Bridget and our climbing Sherpa Furba headed back down to Macherma when Elias hadn’t arrived from there by 10am. He is a man of great energy and drive so we know that he is still very sick. Pascale, Lonnie, Dendi and I had headed out earlier to climb Gokyo Ri at 17,684 ft for views of Everest, Lhotse, and the rest of the biggest mountain range in the world. It’s a steep hike but here I can take my own time with the vagaries of my respiratory system. There are clouds swirling around Everest with occasional partial views as we ascend but all during our hour on top they stay firmly attached to the entire mountain. Disappointed but sure we will get another chance at a different viewpoint during our stay, we trot back down. It was quite cold at the top of Gokyo Ri and that discouraged us from staying any longer. We did get photos of the village below and the glacier flowing above it (previously posted here). I used a little more of the little power left in the phone to take a few shots. Tonight I will again be watching for a charge cord.
Furba returned from Macherma before dinner with the news that Elias was feeling a little better. He and Bridget would be coming up before noon tomorrow. The plan was to head up the glacier the following morning to estabish a base camp below Tenzing – then spend time exploring possible routes through the ice jams along the lower sections of the mountain. It is an unclimbed peak. This exploration could take 3 to 4 additional days. I have decided that I just can’t recover from my bad cold, hack, etc here at altitude and will head down tomorrow morning.
These Tea Houses/ Lodges are quite pleasant but one should dispel any notions of 3, 4 or 5 Star accommodations. They are rustic, simple but beautiful in their own cultural way. They are all laid out about the same. The dining rooms are large and have windows faced to capture the sun. The rooms are very basic with one or two beds consisting of hand made frames and 2 to 3 inch mattresses. Just enough room to find a home for your gear. They have kitchens that can accommodate a surprisingly large menu with everything from Sherpa dishes to Italian to Indian and even American. The rooms run from the equivalent of two to five dollars per night and a good meal may cost 10 to twelve dollars. When you consider how far these ingredients have been carried on the backs of yaks or human porters the prices are really quite remarkable. I have enjoyed the Sherpa dishes the most. Dal Bhat is a lentil curry sauce and rice with either vegetables or meat as a choice. Our Sherpa climber Furba calls this dish ” 24 Hour Sherpa Power”. Most of our porters eat this every night. It is very good but a little variety is something I always like. I also have enjoyed Tsampa (pronounced champa) in the morning. A very traditional Tibetan meal, it consists of toasted barley. What I was eating also included wheat and was the consistency of a very thick Cream of Wheat. The toasted barley flavor is quite nutty. Sherpa stew is another of my favorites and is much like stew anywhere. Very hardy. Milk tea is ubiquitous here but I stick with herbal as I am already having trouble sleeping.
There is no central heating in these Lodges unless you consider the yak-dung stove in the middle of the dining room as being central. There is no heat in any of the rest of the Lodge. Once the sun goes down it gets very cold making your room useful only as an under covers site. And since there are no covers, it’s really just into the sleeping bag you go. Some Lodges in the higher elevations provide thick yak wool blankets. In the evening usually around 4, they will start the stove. Into the door of the pot-belly unit they pile yak-dung and then dispense a little diesel fuel as a form of fire starter. As the diesel fuel starts it stinks enough to get your eyes watering and your nose and throat very unhappy that you are there. Then the yak-dung takes hold. It’s often a good idea to retreat to your room until the whole thing mellows out a bit. However the heat in the dining room during the evenings makes for a pleasant social gathering.
In Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia, I found the somewhat unpleasant habit people had in the higher elevations of never closing the outside doors as they entered a room. Hotels would keep these doors wide open despite the cold temps and again, their idea of heat was a hot water bottle. It’s the same here. Doors all wide open. I would close them and a few minutes later they would again be letting the outside in. Hallways and bathrooms the same way. Just expect to be cold and to dress your warmest even indoors. Some have said that it’s to keep the stove odors to a livable minimum but it’s the same even without the yak-dung lit. If anyone knows about this cultural oddity please add a comment.
This photo of a yak is certainly not a normal load nor is the landscape shot the greatest but with the loss of all my camera photos I don’t have much to choose from till I get out with the iPhone again.