I finish my communing with the majesty of this wild, magnificent slice of earth and head to the other side of this narrow metal wonder of a bridge.
My legs are still noodles but a bit more steady. My face is flush. My body is intact. My mind is calm. And I am as ready as I can be for the last 3 km toward Namche Bazzar. The end of this leg of the trek is near and I am ecstatic.
Ecstasy turns quickly to agony for the first 2 km. Then we bend around a ridge of thick pines and junipers and there in the distance Namche Bazzar peek a boos. Its pink and aqua blue rooftops twinkle in the sunlight. And the best part is that it is below my eye level. I am about to drop to my knees and kiss the ground. Donkey shit and all.
This fairytale town is everything you’d imagine. It is nestled between two hills surrounded by mountain walls that are so high that you have to crane your head to catch their snow covered tops. It is the Sherpa capital and the gateway to Everest. It has a promenade that greets you with the gurgling sound of lotus fountains, welcome signs for trekkers, clanging bells of prayer drums and prayer flags strung across every direction the eye can see. And the now familiar smell of incense pouring out of every store, home and tea house you pass.
We turn into a narrow alley where The Zambala tea house sits. We’ll be staying here for 2 days to climatize. Dawa pushes past the colorful courtyard door and into the front entrance. He’s been here before multiple times. By now, I am so ready to unload and refresh. And for the next few hours that is exactly what happens. This place gets 5 sherpa stars! The dining room is ringed with benches with Tibetan rugs and cushions. There is a bar with a working espresso machine that will soon be humming. There is Wifi and plugs and a shower (so what if its outside. It has hot running water). My room is clean and there are ample blankets. The bathroom is just a few steps down the hall. They even have shower shoes and slippers for guests. I am getting emotional just thinking about dinner.
I quickly drop my backpack in my room. Kick off my trusty hiking boots and don one of those guest slippers which turn out to be five sizes too small. Just socks will have to do. I order my requisite French fries and as usual, in this part of planet earth, for some strange reason, they haven’t disappointed yet and neither has the ketchup. I am satisfied sipping hot milk and tea and proud that I’ve made it this far.
I venture out into the main walkway that houses trekking shops. Some high end. Sadly due to the Covid lockdown worldwide, there are more cafes than people. There are the usual touristic things like money exchanges and helicopter tour rentals.
Further down, children have set up a ping pong table in the middle of the walkway. No one minds. I weave around them and one of them shouts out “hey dude”. I turn around and say “Whatsup”. He continues his game. In another walkway there are two girls swatting a small ball with makeshift bats. Dogs are minding their own business basking in what’s left of the afternoon sun. The crows are abundant and lined up across a ledge. There is the town’s wash basin where women are scrubbing clothes energetically. I am the only foreigner and the tallest man in Namche Bazzar if not the whole of Nepal. I smile a lot and refrain from saying Namaste to strangers. I don’t want to draw any more attention to myself than necessary. I finish my town tour in less than a half hour and head back to Zambala. By then thick clouds have started to quickly blanket the town giving it a mythical feel. Within minutes the mountain walls disappear.
I settle in the cozy, albeit cold, dining room and order an espresso with hot milk. It is perfect. Hot, strong and sugary. The way I like it.
My appetite is roaring back. A combination of better sleep and ass handing workouts. I order extra helpings of Dal Bhat and lots of steamed bok choy. I am so full I can hardly move. I need all the calories I can take in to get me through the next few days. I load up on some more hot milk and tea and head to bed. I contemplate taking a shower but the thought of taking off my clothes in this cold makes me rethink that silly idea. I am wearing my hunk scented deodorant and I can’t detect any body odor. Tomorrow I will get the first glimpse of Everest and I am psyched. I hope I’ll be able to catch another decent sleep. I close my eyes and to my surprise I’m out in seconds.