Day 4 would take us from Namche Bazaar to Tengboche (3867m). The day was clear and beautiful, without a cloud in the sky – a much needed reprieved from our two previous days of gloomy grey cloudiness. We set off from Namche on a “Himalayan flat” dirt trail which means lot of ups and downs. About half an hour outside of town we get our first view of the Himalayan goddess – Sagarmatha (aka Mt. Everest) – with a lone cloud resting at the top. After taking in the view, we make our way down towards the river where we have lunch at a small shop, cross the river, and begin our climb towards Tengboche. Fortunately, this climb isn’t nearly as grueling as the one to Namche. Instead, it is a long 2 hour trail of switchbacks proceeding ever upwards at a relatively gentle incline. (After the sharp ascent to Namche which was nothing but stairs and stepping up huge rocks, this climb was almost easy!) Awaiting us at the top of the mountain is the famous Tengboche monastery.
The monastery has a rather unfortunate history. It was built in 1919 by the Sherpa community after it was founded by Lama Gulu in 1916. In 1934 it was destroyed by an earthquake but was quickly rebuilt. It was wired for electricity in 1988 and then burned down in 1989 due to an electrical fire. It was yet again rebuilt, and has since stood without issue.
We were fortunate enough to visit the monastery during a chanting ceremony. We removed our shoes, made our way inside, and were kindly directed to a seat against the wall so that we could observe. What we saw was something straight out a movie – two rows of about 8 monks dressed in red robes and yellow hats were sitting on cushions facing each other. At one end was a massive hanging drum and at the other a gigantic statue of a deity. The monks would begin a chant accompanied by a steady drum beat. Mixed in would be the occasional conch shell horn or a clash of cymbals. According to our guide, the ceremony can last up to 2 hours, and so we gracefully bowed out after 15 other-worldy minutes.
Rather than stay in Tengboche, we continued down the other side of the mountain for 15 minutes to the nearby valley where we would stay the night. As the saying goes – climb high, sleep low. And after all the things that have gone wrong on the trip, we certainly weren’t going to take any chances. Even though it was Christmas Day, we were pleasantly surprised to see a small tree decorated in the corner of our lodge when we arrived. Naturally, we celebrated with an excellent dinner of noodles and tea with some cake and Hershey kisses to celebrate the occasion!
We woke on day 5 after what had been the coldest night yet! The window of our tea house was a solid sheet of ice on the inside when we opened the curtains. Because of this we got off to a bit of a late start, optimistic that things would warm up a bit by 9am (which they did). The trek to Dingboche was pretty uneventful. It was the furthest distance we had traveled ina single day, but the trail was fairly flat and so we just kept on walking. We did cross both the 4000m mark and the tree line on our way up to Dingboche which is at a lofty 4360m.