Back in Namche and some yak chatter

I have just carefully followed Judith and Philip’s instructions for cutting and pasting off line blogging – and it worked. Thanks for a great tutorial!

Today we had another fabulous trek all the way from Lungdhen to Namche. We did two days trekking in one! Amazing. We needed to pick up an other day somewhere and I’m glad we’ve now done it as I know the trek back to Khamding is going to get more difficult after tomorrow as we’ll be back on the damaged trail again. Can’t say as I’m too excited about that.

Today dawned really cold -15 according to the German man’s thermometer. We were ready to go by 7 and as the guest house was even colder this morning than yesterday (being no warmer inside than out.) There was no point hanging around. When we set off the sun hadn’t cleared the high ridge to the east of us so we were walking on hard frosted ground. Any still water was frozen, icicles hung around streem banks, shrubs – there were starting to be a few at this lower elevation – were white rimed  and looked as chilled as I felt. My fingers were freezing despite gloves. At 8am there was a sudden rush of the shadow across the ground – up and away – the sun had climbed over the ridge and instantly there was warmth. White leaves turned green, icicles began dripping. I took off my gloves, then hat, then down jacket and soon after my sweater joined the rest in my pack. It is extraordinary how fast that sun warms things up at this altitude.

We enjoyed yet another magnificent day. We’ve dropped almost 1 km in elevation but none of that was on any knee jarring steep trail. It was generally a gradual descent through the beautiful Thame Valley. This is the valley Tibetan traders used to ply in the days before China closed the border. Don’t get me going on that subject! Derelict buildings give testimony to the economic down turn as a result of that loss of trade. 

At one point we saw four “Tares” (sp?) a Nepali mountain goat. Huge creatures. Of course there are yaks around every corner. Many are free ranging and enjoying spring foliage. Others are barrelling along the trails in groups of three to 10. Quite a few of the yak drivers are women. The yak bells give fair warning of their approach so it is usually easy to clamber out of the way onto the inside side of the trail. It’s a really bad idea to get on the out side side of the trail and the drops should one of the beasts push one off are usually very significant. For the most part they pass by with plenty of room – sometimes their massive horns just skim by as their heads swing to and fro. Sometimes their packages are quite wide and need to be given a hard shove as the yak goes by. Many wear all sorts of colourful decorative tassels on their ears or around their necks. Some have just one massive bell, others have rows of jingle bells. They come in several colour combinations. Black, black with white faces, light brown, light brown with white faces, darker brown, darker brown with white faces and gray. I’ve not yet seen gray yaks with white faces. They are very shaggy beasts, so their legs look quite short. Their “skirts” swing as they walk along. They have an odd voice – a sort of grunt growl. They wear blankets and tarps under their wooden saddles and habitually carry about 70 to 80 kilos when fully loaded. They don’t have halters, but are controlled by the voice commands of their driver, they also seem quite happy to follow the lead yak. Today there was a scary moment when on a steep hair pin turn in the trail above a precipitous drop, three up going yaks got confused with seven down going yaks in a very narrow point. The two drivers were scampering all over the place to sort the mess out. Thankfully a couple of yaks backed up to a wider section of trail and other yaks could then pass safely. We watched all this from a safe distance I’m glad to say.

We’re back into the land of rhododendrons and greens again. Also into farm land and are passing through villages with their chortens and mani walls. It’s quite amazing how suddenly the scenery has changed. Mind you, we walked hard for seven hours! 

And that seven hours of walking has left me tired so I’m going to close here. I’ll probably not have internet again until I’m back in Kathmandu in about a week. So until then, good night from Namche.

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