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Nepal Chapter 3

Lungdhen to Gokyo

My Lungdhen Teahouse

I arrived to my teahouse in Lungdhen in the early afternoon and splurged on a large pot of ginger lemon honey tea.

The teahouse's main room was sunny and warm with incredible views of the surrounding mountains.

Most of the villages above treeline rely on solar power for electricity; mostly for a few lights at night.

Like many of the teahouses up here, this one had a solar stove outside to boil water, no internet, and a barrel of water with a hand bucket used to manually "flush" the toilet.

I had to break through a thick layer of ice at the top of the barrel in the morning.

Typically, just one room is heated in the mornings and evenings by burning dried yak poop (at lower elevations, where trees are present, they also burn wood). This room is 100% the place to be in the evenings until bedtime, when you run back to you room and quickly cocoon yourself inside your sleeping bag for the night

There I met this sweet little girl who liked pointing and giggling at the hearts on my pants, and untying my shoelaces.

Altitude sickness is no joke

While drinking my tea, I also met a French woman who had turned back from Renjo La Pass because she was experiencing severe headaches, dizziness and nausea.

She was waiting at the teahouse while her group continued on without her. Her husband also continued up to summit the pass, but was then breaking away from the group to rejoin her in Lungdhen.

When her husband finally returned, they kissed in the way that French people do and considered whether she was okay to hike back down toward Lukla or needed to be airlifted back to Kathmandu.

He brought back with him one of the group's porters and together, the three of them decided to make their way down to Thame, and ultimately back to Lukla. From there they would fly back to Kathmandu.

More on home

Back to my pants: I've written a bit about the meaning of home. One aspect I completely overlooked is clothes.

I have a matching set of Marmot polar fleece pants and pullover top from college (ca. 2007) that have been worn down to the most perfect thickness (thinness!?).

Over the years, I've tried in vain to find a new set... but to no avail.

So instead, I've covered various holes with heart shape-cut pieces of green tenacious tape.

Wearing these thermals feels like reading a delicious book in a sunny window with a cup of hot coffee.

Solitude in the Khumbu

Again, I was the only person staying at my teahouse. In the evening, the young couple who own it and their daughter and I huddled and talked around the one central stove until I parted for an early bedtime.

I needed to be well rested ahead of the next day's huge climb up and over Renjo La Pass.

Renjo La Pass

I had a breakfast of chocolate porridge (my new fav!) and two boiled eggs. They also packed me a sack lunch for the trail, since there is absolutely nothing between Lungdhen and Gokyo.

By 7:00a I was on my way.

Leaving Lungdhen, I trekked up. And up. And up. Fairly early on, I passed a young couple who had turned back down because of symptoms of altitude sickness.

I started at 14,272 ft and after five hours of climbing, peaked at the top of Renjo La Pass, at 17,772 ft. It was a net elevation gain of 3,500 ft and a gross gain throughout the day of probably around 4,000 ft.

I passed through some gorgeous areas but didn't take many pictures because I was wearing gloves and was also too afraid of losing my "groove."

Yes, I'm aware of the dried boogers on my face... and yes, I'm aware that the hat + yellow coat combo are very Paddington Bear-esque.

I leapfrogged a couple times with two French women my age, and behind me was a group of Germans, fully outfitted with guides and porters.

About 3/4 the way up, I heard a commotion below. When I turned to look down, it was the unmistakable sound of vomiting.

One of the Germans had succumbed to altitude sickness (or a bad meal?). I turned to look back a couple more times to see two people from their group turn to head back down while the rest slowly proceeded up the mountain.

The summit

At the top I met a group of four Polish men who were trekking together with their porters and guide.

One took my picture (above) and noted that the four of them agreed not to shave the whole trip.

To which I rubbed my chin and responded, "me too."

We all laughed—including their Nepali guide—who added that laughing at high altitude was very good for our health.

In all, I've felt pretty good. So far, I haven't had any stomach issues or nausea and only got one minor headache after descending the pass and arriving to my teahouse in Gokyo. I suspect it was due more to the cold, wind and sun than the elevation itself.

The descent into Gokyo

Wow. Just wow. It was incredibly steep, with loose sand, icy rocks and snow. It took 2.5 hrs to walk just 2.5 miles.

The downhill was almost as technical and challenging as the climb up the other side.

But the views were stunning.

This was the view from my descent while skirting Dudh Pokhari Lake on my way to Gokyo village.

Do I even like boys!?

At one point I found myself sandwiched tightly between two Nepali porters.

One of them struck up a conversation. We talked about family, I asked how much weight he was carrying (40 kgs/88 lbs!!!) and he said he was impressed I was trekking around Nepal by myself.

He asked if I was married. I said no. He then asked if I had a boyfriend. I said no. He then asked, "Do you even like boys?"

I laughed so hard I snorted.

A well deserved shower

I had barely been shown to my room and I was already asking if they had a hot shower available. To my delight they did, for 500 rupees—sold!

It was an outdoor shower with a mix of plywood and sheet metal siding. The woman who owned the teahouse with her husband poured stove-heated water into a barrel above the shower head.

It was one of the fastest showers I've ever had and it ended by me shouting, "Okay I'm done!"

Without a towel, I shook like a wet dog, shimmied back into my dirty, sweaty clothes and finished drying near the stove in the main room.

Signs of life

Finally, I'm not the only one in my teahouse! I met some lovely people, including several Nepalis and had a great time huddling around the hot stove together.

Smoke on the water

In the morning I woke up early to watch the sun hit Machermo Peak from the other side of Dudh Pokhari Lake.

Around 6:00a, smoke started billowing from the nearby teahouse stove pipes, ultimately falling and settling over the lake to create quite the morning mood.

At the shoreline I met a Nepali guide, named Alex, who offered to take my picture. He's from Kathmandu but currently guiding a group through the mountains.

Today is my lazy day. I might walk around the lake and explore some other nearby lakes.

I'm planning to stay here a few days.

Staying flexible

For a few reasons, including word of an icy Cho La Pass and a heartbreaking amount of tourist congestion on the Everest Basecamp side of the valley (several people who came from that direction reported crowded trails and a hard time finding space at teahouses... quite the opposite of my experience so far), I might change up my plan. Again.

In talking with some locals, I might stay and explore more of this side of the valley... I'll look at more maps while I'm here in Gokyo.

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