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Nepal 2014

Day 4. Everest Base Camp Trek. Sete to Junbesi.

NEPAL | Saturday, 31 May 2014 | Views [1141]

A Walk in the Primordial Forest

Early start today since we had several obstacles ahead: a cold, cloudy day, a 1,000 metre climb followed by a 500 metres drop to Junbesi. We started upward immediately on a rough trail. Again the mountainside was composed of gneiss fractured along the mica bands which creates sheets and crumbling flagstones that lie in serrations and rough steps and are often treacherous unstable and loose. You can't take your eye off the next step, which requires concentrated, hard climbing. We were moving into an ancient rhododendron forest that was just starting to blossom after the long Himalayan winter. As we climbed we entered the cloud layer and the temperature dropped close to freezing, but the climbing was noticeably easier than the day before. Perhaps we are getting fitter but there was also no sun to overheat us and the grade was less severe, though longer.

On the route we passed many crumbling mani walls and a few stupas dedicated by prominent Sherpas. On the ridge summit we were at over 3,500 metres in cold, misty half-light. Drifts of rotten snow lay among the knotted roots and the trees became grotesquely twisted and heavy with moss. To our delight, tiny bunches of purple violets were open, the only colour in the charcoal and grey.

At one stop dark, bulky figures were visible, that materialised to a herd of yaks. When I approached them they obligingly surrounded me so I have a few good portraits. 

We finally stopped at the top of the Lamajura Pass at 3,600 metres (11,800 ft) in thick fog. It was freezing cold. We entered a teahouse that offered a snapping wood fire for lunch, pulling up a few plastic chairs to the fireplace to warm up.

 A small diversion on teahouses:

Some private homes open their houses (sometimes simply one big room) to serve drinks and meals. They have a wood fire in a large clay block fireplace on the floor. The fire is fed through a hole in the front of the block and flame and smoke issue from a hole in the top, where a ubiquitous pot holds boiling water. All cooking takes place on and around the fireplace. The kitchen is usually unlit and unventilated and the ceilings are blackened with years of soot. 

We sat in the Lamajura teahouse with the front door wide open providing the only light in the room, with a steady stream of fog being sucked through the door. If you weren't directly in front of the flames, it was freezing throughout the room. We sat with our backs to the freezing wind while the woman cooked our meal of fried potatoes and veggies in front of us in two ancient and rather dangerous-looking pressure cookers. When the potatoes were done she gave them to her young son who was seated on the floor. He plucked the steaming potatoes out of the pot and peeled them with his thumbnail. We didn't object because they were to be fried with veggies in the second stage. 

Following lunch we set off on a very pleasant walk through forests of enormous rhododendron and what looked like balsam pines, 20 and 30 metres tall and probably centuries old. The tiny strip paddy fields clinging to the rocky hillsides near Bhanda disappeared as the trail fell gradually to a hanging valley of pastures and fields. We were below the fog; it grew warmer and lighter.  This was an altogether more prosperous looking farming area.

The trail cut along and down the side of the valley, crossing ridge after ridge, eventually passing the Junbesi monastery and entering the neat and very prosperous village of Junbesi. We found a lodge with power and comfortable beds and recuperated.

Tags: everest base camp trek, junbesi., sete


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