Day 14: The Awe-Inspiring Khumbu Porters

November 17, 2022
Start: Namche Bazaar 3440m (11,284ft)
Via: Phakding 2610m (8,561ft)
Stop: Lukla 2800m (9,381ft)
Distance: 18km (11.2 miles)

After the coldness of the past weeks, Namche Bazaar doesn’t feel that cold anymore. It’s almost in the realm of comfortable. Almost. We’re up by 5:30am for a long day of hiking back to Lukla. After a whole group photo in the Hotel Everest dining room, we bid farewell to Namche and immediately start the long descent. You might remember the climb up this section from Day 2: Ascend The Rock Stairs To Namche. We pause for one last look at Everest before scrambling down to the high Hillary Suspension Bridge.

It’s an interesting thing to be hiking downhill. Without the focused exertion of going uphill, there’s more time to really take in the people and surroundings. It’s not that I didn’t notice anything or hiked in a bubble before, but I really have time to closely observe as I pause and give way. It’s just incredible to watch people of all ages hauling heavy supplies step by step up the valley. I’m particularly impressed by the elderly men and women who carry beer, plywood and other supplies that look as if they should be beyond their strength capabilities. It’s a good reminder not to judge people by their appearance. Many carry a short staff which has a slightly curved handle on top. It functions almost like a cane which can stabilize them as they go up the rock steps but I’ve also seen it used as a seat. We cross all the same bridges from the first two days of our trek and it’s still amazing to see oxen working their way across too. Check out this bridge video from Susan! Despite covering trail we’ve already hiked, there’s still wondrous things to see like a little vegetable patch tucked in next to the trail.

I take advantage of a bathroom at our lunch stop from Day 2. From there, Caspar, Tiger and I climb the rock stairs up to the Sagarmatha National Park boundary. I walk through the flurry of activity and then suddenly a guard is forcibly questioning me about my permit and guide. I point behind me towards Tiger and continue walking. We return to Hotel Sherpa Lodge and Restaurant in Phakding for lunch. This is where we spent our Day 1 night and I got to celebrate my birthday. Speedy Clearance is not at lunch and has probably continued on to Lukla. Susan and Bikram arrive not too long after Caspar and I. As Caspar and I finish lunch, Sophie and Jeremy get up and leave.

The clouds have moved in and there’s a chill in the air. But it’s enough of a climb that I have to ditch some layers. I slowly plod along wishing I could move faster but content to keep moving without taking any breaks. Just as Caspar has caught up with me, he meets a previous client Ray who is coming towards us on the trail. It’s a short but wonderful reunion! It’s astounding how many people Caspar has seen during the trek that he knows! The interconnectedness of this world is a unique thing.

We make our way back to the Himalayan Sherpa Coffee shop because I want to buy some roasted coffee beans. There are only 1kg bags for sale so I buy just one. Silke and Caspar order coffee drinks and we get a coke for Tiger. It’s luxurious to sip chocolately, steaming coffee with such a grand view. We reluctantly push on but enjoy the views of the valley. Dahlia imperialis is a flowering dahlia tree with spectacular light purple bell-like drooping blooms. Terraces are in progress and are being prepared for planting and homes.

I roll into Lukla feeling a bit chilled. Caspar and I drop our backpacks in our room at the Paradise Lodge and Restaurant. I throw on my down jacket and Caspar and I head out to look around the Lukla shops. I find a wool beanie embroidered with Cho La Pass and buy it for 300 rupees (just over $2 USD). Back at the lodge, Caspar tries out the shower but it’s only freezing cold water. I decide to skip that torture and change into my evening lounge clothes. We go to the dining room to hang out and get Sherpa Brewing beer on tap.

We receive a text message from Sophie that the tip money for the porters is due now and that there will be no dinner until everyone has paid. Silke and Susan come back from a shopping spree and show us all their Lukla gems. They recommend the shop next door and I decide to go check it out again. I tell the Sherpa woman that Susan has sent me and she says she’ll give me a good deal. I pick out an Everest Base Camp t-shirt with a map and prayer flags on the back for Caspar and I. By the time I return to the Paradise Lodge dining room I have missed the porter tipping ceremony. I’m so sad to have missed it but Caspar said that there was no ceremony or fanfare and that Susan just handed the four porters their money.

The whole group eats dinner together. A lot of people get plates of food that come out sizzling. I can’t remember what I got for dinner but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t boiled potatoes. We hang out for a while before heading back to the room to repack our bags for tomorrow’s early flight.