You do not have to be to the summit to feel it. Himalayan valleys Sherpa villages, monasteries that are ancient and powerful mountains are among the highlights of this trek to Everest Base Camp. The trek to Everest Base Camp is filled with surprises - not least the fact that, in fact, it is not just about the mountains. One of them is Khumbu Icefall which might thrill you. |
Sherpa culture, with village communities that are ancient, its Tibetan roots and Buddhism, supplies a bonus that many people - on getting to Base Camp, as they are focused - do not expect. Really compares because if it's trekking you need, nowhere else on the planet. Of the ten highest mountains in the world, eight lie within the borders of Nepal. Just as interestingly, its own mountain areas are densely populated and have been for millennia. So once you go trekking, you're walking on trails which have been utilized for centuries, even through villages which have been there for just as long.
The Base Camp trek does not start with peaks and vistas that are incredible; it starts with deep valleys and farming villages. It also begins with a stunning flight - the road is just five days' walk away. Perhaps due to this the Khumbu is a mix of the new and the old. And we witnessed equally on the walk up to Namche Bazaar, the area's principal village. Namche provided the perfect opportunity to acclimatize to the thin air and make a leisurely exploration of the Sherpa heartland.
We walked through a listing of stonewalled areas dotted with squat houses and trails. Each building was kept as indication of the civic pride that is so evident wherever you look in the Khumbu. The monsoon was finished and they turned the soil for the next crop of potatoes. A tiny, stooped old girl, clearly not up to the harder job of tilling, rolling them carefully before placing them and was walking around picking up great heaps of yak dung.
Just behind her, the wall of a hut was covered with splats of those balls, adhered thinly to capture the morning sun. They were being dried to use as gas rather than precious wood. In each was a palm print that is neat.
But if that seemed medieval, there was nothing outdated about our first stop. Hillary wanted to do something for them using his new found fame to raise funds. He obtained a Sherpa answer that was normal when he asked them what they wanted: they wanted bridges, schools and hospitals. With a bit of health care, education and transport they could be looked after by themselves, thanked to him they have the tiny field hospital in Khunde.
We walked to the Khumjung village. By now we turned into the darkened interior of this gompa (temple) there, it was getting chilly. There was a service going on where they were working their way through. Every now and again, they banged on drums, blew horns and flutes. The light was dim in the afternoon, the atmosphere cold and dry. With the noise, the smoke from the candles and the demon faces staring down in the walls, it felt otherworldly.
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