Gaining so much elevation in one day meant that we needed to take at least one rest day in Namche Bazaar to acclimatize. Namche is the biggest village along the path with some interesting attractions and side trails so we took two full rest days to take it all in.
On Day 4, we took it easy and walked to the top of the village to visit Sagarmatha National Park Visitor Centre and read up on the history of the park and the Everest trail. It had the typical museum info – flora, fauna, history, etc. It also had a large statue of the first Sherpa to reach the summit of Everest on May 29, 1953 – Tenzing Norgay Sherpa. He summited with New Zealander Sir Edmund Hilary during a British expedition.
After the visitor’s centre, we went to the local Sherpa museum. Sherpa refers to one of the ethnic groups local to the Himalayas. Most of the villages along the EBC trek are long-time Sherpa villages that only started catering to trekkers in recent years. Because they have lived in challenging Himalayan environments long before trekking was a “thing,” they are highly respected and often employed as expert guides on Everest summit treks. The museum was set up by a local Sherpa man to teach trekkers about their traditional culture. Putting my former anthropological hat on, I really enjoyed the museum and found it was very informative. One of my favourite exhibits was a series of profiles of Sherpa guides who have led expedition teams from all over the world up Everest and other mountains in the region, including a section on female Sherpa guides. I had never heard or read about Sherpa women summiting so it was interesting to know their stories as well. Unfortunately, we weren’t allowed to take photos in most of this museum.
Another interesting place in the museum was the basement, which doubled as a social gathering place for locals. When the museum was open, the owner showed a 15-minute Powerpoint presentation of pictures and facts about Nepal he had put together himself and was very, very proud of. It is hard to see from this blurry picture but the poster on the wall shows the upcoming evening social events for the locals after the museum has closed – karoake night, movie night, etc. It was absolutely freezing down there and it looks a bit grim but most buildings are pretty basic so this was about average.
On Day 5, we did an acclimatization hike up to the smaller villages of Khunde and Khumjung. An acclimatization hike is when you climb to higher elevation and then return to a lower elevation to sleep. It helps your body adapt to the changing level of oxygen in the air slowly. It took us about 4 hours to do the hike and we got some great views. Also, because these villages are off the main path, we only saw a handful of trekkers. As we were heading back down to Namche, the clouds started to roll in from below us, which was also pretty cool.
Also as we headed down, we came across a runner going in the other direction. After talking to a few other trekkers later, we found out the guy was somewhat famous in the town and was training for the annual Everest marathon. The event is the world’s highest marathon, starting at the Khumbu Icefall, which is slightly past the entrance to Everest Base Camp, and ending at Namche Bazaar (so they are at least running downhill!). It happens every year on May 29 to commemorate the first summit by Tenzing Norgay Sherpa and Sir Edmund Hillary. Can’t say I’ll be signing up for that anytime soon but fascinating to know about it!