The Life of a Porter
As we wake up, around 7 in the morning, we start to prepare ourselves for our journey towards Tengboche. At first, the path is nice and flat, winding around the mountain offering a great view of the surrounding area and the valley. While walking, we see monks coming towards us, from the opposite direction, while a few other trekkers and porters are going in the same direction as we are. We also meet many yaks, which are transporting goods. This is the very first time that I have seen a yak and this animal is even more interesting than I thought it would be: incredibly big and strong, with a long hair so that it can survive at this high altitude, even in winter.
Our guide says we should step aside since sometimes they can get out of control and become dangerous. Not too long after leaving the city, we see a large group of people, all looking at one sign. Since I am also curious about what is written there, I slowly approach them and start reading: an older man, called Pasang, is asking for donations since he has been (voluntarily) maintaining the trail we are walking on for over 40 years. We are all very grateful for his awesome work and therefore we express our gratitude towards by offering him a small contribution.
Before we stop for lunch, we have to cross a suspension bridge again but after I had overcome my great fear of heights just two days ago, it is no longer such a huge problem for me. After some time, immediately after having lunch, things change – we have to climb a really high mountain and our guide says that it will take approximately three hours or more. I always have the impression that he is just joking so I don’t worry too much.
The sun is very strong and even though we had a rest day yesterday I feel exhausted – maybe because of the high altitude? As we go up, we stop and take many breaks along the way. At one point the Indian from my group tells me that we are now at an altitude of 3,700 meters and I realize that I have never been at such a high altitude before (my highest point had been 3,500 meters). So far so good – no symptoms yet but I am already curious to see how the altitude will affect us later on tonight.
On my walk towards Tengboche, during one of the many breaks, I see some porters carrying heavy loads – some have four rucksacks at a time – heading in the same direction as us. I take the chance to speak to them since I am very curious about their life and how they manage all of this.
In the following videos you can see what I found out while talking to them.
When we finally reach the top, we are very happy – it was an exhausting trail and I couldn’t really feel my fingers anymore due to the cold. The temperature has changed due to the heavy fog and it is impossible to see more then a few meters ahead. Immediately we head to the guesthouse to warm ourselves up with some milk tea. After freshening up, we go to have a look around the area and we see the majestic monastery as well as „the German bakery“.
Tengboche monastery is very important since all the people (porters, guides and mountaineers) visit this monastery before climbing Mt. Everest. They pray for good luck and for forgiveness since Mt. Everest is seen as a holy mountain (to read more about this subject, click on the following link: The highest mountain on earth – Holyness or working place). We head towards the bakery, which is known – from the united bakeries – as the highest bakery in the world and buy some of the delicious but quite pricey cakes they are offering. The chocolate cake is a true delight!!
Just as we finish eating, we hear some chanting and ask the locals what it is about. The baker tells us that the afternoon puja (Buddhist prayer ritual) is about to start and the chanting is a sign to invite everyone to the monastery (the chanting could be compared to the sound of the church bells in Christianity). Slowly we head towards the monastery. When we arrive, the puja has already started and we have to be very quiet while walking in. We sit down and try to meditate along with the monks.
Some of them play instruments, such as a gyaling (wooden Tibetan trumpet), drillbu (hand bells) and a silnyen (cymbals) whereas others simply make sounds with their mouth. The music should create a peaceful state of mind to summon deities.
As soon as the puja finishes, we go back to the guesthouse and see that the Indians (three Indians that we met along the trail) have arrived. It is already dark outside and I am really amazed that they still came up so late since the temperature has dropped drastically. As we keep bumping into each other along the trail, we spend a pleasant relaxing evening next to the fire in the main room of the teahouse. One or two of our group start to experience slight headaches because of the altitude and go to bed early. Even though I don’t have any symptoms, I decide to take Diamox (diuretic medicine which helps with symptoms of altitude mountain sickness – AMS) as a prophylaxis.
While we are all relaxing in the main room, we find out that in the same room there is a Chinese lady who has climbed Mt. Everest twice already and who has given a huge donation to the monastery of Tengboche. We really want to talk to her, as we have a million questions but unfortunately it is not possible due to the language barrier.
I wake up to the sunlight entering our room and as soon as I have a glimpse outside the window I am AMAZED: there are huge snow-covered mountains all around. It feels like I am still dreaming. Yesterday I couldn’t see anything due to the fog, but still, I would have never imagined that I would wake up to such an amazing view – it is so beautiful and perfect that it must be unreal. Since I am afraid that the fog will ruin the view again, without even changing or brushing my teeth, I grab a jacket, put my shoes on (without tying the laces), grab my camera and run outside.
I take as many photos as I can and not even 10 minutes later clouds start to come and cover the sky – after all soon it will be monsoon season.
I am extremely happy that I woke up early and that I have been able to witness this breathtaking and mind blowing view. After breakfast, we head one more time to the monastery once again for the morning puja and then we are ready to head off to our next destination:
Dingboche, one step closer to EBC.