May 11, 2013: Active Day 6, Tengboche and Rivendell

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The trail to Tengboche.

The trail to Tengboche.

To get to Tengboche, we walked up the village in the same direction as our acclimatization hike the day before. Just before leaving, DK and Bibak stopped to buy a rubber bouncing ball for the boys to play with at our next home. My face lit up at this. Besides appreciating the considerate gesture, I also couldn't wait to watch the game. We continued on the trail across the mountainside. It was a beautiful walk, and Everest got closer with every step. Most of the walk is best communicated in pictures:
Just a few of the stairs out of Namche

Just a few of the stairs out of Namche.

Flyby

Crazy Italian pilot shaving the mountainside. We'd see helicopters all day every day, rarely so up close and personal.
Photo credit: Kevin Cordova

Everest gets closer.

Everest gets closer. This stupa was in honor of the 50th anniversary in 2003 of the first summit in 1953. We were there a couple of weeks before the 60th.

View from whence we came. See the little Hillary Bridge waaay down there!

View from whence we came. See the little Hillary Bridge waaay down there!

The first little rhododendron.

The first little rhododendron.

Everest max zoom.

Everest max zoom.

Rhododendron

Rhododendron

All the pretty sheet metal roofs in the villages were NOT carried by helicopter.

All the pretty sheet metal roofs in the villages were NOT brought in by helicopter.

DK showing us what was in store.

DK showing us what was in store.

We'd hike all the way down to that river, than all the way back up the switchbacks. Zip line anyone?

We'd hike all the way down to that river, than all the way back up the switchbacks on the other side. Zip line anyone?

Before hiking down to the river to stop for lunch, we took a tea break up on the mountain. We passed around some sunscreen. It was already too late for me, my forearms and ears were cooked. I suspected the sunscreen I brought had expired because it did nothing. We tried out each others' sunglasses to get different perspectives on Everest. The hostess brought us treats to share. As is true with any trail I'd ever been on, people seemed to become more their true selves (kind, generous, personable... all the good qualities) the higher we went. Dovile tossed some spilled almonds at one of the ravens who had been hanging out. The bird seemed to understand the game and tried to catch them. Eventually it caught one and we all cheered. As we packed up to leave, DK suggested we top off our canteens with the remaining tea. I was rather addicted to the hot lemon by this point and was happy to find that it made my treated water taste much better. It was time to head down to our lunch spot on the river (10,663 ft. / 3,250 m) before heading back up to Tengboche (12,664 ft. / 3,860 m) I only ate a little because I knew we had a climb ahead of us, and wished I could have had more because it was delicious. It was the right decision, I stayed pretty light on my feet and enjoyed dinner that much more.
"Mero naam Dan"

"Mero naam Dan"

This tea house also had a little one, a boy this time, who wanted to hang with us. DK tried to talk to him, and shared some of his chips/crisps. He promised to leave one of the toys on the way back down.  
Bridge across the river to Tengboche. All the pink on the opposing hillside are the rhododendrons in full bloom. Nepal has over 30 species.

Bridge across the Dudh Khosi River to Tengboche. All the pink on the opposing hillside are the rhododendrons in full bloom. Nepal has over 30 species.

Rhododendron

Rhododendron

Some locals.

Some locals.

