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Nepal Chapter 5

Gokyo to Pangboche

On asking, "why?"

By unexpectedly—but by no means regretfully—spending four nights in Gokyo, I got to slow down and soak in more of the cultural aspects of Nepal.

I enjoyed it. I appreciated it.

There were a number of choices ahead of me in terms of my (literal) next steps:

  1. I could continue on, as planned, over two more 17,500+ ft passes (one of them now draped in winter ice) and join the crowds up to Everest Basecamp (EBC)

  2. I could alter my route and aim for a religious festival gearing up in the villages of Pangboche and Tengboche (about a two day walk from Gokyo)

  3. Or I could do something else entirely

Although it was never the main goal, I always figured I might as well walk up to EBC since my original route already had me walking past it.

I wasn't excited about the crowds, though. And I was surprised to learn that you can't even see Everest from there. In winter it's empty; so there is no tent city teeming with eager mountaineers to gawk at.

Still, there was some draw toward EBC.

I had to ask myself: why was I concerned with checking something off a list it wasn't even really on to begin with?

Upon checking myself, I realized it was FOMO rearing its ugly head. My motivation was not pure and honest—or even based in humble origins.

I was just going to do the thing to say I had done the thing.

It turns out I'm not much different than the tourists I had been quietly criticizing.


Change of plan

This trip was originally, at least partially, about a physical challenge and a cultural immersion of a sort I'd never before experienced.

I decided to scrap the last two passes and EBC (after Renjo La, I wasn't even sure I had it in me, physically, to do two more passes), and head south down the valley to the village of Dole, and then to Pangboche.

I was hoping to see a religious festival that a few people had mentioned, in passing.

Gokyo to Dole

It was a beautiful walk, mostly downhill. I stopped in the village of Machermo around lunch time for a (traditional) milk tea and a (very untraditional) slice of banana walnut bread.

The terrain started out quite barren and rocky, but soon I began to see signs of vegetation and as I continued to descend, found myself engulfed in rhododendron.

Helping a sister out

At the teahouse in Dole, I met a guy named Curtis, from Cape Cod, and two older German women.

One of the women was concerned that she hadn't had internet for a few days and wanted to let her son know she was okay.

I said I had internet and she was welcome to Whatsapp him from my phone! She took this picture of herself to prove to him it was really her, and that I wasn't holding her hostage or something...

Throughout the evening I would see my phone light up with another message from her son, Philip, and then hand my phone back to her so she could respond in kind.

Snickers roll

On most of the teahouse menus, there was a mysterious dessert item called a Snickers Roll.

Curtis hadn't tried it either, so we decided to order one to share.

It was literally a Snickers wrapped in spring roll dough and deep fried.

It wasn't the best thing I've ever eaten, but it wasn't the worst, either. I asked the woman who owned the teahouse if it was a Nepalese specialty to which she replied, "no."

In fact, even though she'd prepared it hundreds of times, she'd never actually eaten one, herself.

Go figure.

Dole to Pangboche

Fully expecting another day of net descent, I ate a light breakfast and started walking south with Curtis and his porter.

We split ways in the village of Phortse Tenga.

From there I began a long, brutal, unexpected climb. For whatever reason, I did not at all pay attention to my topo map when planning this segment. I just—incorrectly—assumed it was all downhill.

I climbed... and climbed...

I took a less-traveled route from Phortse to Pangboche that was just a narrow foot path carved high on the steep—very steep—valley wall.

Besides porters and some yaks, I only saw two tourist trekkers the whole time.

Although I ultimately did gain in elevation that day, most of the climbing was to navigate up and over the massive valley wall ridges.

This is a picture of the ridges across the valley, but it looked the same on my side. Just imagine miles of ridges...

The dark side

I finally arrived, exhausted and hungry, to my teahouse in Pangboche.

By then, I was sweaty and had the chills after clouds and wind moved in during my last two hours of trekking.

I asked for a hot shower but was dismayed to learn they only had cold bucket showers available.

I was also sad to realize that the teahouse was on the dark side of the valley, rendering my room an inescapable cold and damp.

It was hard to get and stay warm that night.

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