I was not able to sleep past 3am this morning. The time difference between Tahoe and Nepal is twelve hours which is pretty much the biggest time difference that is possible. In all the excitement of the previous day I had forgotten about jet lag being a factor. We had a big hike planned for today all the way from the bottom of the river valley up to Namche Bazaar, which sits at 11,500 ft. After a delicious breakfast of eggs on toast we all hit the trail with high spirits. The rocky trail took us up and down through an area called the Ghats which consists of numerous colorful prayer wheels and Buddhist Stupas. In addition, large boulders have been painstakingly chiseled away with the words "Om Mane Padme Hum" in Nepali script. This loosely translates in English to "Hail to the Jewel of the Lotus." All stupas must traditionally be passed on the left side with the stupa on your right and all prayer wheels must be spun in a clockwise direction to purify your soul. With the addition of Tibetan prayer flags, the whole area is both colorful and sacred.
A stupa surrounded by prayer flags.
We crossed over six different suspension bridges which are really not so bad once you get the hang of them. The trick is to bend your knees to absorb the shocks and try not to step to heavily or else the bridge will start rocking too much. The other trick is to not get on a suspension bridge at the same time as a yak train because there is not enough room for both of you to pass each other. All the bridges are built relatively low to the water except for the last one that we crossed which was only built last year and is suspended about 350 ft up above the river.
Crossing a suspension bridge.
We had to climb up the side of a steep cliff just to get to it. When we arrived on the platform there was a crowd of people waiting to cross and a large yak train making its way across the bridge. As soon as the last yak exited onto land a rush of people began their crossing. We were up near the front of the line and things were going quite well until another train of yaks was spotted on the far side. Normally the Sherpa who is driving the yaks would hold them there and wait for the bridge to clear before taking his yaks across. This time, however, the Sherpa had fallen behind his front yaks. With no instructions to follow the yaks just did what they normally do and began crossing the bridge. The only problem was that we were still on there with about 20 others, 350 feet up with nowhere to turn. Panic quickly spread and several people ahead of me broke into a run. I was close to the far end but there was no way I was going to beat these yaks to the landing. Turning back was not really an option because the crowd behind me was still moving forward and so I pressed myself up against the side wire and tried to make myself slim as these great horned beasts plodded their way past me. The Sherpa finally managed to stop the yak train after three or four got through so, after they passed by, I peeled myself off the side and made it safely to the landing on other side. Driven by the adrenaline from that crossing and rocking out to my iPod, I managed to hike all the way up to the top and into Namche Bazaar with only one stop. On arrival we were given hot lemon tea and the key to our room at the Foot Rest lodge. I rested my feet, connected up to wifi and whittled away the rest of the day writing emails and posting photos to Facebook. Dinner was Nepali pizza which is a meal I would not wish upon my worst enemies. Yak cheese has the odor of athletes foot and the flavor to match. It sent my digestion into panic mode. Ah well, live and learn. Tomorrow was a "rest day" which, loosely translated into Nepali, means that you hike straight uphill to 12,500ft and then you come back down again for the sake of acclimatization.
That line on top is the final bridge you cross before heading up to Namche Bazaar.
Nick Hughes is a massage therapist, yoga instructor and co-owner of Well Being.