If only we could’ve eaten that well the entire 2 week trek. But the culinary offerings of Namche Bazaar is far and away the exception in this the largest and lowest town on the beaten path. Our Himalayan vacation was largely powered by egg and toast in the morning, instant Rara noodles for lunch, and the local lentil soup called dahl bat for dinner. All this was washed down by hot tea, hot lemon, or boiled water. Every guesthouse had the same bland items. After the first few days we started eating as a chore. Though we’d be starving after a six hour hike uphill we’d pick at our food just enough to stave off hunger yet another night. At the base of Mt. Everest we were treated to a left over bag of chili mix from a previous expedition. Of course the local Nepalese cooks hadn’t the faintest idea of what to do with it so I squandered my way into a kitchen, not that I knew how to make RV food but atleast I could read the instructions. We had brought a weighty bag of snacks to offset our limited diet. The snickers bars, skittles, sour lemon drops and sausages were all highlights in our daily regiment.We semi-unfortunagtely learned that skittles, lemon drops and happy cola combined under heat and pressure mutate into a single gelatenous brick of pure sugar. Of course, that didn’t stop us from gnawing on the brick as Mary demonstrates here.
Oh sure, along the road up snacks like crackers, canned fruit, and chocolate could be found but at $5 per snickers we were glad we bought our own. Even with this gold mine of snacks our daily intake of calories were well under the amount spent traversing the mountains. Over the 14 days we lost at least 10lbs each, with Steve being the most drastic with his 20lb loss. We were all swimming under layers of wool and goretex. So even with our gorgings on Yak sizzler and gorgeous chocolate cake during our two stops at Namche Bazaar our 2 week circuit that took us above Everest Base Camp was an awesome weight loss program. The bonus was walking away with legs of steel.
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Up at 6am, not rested but awake. It’s 15F, inside the room. There’s a painful dryness deep in your throat, maybe as far as your lung. Your breath crystalizes in front of you. You brush with whatever water didn’t freeze in the bottle. Force down toast, again. If you thought it was cold indoor, outside there’s a considerable windchill factor. Then you hit the road one uphill step at a time.
Your fingers and toes are the first to freeze, the kind that hurt your bones. Every morning the first 300ft always seem to be the hardest. Breathing is like sucking dry ice through a straw with a leak in it. It’s easiest to stare a few steps ahead, but you can’t forget to look up and around at the scenery. That’s what you’re there for after all. Surely this torment must be for some reason. You scan ahead of you to see where the sherpa is leading, and somehow it’s almost always up. Sometimes the worst is down because that just means there’s even more up ahead. Now and then there is no worn path so you just have to make your own through the boulder fields hopping from one to the next. The icy spots are the worst. Squeezing past the Yaks takes a bit of finesse and when they’re behind you it feels like special olympics version of running of the bulls.
Yak’s horns are just as sharp and long, and they really don’t care where they point them. Lunch is an opportunity to warm up with hot lemon or tea. But you don’t want to stop too long because the icy winds pick up after noon and the there’s a lot more mountain to climb before you can settle for
the night. And your muscles tighten up in this cold if you stop moving. To make matters worst it’s the high season so you have to get to the next village early enough to get a bed. The afternoon hike is much like the morning. The chill from being in the sun’s shadows is replaced by the bony chilling gusts that penetrates through your fleece. Usually the face gets hit the hardest. Your nose is red and raw from wiping, your ears act as conduits for a perpetual brain freeze, and your eyeballs feel like ice cubes rolling around in your head. Finally you see your destination. At about 4pm you reach the guesthouse and change out of your hiking shoes and socks to give them a chance to dry. Now’s the time a shower so grab a wet wipe and you’re done in a minute. Grab your book and head into the common room. There
‘s a single stove in the middle of the room and that only gets lit from 6-9pm, same as the sole light bulb. Dinner is usually served around 6pm so you’re in bed by 8pm. You’re exhausted so even though the elevation won’t let you sleep it’s still good just to lay down. Hopefully there’s extra blankets because your 15F sleeping bag doesn’t cut it even with 3 layers of clothes on. Hours later sleep finally arrives and you wake up the next morning to do it all over again. And though it’s grueling, physically torturous, and each day is a journey into the unknown the experience is magnificient and you wouldn’t trade it for all the comforts of home.
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