I’ve managed to avoid it every night so far, but at around 5 am I finally give in and decide to use my pee bottle. It is easier said than done and when I finish, screw on the cap, and carefully lay the bottle down next to my sleeping bag, a small spherical drop of liquid forms on the underside and drips down onto the groundsheet. I stand the bottle upright outside the tent for safety and go back to sleep.
Today’s 8 am start is positively decedent. Ramkrishna has decided that we should take the low road to Tangboche, where we will visit the monastery. We are aiming to go all the way to Kyangjuma today and stay once more at Tashi’s - the extra distance will pay back dividends on the last day, which otherwise would be a long slog back to Lukla.
We make our way down the valley, passing numerous yak trains. We are caught by our own yaks and we end up walking together for some time. Purba seems to want to go ahead of them, but every time we try to overtake, we have to move over to make way for more yaks coming up the other way.
Our path takes us through a series of villages. To reach Tangboche we must cross over to the other side of the valley. There is a steep descent to a box-girder style bridge over a torrent that rages through a narrow gorge below. On the other side, the path levels out for a while passing through woods. Finally, we have a sharp and muddy ascent to Tangboche. It’s a bit of a slog, interrupted several times by yak trains coming down. Finally I see the pinnacle of a stupa over the near horizon, and then the monastery itself.
We collapse in plastic picnic chairs outside a lodge and some hot orange squash comes round. There is something called Mars Pie on the menu of the lodge. We have our own lunch as usual, and no one is brave enough to order it just to find out what it is.
After lunch we go up into the monastery. In a half-shaded courtyard, a senior monk is talking to an assembled group. A younger monk in a bright red robe holds a parasol to shade the speaker. The others, also in red robes, sit in the shade of the cloisters. The entrance to the main hall is up some steps from the courtyard. Inside it is extraordinarily ornate. The walls are covered in traditional Buddhist paintings and a giant Buddha at the far end is so tall that his head is hidden in something like the fly space above the stage in a theatre. But sadly there is no ceremony while we are there and the hall is empty of monks.
From Tangboche it is about an hour down a steep, sandy and rather slippery trail to the valley floor where we cross the Dudh Kosi. The first rhododendron trees are in flower with bright reds and pinks. We pass lots of groups toiling up the trail the other way. After we cross the river, it is our turn to slog uphill for a while. We catch sight of the ‘German Hotel’, last seen just after we left the Everest View Hotel on the way to Tashi’s ten days ago. The path leads us up the side of a cliff until we reach the junction with the Gokyo trail where we stop for a photograph. For the first time since we last left Tashi’s we are back on familiar territory, and it is not much further to the lodge.
When we arrive late afternoon, the same shaggy black and white yak is still standing outside the entrance and staring at the door. Our kit bags arrive soon after.
We have requested deep-fried battered Mars bars for dessert as a challenge for our cook. He rises to the challenge magnificently. Although he couldn’t obtain Mars bars he managed to find some ‘Five Star’ bars, which are similar, and after a couple of trial runs, he has the frying technique perfected.