Wednesday 22 March

(magnify) Giant Mani stone

Wake to first light in the tent. Shortly after, Purba arrives with coffee and warm water for washing. It is a wonderfully gentle way to return to consciousness. After finishing the coffee, I get dressed and pack away my kit. Breakfast is ready in the lodge dining room shortly after – porridge and omelette with toast.

We set off at a steady pace, Purba leading again. It becomes warm very quickly, a complete contrast to yesterday. Ahead at the end of the valley we can see a great snow-covered peak. Apart from a few steep excursions around Mani rocks, the going is quite easy.

The valley in places is narrower than I expected, and well-wooded. The path is rather rocky in places, and as yesterday, quite busy with porters and yaks.

(magnify) Approaching the climb to Namche

After lunch, the climb up to Namche Bazaar begins. We cross high above the Dudh Kosi on a cable bridge and then begin the slog up many zig-zags. It is on this stretch that we gain our first fleeting glimpse of Sagarmatha (Everest) – just visible far up the valley through a gap between the trees, until the cloud comes in and covers it up.

We keep a steady pace and finally the first few buildings below Namche come into view. The town proper begins a little higher up – beautifully built stone houses with colourful painted window frames covering the sides of a natural amphitheatre surrounding a large white stupa.

(magnify) Namche Bazaar
(magnify) Entrance

We enter the town through an archway decorated with paintings of the Buddha and mandalas, and process clockwise around the stupa before climbing up next to the river into the centre of the town.

We are shown into the beautiful wood-panelled dining room of the tea house where our tents are pitched and sit down around the window overlooking the town to drink tea or hot chocolate and munch on biscuits. But a Japanese party is arriving and the owner asks us to move to the other side of the room. He then places cards on the tables so that there can be no further confusion.

I wander around the streets of Namche – everything is on sale – mostly trekking equipment but also souvenirs, prayer flags, books, yak bells, and even a Harry Potter Filofax cover. The sun goes down and the temperature drops markedly.

The tents are on a terrace just next to the tea house. We are back in the dining room for dinner, which is an imaginative affair – vegetables, pasta, sauteed potatoes, and meat with sauce. Custard sprinkled with crushed biscuits for dessert. Near the window, the Japanese group is busy checking their oxygen saturation levels. They all look very anxious and take it in turns to clasp an oxygen mask to their faces and take deep gulps.

Lying in my tent I can just hear the distant barking of dogs from across the town, but soon fall into sleep.