Perching at a height of 3,867 metres is the incredibly small villiage of Tengbouche (Thyangboche). Tengbouche holds great importance to trekkers, Buddhists and the people of the Himalayas, for it is not only a good place to rest your head, but also is the home to the largest gompa in the Khumbu region, the Tengbouche Monastery. Thinking back, I believe the Tengbouche Monastery is even mentioned in Peter Matthiessen’s 1978 book, The Snow Lepoard. Which, by the way trekkers, is a great book to read in preparation for your trekking adventures in Nepal. It helps you to begin thinking in “butterfly detail”, noticing every light flicker in the forest, the crunch of the rocks under your feet, the sturdy nature of the mountain- it simply helps you to conciously awaken your senses.
In any event, Tengbouche is about a 5-6 hour hike from Namche. As soon as we left the villiage of Namche, roughly around 8 am, we began a rolling descent/ascent scheme. Rob and I kept saying, it seems so counter intuitive that we just hiked an pretty intense upward climb to get to Namche, only to descend the same distance a day later. But, we were too elated to be back on the trail to whine. After around an hour or so, we found ourselves much closer to the Dudh Kosi river. Then, at some point, Rakesh said that we would now begin the ascent to Tengbouche. He said it would take around 2 hours or so. Give or take. And so we began an endless amount of switch backs.
I took only about 12 pounds with me in my pack. Mostly carrying water, snacks, extra socks, a small shovel, jackets, lighters, medicines and eco-friendly toilet paper. (Another thing trekkers, if you need to use the restroom, which you will, because you need to stay hydrated during your trek, the most environmentally sustainable way to use the restroom is to find a spot in the woods, dig a little hole, use the restroom, cover your tracks and then burn your toilet paper. True statement.) BUT 12 pounds on these switchbacks was not easy, I won’t lie about it. My shoulders were achy from the weight and my lower back was ill-thrilled from the hunching I was doing. I did bring Tiger Balm from India with me, which saved me during times like these. Just enough relief to get through it. After a seemingly infinte number of switchbacks, we walked through the gates to Tengbouche. Funny enough, after feeling the aches in my shoulders, it was ironic to see a man carrying up a full trunk of a tree on his shoulders, Nepali style, balanced by a head band and rope. I immediantly forgot about my shoulders.
After standing astounded, with my jaw wide open, Rakesh moved us onward towards our tea house for the night. Mostly all of them were actually closed, but one remained open for the few trekkers who would be on the trails during “off-season”. We were warmly welcomed with the smell of paint (they were also doing some remodeling) and a pot of tea. They asked us if we would like cold bucket shower… and we declined. Wipees would do with the cold temperatures outside. After getting a bit more settled in and ordering what we would like for dinner in the evening, Rob and I went to explore the Tengbouche Monastery. I had been really looking forward to seeing it in full swing, imagining the bells chiming, incense flowing, the harmony of the chanting monks and the sounds of dongs ringing loudly. But, to our disappointment, the monks had left to hold a gathering in a neighboring village and were not present; only a single monk and his two dogs were left to keep the Monastery afloat. Lucky for us, we were allowed inside to take a look around and read the stories on the walls. Escaping a bit into the simplicity of Monastic life. It was absolutly beautiful. Regardless of how empty it was, I could feel the life within the walls, the prayers and truths revealing themselves as I grazed the painted stories with my hands.
After around thirty minutes inside, we were led out by the guarding monk, and returned back to the tea house for an evening of Dal Bhat, cards and tea.
Life in the Himalayas is both simple and compounded. Once I released myself from the hectic nature of my mind’s creation, I found peace, and through this peace, my mind found that in the simple things, life is its most full. Like taking in a full breath of air, noticing how it tastes, smells, feels, reenergizes my body; imagining the rush of blood through my veins and the expansion created by the sip of oxygen. And the most wonderous part was to then open my eyes and see the panoramic views of the Himalayas, including the well-known peaks of Lhotse, Ama Dablam, Thamserku, Tawache, Nuptse and Everest.
I am extremely thankful to be alive.