The next day we trekked through similar forest terrain with some ups and downs, but no major elevation changes yet. One thing that struck me was the number of pine and cedar trees. The smell of the fallen pine needles and cedar reminded me of walks through the Carolinian forest back home at Pinery Provincial Park. It was an odd place to feel nostalgic and a bit homesick!
As we stopped for lunch en route, we started to realize the menus along the trail all looked pretty similar. A lot of villages grow their own vegetables and have chickens to produce eggs, but grains and other ingredients are often brought up by porters to meet the demand of trekkers. For breakfast, we usually had eggs but lunches and dinners varied. Steve tried Tibetan bread with eggs, which ended up being a dense, chewy flatbread sprinkled with sugar.
For lunch, he ordered a spring roll, which ended up being a giant calzone. We discovered along the trek that “spring roll” was used loosely and you could end up with any number of styles of wrappers and fillings. It is illegal to kill animals in Sagarmatha National Park so meat has to be brought up by porters. Considering the lack of refrigeration, many trekkers go vegetarian for the duration and we decided to do the same.
Like most places, Nepal has a big issue with plastic. It is not recycled even though many trekkers rely on bottled water during their trek because the tap water is not safe to drink. We did a lot of research before leaving and ultimately settled on bringing a Grayl water filter, which proved invaluable.
At the end of Day 2, we stayed at Summit Home Guesthouse in Monjo for 500 rupees ($5 US). This was the price for a twin room with a shared bathroom, but, because we were the first guests that night, we were given a free upgrade to a room with an attached bathroom that normally goes for double the price. We did notice during our trek that staying in the smaller towns was often a better value because of little things like this. Room prices are low because most guesthouses require you to eat your meals there. Otherwise, the room cost goes up double or more. The guesthouses all have a communal dining room with a fireplace and everyone spends the evening eating, reading, playing cards, and plotting their route for the next day. For independent trekkers like us, it was a good way to meet people and get advice. That night we met a Polish-Canadian man (about 50 years old) on his way down from EBC who told us “from here, the trail is just steps and stones the whole way.” He was not wrong and that phrase ended up becoming a bit of a mantra for us along the way.
Right after Monjo, there is a steep incline to get to Namche Bazaar. Many people say this is the first time you really feel the altitude. On Day 3, we headed off ready to tackle our first major climb going from 2835m to 3440m.
There are some squat toilet facilities along the early parts of the trail, including an infamous one between Monjo and Namche Bazaar. Infamous as a good break point in the middle of the climb to Namche, but also as one of the first clear places to actually see Mount Everest along the trail. We got lucky and the clouds parted enough for us to get a straight shot.
After that, we continued the grueling climb to Namche. It is hard to describe how the elevation makes you feel other than very, very unfit. Each step takes more work than you think it should and you have to stop more often than seems reasonable. It only gets harder from there as the air gets thinner but I found it more humbling at this early stage because I wasn’t used to it yet. By the time we got to Namche Bazaar, I was done. Totally exhausted, hungry, and wanting a shower. We ended up staying at a very nice guesthouse called Panorama Lodge that was $45 US per night!! A big splurge for us comparatively but well worth it. It is hard to describe how good that hot shower felt!!
I finished off the day with a delicious Nepali soup called thukpa, made of noodles, veggies, and a garlic and ginger broth. Perfect after a long day.