23.01.10 – 6.00pm (12.17pm UK)

Despite what we thought, last night was actually the best night we have all had by far since we started the trek what seems like so many days ago. We were warm, headache less (for the first time), & fully rested by the time we awoke. We even got a lie-in until 7.30am which was very very welcome. We shipped out at about 9.00am in very good spirits.

It strikes me that I haven’t introduced our fantastic Sherpa troup:

Psang (meaning Friday, Sherpas are named after the day they are born) – Our magnificent Sherpa leader, which we all want to bring over to the UK & keep!
Hira (meaning Diamond). Hira is a Hindu.
Lapka (Wednesday)
Pemba (Saturday)
Dandi Sherpa
Bhim (the Yak man, & very good he is too! Bhim is the name of a god, meaning strength)

So from now, I’ll refer to them by name where relevant.

Our trek today wasn’t long – & to be honest, wasn’t very hard either comparatively speaking. There where a couple of challenging & hard uphill slopes, but none lasted for longer than 30-45 minutes each. We trekked out of the cold wind path too, so by half way we were de-layering down to base layer & a fleece.

We trekked to Tengboche which was a drop of around 385m (1270ft) – it’s also the place I suspect I picked up my food poisoning (although I can’t be sure obviously), so I’ll be choosing very carefully from the menu tonight! We arrived here around lunchtime, had lunch, ‘refreshed ourselves’ (in various ways!) & made ready for the afternoon’s ‘entertainment’… an afternoon at the village monastery hearing their prayer chants.

Well, nothing had prepared us for the spectacle. We walking into the ’outer sanctum’ where there was a list of does & don’ts. The last item on the list was strictly no kissing – I was reminiscent of the old sign in the swimming baths stating ’no heavy petting’… do they still have those? Anyway, that nearly set me off, but I managed not to look directly at Rob so was thus OK – for the moment.

We then entered ’the inner sanctum’ where we had to remove our shoes before entering. You can imagine how pleasant that was after so many days on the road… the matter was helped by the fact that there was no heat, whatsoever, so the fruitiness of any potential aroma was stemmed somewhat – a bit like chilling a red wine so you can drink it with fish, but I know which one I’d choose!

Anyway, we settled down to watch. Then we were moved because we’d sat in the wrong place. So we weaved in between chanting praying Buddhist monks to the other side, nodding apologies, before settling again on the other side of the room. The room was incredibly ornate & very large. The outskirts of the rooms were empty for visitors to sit & watch, sitting cross-legged on benches running vertically down the room sat the praying monks, & at the far end was like an alter area contain a huge Buddha statue & some other random statues either side.

The authenticity & age old tradition was made complete by the PA system being used to amplify the chantings of the ‘lead monk’ who had his own microphone. This was totally surreal as everything else we’d experienced since our trek began had been – & continues to be – so basic, yet here’s a praying monk with his own sound desk living it large at nearly 13000ft! Sorry, I should show more respect, but it was funny.

Each monk had an instrument – similar to the ones in the music room at Fernvale – which were also used in the prayers. The prayers went: mumble, mumble, cough sniff, mumble, cacophony of all instruments, bang on big bass drum, tinkle on little bells, mumble, mumble, break for sip of hot yak milk (monks, not us), & begin again.

So you can enter into the feel of the prayers, drop your voice as low as you can & say, in the words of Harry Seycombe, Spike Milligan & crew… “ying tong ying tong ying tong ying tong ying tong tiddle eye poh” very quickly, one after the other, 5 times. It’s very important to raise the inflection of your voice for “poh”. Then follow the list as above.

We each endured the bitter cold in out socked feet for as long as we could until we could bear it no more. The last of us came away to the nice warm dining room & reported that the only change to the prayer routine was that the buffet had come out & the monks had had a bite to eat during the proceedings. Thereafter the mumbles etc had continued.

We’re all still huddled in the dining room now & some other trekkers have joined the throng, although they’re only passing through & will be continuing their own Base Camp journey in the moring. One of them is wearing shorts & has been since landing at Lukla! It the lack of oxygen at these heights you know…

Tomorrow’s aim is Namche Bazaar for lunch & some shopping (3 hours), where I managed to knock myself unconscious in the shower last time we were there. I’ll be getting this blog uploaded up to date after lunch, so you guys will have a lot of reading to catch up on! After this the next will be Lukla where we stay on the last night of the trek before flying back to Kathmandu on Tuesday, so I’ll update it again there.

From Namche, we’ll walk to Monjo for our penultimate lodge stay. The day after being Lukla, the final port.

OK, signing off then. Catch you tomorrow. 5 sleeps…