepal
Ascent: 867 m
descent: 867 m
Distance: 12 km
Elevation at Destination: 3440 m
Today was an acclimatisation day for me and a day off for Danny. He did nothing but drink coffee and briefly walk around Namche. I headed for the hills to check out the views of the surrounding mountains.
I followed the path out of Namche but soon split off from the main trekking route. The hikers were given a gentle trail to follow; I was given a staircase. Even though I loved not having the heavy pack with me, my speed was just as slow as usual. The higher I climbed, the harder it was to breathe.
When the path eventually levelled out, it led me past a yogic retreat before skirting around the edge of a mountain. Frost covered the grass and several times I found myself walking on frozen ground. It was during this section that I first spotted Everest and its neighbouring summits. Along with the peaks to either side and slightly behind me, I was almost surrounded 360 degrees by white caps. I felt like I had finally arrived in the mountains.
As I neared the Everest View Hotel, a helicopter landed on a helipad only metres above me. Dust flew up into the air, causing temporary blindness. Apparently this hotel was so exclusive that guests were transported to and from it via helicopter, saving them from having to make the effort of climbing up a hill.
I was certain I wouldn't be allowed inside the hotel, so I edged around the property to reach a viewpoint that was labelled on my map. The mountains that seemed so distant at Pikey Peak were now right in front of me, and in only a few days’ time I would hopefully be at their base. The whole scene was utterly mesmerising; I wish Danny had been there to share it with me.
Continuing down the other side of the mountain, I spotted the green roofs of the village of Khumjung in the valley below. It looked more widespread than Namche but with much more empty space between the houses. The stone wall-lined laneways twisted and turned through the town, which I followed randomly as I attempted to make my way to the other side. Apart from a couple of lodges, restaurants and souvenir stores, it didn't feel touristy at all. It was a welcome change to see the locals going about their traditional daily lives rather than trying to cater to the tourist crowd.
The next village along was Khunde, which seemed to be a smaller version of Khumjung. It took about 40 minutes to walk through the two villages, and in that time I didn’t see a single other hiker. It was quiet and calm, and a completely different side to Nepal than what I had seen so far. I loved it.
Reaching the Hillary Memorial Viewpoint required me to ascend a steep hill above Khunde. It was slow going but an easy to trail to navigate, once the yaks moved off the path for me. At the viewpoint I ran into a large tour group, ending the tranquility I had been enjoying. Squeezing in between the other hikers, I found a 360-degree panorama that was easily the highlight of the trek. Looking north-east, Everest, Lhotse and Ama Dablam were all within sight, while Thamserku and Kangtega were prominent in the east. Mt Khonde loomed down on me from the west, and Namche Bazaar was just visible to the south-east. I ended up staying at the lookout for half an hour, captivated by the scenery that was unlike anything I would ever see back home.