Note: I am writing this on March 7, but I am now well off the grid, so I will be posting this at some future date).
I awoke this morning at 3:20 am, partly because I went to sleep at 9 pm the night before. I was quite knackered from the long previous day going over two passes. Of course, I had to pee. Which brings me to the subject of tea houses.
Many are also known as lodges. They are generally stone building, one to two stories, that double as a family’s (or two or three) home. This section of trail is sparsely populated by trekkers, therefore the lodge business is distinctly secondary to other means of income and subsistence, mainly farming. They provide the most basic of accommodations, generally a very small room with 1-3 beds crammed in. The floor is bare wood, the mattresses are an inch or two thick, and if they have the luxury of electricity, there will be a dim light hanging from the ceiling. Toilet facilities (basic Asian squat) are down the hall, or in the present case, down the steep wooden stairs.
So back to peeing, by the time I was done getting out of my warm sleeping bag, finding my shoes in the dark, clambering down the stairs and back up, I was wide awake. After all I had already had 6+ hours of sleep, in most cases sufficient for me. So I spent the rest of the wee hours reading the news (at the time I still had a cell connection), trying to sleep again, and completing yesterday’s blog post.
Today we climbed a mountain, in reverse. We started by following a small stream downhill to the east, eventually emerging high on the north canyon wall of the Likhu Khola. Just across the side valley from us was a flurry of road building, with tight switchbacks being built on a nearly vertical wall. It turns out that this will be the service road for a Chinese-financed dam and hydroelectric power plant on the Likhu Khola. Given the narrow canyon at this point, it seems like an ideal site. Before you yell environmental foul, think about what life would be without power. This power plant will be a godsend for the people of this area that lived without power or roads when the earthquake hit.
The trail gradually descended to the east finally getting down to the river at the village of Kinja. This was the final destination of the road. After a brief rest and a check-in at the Khumbu district office, the trail southeast and straight up. We were now in Sherpa territory. We regained all the elevation we lost in the morning, and then some, finally arriving at Sete, perched high above the valley, at 3:00 pm. Sete, as far as I could see, consists of a couple of tea houses, nothing more. Our station for the night is the Sherpa Guide Lodge, owned by a school teacher. The school is apparently located a 20 minute walk away, so we had to await his arrival at 4 pm to check-in.
Now, I am sitting in the owner’s kitchen, together with my crew, and various undefined members of the extended family, mostly because it’s warm in here, if a bit smokey. They are all speaking animatedly in Nepali, which always sounds to me like they are fighting. I mentioned this to my guide, and he said it’s because they are all drinking their home-made brew. Oh yea, I had to try it! They poured me a small milky looking glass out of what looked like a tea kettle. The taste wasn’t unpleasant. Of course they drink it warm and uncarbonated. Apparently they make it from wheat, although it didn’t taste anything like a wizen. It also had small round floaters in it that looked like small bugs, apparently some kind of spice they add to it. I would gladly drink more, but I didn’t given that I am trying to acclimate to the altitude – which here is 2500 m, or roughly 8200 ft.
Tomorrow we climb over the highest point this side of Namche Bazar, a high pass of 3500 m (11000+ ft). I’ll likely be in bed by 9 again tonight, hopefully for a longer sleep than last night.