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Nepal Day 05 – Phakding to Namche Bazaar

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Nature's Wonders


Today I witnessed the mountains come to life! I woke up at 04:30 and went outside to do some stargazing in the crystal clear mountain skies, braving the brisk temperatures that were as low as -10 degrees Celsius. After setting up the intervalometer on my Nikon D7000, I stood watching the constellation Orion and Jupiter (then situated just above the Hyades cluster in Taurus) slowly set behind the mountains.

The sun, with Venus just preceding it, began to rise in the East (Well, not quite - the motion of the sun across the sky is due to an optical illusion created by the Earth being a rotating reference frame); and as it did, the golden light (actually white light) that was emitted first lit up the tallest peaks and slowly worked its way down to the lower elevations. The consecutive lighting up of first the tallest peaks followed by those that were lower clearly showed our tendency to mistake mountains that are closer to be taller than those farther away. Since it is difficult for our senses to detect any parallax when dealing with scales and distances so large, our depth perception ends up affected. It also struck me then that I may need to dress warmer from here on as several hours in temperatures that low left my bare fingers tingling and my toes a little numb.

Wonders of Phakding River near Phakding


Departing Phakding


I set off from Phakding (elevation : 2610m) much later on in the morning (closer to 08:00) and crossed a suspension bridge shortly after, bringing me to the West bank of the Dudh Koshi River. The mighty river, that I had been following upstream since Lukla, drains the great Mount Everest massif and is also known as the 'Sapt Koshi' due to the seven rivers that make it up (the Sun Koshi, the Indravati River, the Bhola Koshi, the Dudh Koshi, the Arun River, Barun River, and Tamur River). The Dudh Koshi River begins just East of the deep turquoise oligotrophic lakes of Gokyo, the world’s highest freshwater lake system; and emerges from the Ngozumpa Glacier, the longest glacier in the Himalayas - a glacier that I would soon be walking on.

White water near Phakding

I crossed the bridge to the East bank of the river and entered the small village of Monjo. The tourist information centre was right in the middle of the path and I stopped for a while to purchase my permit (which cost me NPR3000, MYR106), lining up with all the other guides who were obtaining all the permits for their own respective groups. The Sagarmatha National Park entrance gate (and check-point) was also here since Monjo is located right at the edge of the boundary of the national park, with the town of Jesole located just on the other side.

I reached Jesole shortly after and stopped for lunch. The lunch was pretty basic (Fried rice casting NPR350, MYR12; and masala and ginger tea costing NPR140, MYR5) as was the trek up to this point (taking me approximately 3 hours).

Route Playback

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The information from the Suunto Ambit for this part of the trip can be found on my Movescount Page

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Next (Day 5) : Phakding to Namche Bazaar (Part 2)

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The Windy Bridge


360 Panorama

The first 45 minutes or so of the trail just after Jesole was fairly straightforward, but after passing the varicoloured Windy Bridge (Video Timecode : 00:30) with the long queues of hikers and yaks waiting for their turn to cross, things became a lot tougher. The bridge itself was covered with prayer flags that were fluttering in the wind, always in the same sequence and always in the same colours - yellow (representing 'Earth'), green (representing 'Water'), red (representing 'Fire'), white (representing 'Air'), and blue (representing 'Space') - "by your powers combined..". Printed (normally by woodblock) on the flags are prayers, sutras, and mantras, and are strung up in the hopes that the prayers would be carried by the wind to benefit others, far and wide.

Dzo after Phakding Windy Bridge after Phakding


Climbing to Namche Bazaar


After the bridge, the path wound its way up the steep hill, zig-zagging up as it did. I began to feel the effects of high altitude at this point as my breathing rate had increased and it felt as if I were tiring out faster than I normally would be on this kind of incline, actually having to stop for short rests on several occasions. The incline itself was not too bad (initially 22 degrees, an altitude gain of 200 metres over 500 metres; and gradually levelling out to 14 degrees, altitude gain of 200 metres over 800 metres, as the path began to trace the contours) but I had not stopped to acclimatise yet and the decreased partial pressure of oxygen at this altitude was starting to affect me.

I came across Sophie once again towards Namche Bazaar (elevation : 3440m) and decided to hike along with her. To our surprise, it began to snow at this point - later finding out that it was the first snowfall in Namche Bazaar that year. Sophie was struggling a litte but her porter and I tried our best to encourage her and to urge her on. At one point, she ducked into a doorway of a little hut along the path to escape the cold and she found dozens of eyes of adults and children alike just staring at her. Soon after, we reached Namche Bazaar, a sprawling town that was nestled cosily in the valley. The quaintness of the town and the soft snow that covered everything made the entire scene terribly enchanting.

We all ended up staying at a lodge called 'The Nest', but I went to exchange some left over currency that I had (already having spent more than I had anticipated), receiving NPR4600 for RM200 and NPR25200 for USD300, before checking in the lodge. I treated myself to some internet access (NPR500, MYR18) and some dinner (NPR540, MYR19), before retiring to bed for the night.

Namche Bazaar Snow

Route Playback

Suunto Movescount Stats

The information from the Suunto Ambit for this part of the trip can be found on my Movescount Page

For those who also have a Suunto GPS device and would like to use the move as a route, please click on the following link : 

Check the route in

Expenditure

End of Day 5 Expenditure (RM)

Transportation : 0

Entrance Fees/Visa : 106

Gear : 0

Food : 36

Maps : 0

Medication : 0

Misc : 7

Internet : 18

Accommodation : 0

TOTAL (RM)

Total

: 2266

: 337

 : 423

: 163

: 24

: 14

: 21

: 18

: 75

: 3341 

Next (Day 6) : Acclimatisation at Namche Bazaar
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