We foreigners took our time plodding up the switchbacks on the other side. Sudip on the other hand, preferred a different method. He'd take what we came to refer to as the Sherpa trails, which basically just shortcut the switchbacks and went straight up the mountain. He'd be behind the group one minute and then waiting for us up above the next, not the least bit out of breath, and laughed when we teased him for being a show-off. I brought lavender organic hand sanitizer with me and decided it was time to continue the lavender theme and put some lavender essential oil on my toasted forearms for the sunburn. The smell was very strong. The group didn't mind, and maybe even preferred the overpowering flower scent to what I smelled like before. It didn't stop my poor arms from peeling like a snake later, but did keep the burn from becoming painful or blistering. By the time we reached Tengboche, some clouds were building and it was getting windy. Our first priority was of course, more tea. Once we were nice and hydrated, we dutifully obeyed DK and Sudip when they took on the parent role and told us to put on our coats before heading up to Tengboche Gompa for the afternoon puja. At the entrance to the monastery was a stone said to bear the footprint of Lama Sangwa Dorje. I thought of The Source Field Investigations which goes into detail on similar stories and the science behind how it might actually have happened. It was interesting to see one in person. We walked up some stairs, through a courtyard, and then up into the building itself. Before entering, we were asked to take off our shoes, and to turn off any phones and cameras. Filming the puja was not permitted, though we would be able to take pictures of the inside once all the monks had left. We filed into the right side of the building with a crowd of other tourists and sat knees together, as there was no room to sit cross-legged, on some nice soft rugs on the floor. The interior was an explosion of texture and color. Everything was painted in symbolic detail, there were statues, tapestries, and all manner of religious artifacts not the least of which being a giant Buddha in the front of the room. Outside the windows we could see snow-capped mountain peaks. The monks walked in the room wearing an eclectic mix of traditional red robes, modern puffy coats (also red), and trail runners. They sat on benches in the center of the room, opened their prayer books, and began to chant. I alternated closing my eyes and breathing to the rhythm of the chant or keeping them open to take in the sound with the color. The effect was peaceful, calming, and a little hypnotic. When it was over the monks walked out and we got up to take pictures. None of mine do it any justice, so I'm electing to leave them out. You can use your imagination. Or Google. The wind was cold outside the building. DK had loaned his coat to Stacy and ran back down to the tea house where we left out packs. I ran with him. Wait a minute.... did I just run purely for the sake of running at 12,600 feet? Granted it was down hill, but running is not something I typically consider fun. When we got to the tea house I was panting, yet felt exhilarated, recharged and full of energy even after hiking all day. Maybe there was some magic in the chanting we heard after all. The itinerary said we'd be staying in Tengboche. Our trip leaders decided instead to upgrade. While the views in the tea house up by the monastery were off the charts, the odds of getting food poisoning while we were there were not in our favor. So we headed down the hill on the other side a short distance to Deboche. DK seemed excited to try out the new place, and the threat of illness was more than enough to encourage us to follow along.
Trail to Rivendell

Trail to Rivendell

The trail down was especially picturesque as it tunneled through the rhododendrons in full bloom. Eventually on our left was our destination, a beautiful building just above the Imja Khola River called Rivendell. Like the The Lord of the Rings, I thought as we walked down to the entrance. We dropped our packs and headed up to the common room to order dinner. Sure enough, there was a piece of paper tacked on the wall explaining that the place was indeed named to honor the elves. Perfect. Why would we want to stay anywhere else? IMG_3295A shower in Rivendell cost 500 rupees. To me this was money well spent and I signed up right away. The woman in charge walked me downstairs and showed me how to work it. It was a big wooden room with green plastic carpet, a mildewy shelf that I used to keep my soap and clothes off the floor, and a tank-less water heater that must have somehow been powered by kerosene. She showed me where to turn the lever on the water heater to get hot water and then left me to it. At first it was luxurious. Our showers before may or may not have had pressure or heat, and this one had both. Soon warm turned to scalding, and no matter what I tried with the lever, the temperature was the same. Well, I'd take too hot over too cold any day, and it was nice to scrub a layer off. We played cards again that night and my luck or skill didn't improve. As Dovile and I were out early, we went downstairs to sit on the picnic benches outside in the courtyard and look at the stars. After a while I noticed DK and Sudip were outside with us. DK was holding his phone up at the sky and squinting at it like it was supposed to be doing something. "Ooo! What does he have?" I wondered, totally intrigued. I love astronomy and I love apps and was curious to see if I was missing out on something. I was. When I scooted over and asked what he was doing, he showed me the app he was playing with called Google Sky Map. (I resolved to download it when I got the chance, only to discover it's only for Android phones. Bummer. I settled for Star Walk which seems to do most of the same.) As part of his demonstration he asked me when I was born and then asked if I knew what time. Ha, easy, this amateur Vedic astrologer knew precisely what time she was born. It's the awkward question I ask people all the time. We couldn't do the full demo without internet as I couldn't come up with the latitude and longitude of Ridgecrest off the top of my head. The idea was that it would show a map of the sky at the time and place I was born. Perfect. This was going to add so much credibility to my astrology hobby, and I was really excited about it. We gave up on technology and moved to his paper star map. DK guides in Australia when the climbing season in Nepal is done. He told me of the Southern Hemisphere constellations and accompanying Aborigine tales. I had visited Australia before and had a fun time, yet all it really did for me in the long run was make me want to go to New Zealand. Learning about Aboriginal culture might make a return trip to Oz worthwhile, though I still doubt I'd be able to resist the urge to just continue on to the South Island. The stars we were trying to find on the map were quickly disappearing in the night sky. More clouds. DK headed in for the night and I followed. As the night progressed, the clouds became thunder. Mountain thunderstorms are one of my favorite things in the world and I was struck again at how lucky we were to be there. In my experience it takes about a week to leave the cares of the world behind and really start to enjoy a holiday. True to form, by the end of day six I was starting to remember my true self. The self who loves music, astronomy/astrology, psychology, education and alternative healing. What would it take for my life to reflect these themes? I fell asleep, lulled by the rumbling in the distance.

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