Everest Base Camp 04: Namche Bazaar, Khumjung and Khunde

Morning view!

I woke in Namche Bazaar to a frosty window, 3 degrees inside and crystal clear views of snow-capped mountain peaks towering over us!


It was a bit of a shock to see Kongde-ri as I had no indication the day before that there was anything there. My camera came out and the first of several thousand snowy mountain shots were taken.

Namche sits at 3440m above sea level, nearly as high as the highest peak in NZ – Mt Cook (3754m). We had two nights here to help with acclimatising – getting our bodies used to the altitude and lowering the risk of getting mountain sickness. Another way to help get used to the altitude is ‘trek high, sleep low’. Basically find a big hill, walk up it, sit on the top, enjoy the views, eat lunch, have a cup of tea, run back down the hill and sleep where you started.

Looking down on Namche

Our ‘rest’ day entailed climbing what looked like a vertical cliff to reach a plateau where the villages of Khumjung and Khunde sat at about 3800m.

Looking over Khumung…wet day 1
The second time we visited…much sunnier

Not sure about the carrots…
Prayer stones walls throughout Khumjung and Khunde

For all the kiwis out there, these are a couple of villages where Sir Edmund Hillary spent much of his time. (Sir Ed was the first person to summit Mt Everest with Tenzing Norgay Sherpa on May 29, 1953). He built the first school in Khumjung before going on to build hospitals, bridges, airfields, more schools and medical clinics in the area. He also set up scholarships to help the local children gain education and job opportunities.

Sir Ed
Khumjung school gates

School grounds
Khunde hospital

We had lunch in a tiny place in Khunde.
Nima – the son of the restaurant owner – had received one of the scholarships to study tourism and hospitality. He was back from Kathmandu for a month and told us what this scholarship meant to him. He spoke of Sir Ed with such respect and reverence that I realised Sir Ed had done so much more than just provide buildings and facilities to the villages. He had also given the people hope for a better future.

A memorial to Sir Ed in the school grounds

Nima referred to Sir Ed as ‘Our Father God’ and remembered seeing him the last time he visited Khunde. In his final years, Sir Ed suffered from mountain sickness and was unable to return to the villages he had spent so much time in. He made one final special trip to Khunde by helicopter. Nima was excited to see him and even though Sir Ed only stayed for 20 minutes or so, it was a memory seared into Nima’s memory.

Lunch time!

About halfway through lunch, 3 Buddhist monks turned up. They sat quietly in the corner praying and drinking tea, their red garments barely visible under layers of thick blankets (it was freezing). Nima offered us some of the special tea he had made for them. We dubiously accepted after being told it was made with hot water, black tea, yak butter and salt. Imagine drinking watered down hot melted butter laced with lashings of salt. It left an oily residue in my mouth, and even the welcome warmth was not enough to make me consume more than a couple of sips. Somehow Sarah finished her cup, but after seeing the layer of butter that formed on top of my cup after about 5 minutes, I was glad I had stopped.

Monastery above Khunde

We headed back to Namche and Sarah, Kent and I split up to do our own thing. I’ve learned that when I’m travelling with friends for extended periods, time apart every so often is important to retain my sanity!

I wandered around the damp alleyways looking in shops and smiling to myself at all the bakeries selling pastries – so Western! I ended up in the Liquid Bar just as they began showing the movie Into Thin Air. It’s an account of what happened in May 1996 when 8 climbers died on Mt Everest when a freak storm hit the area. Among the dead were some very experienced climbers including kiwis Rob Hall and Andy Harris, as well as American Scott Fisher. We came across a memorial to Scott further up the mountain but didn’t reach the memorials to Rob and Andy.

Inside the Liquid Bar

It was a warm and relaxing way to spend a cold, wet afternoon and a great end to my stay in Namche Bazar.

With my hero 🙂
Mountains around Khumjung

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s