Monday, April 8, 2013

Trek to Phariche

April 8, 2013
Phariche; Elev 14,000 ft. 
SpO2 (Blood Oxygen Saturation %) = 84
RHR (Resting Heart Rate) = 76

I celebrated my arrival in Debuche last night with a shower and shave (300 rupees or$3.80). It felt incredibly good. I was reborn, renouncing my stench and a beard that was not worth keeping. When a shower can be had in this part of the world the water is heated by a low-flow on-demand unit mounted on the wall. The instructions will invariably caution that you not manipulate the dials. So the temperature you get is the temperature you shower with. In Debuche the temperature was a satisfying hot. But there is not an unlimited water supply. You are typically given 7 minutes of flow, so organization is everything. As none of the rooms or bathrooms in the Guest Houses are heated, I like to set everything out before disrobing; bar of soap, shampoo, wash cloth, towel, razor, and shaving cream.  I also arrange the clothes I will put on after. Then I choose an up-tempo theme song to sing (“Milly, make some chilly”) and start the water. The flurry of activity which follows would probably impress a NASCAR pit crew. 

Sherpa bread has become popular among my fellow team members. It is a flattish baked good about the size of a salad plate. Sherpa bread almost always arrives fresh-baked from the oven. Add some honey and you have a bit of wonderful. 

The trail narrowed a few miles out of Debuche. As well, the stone paths of earlier miles turned to dirt. A cool wind greeted us as we rose above the tree line, but this was fare tender for the astounding vistas of the Himalayas fronting us on all sides. Everest stood out more prominently with each step. I allowed myself a few looks, but just a few. From here Everest is too massive, too intimidating and I cannot allow it to get into my head. 

We paused at the village of Pangmusche for the customary Buddhist blessing of the expedition. Lama Geshi greeted each of us with a shawl and orange string placed around our necks. He prayed for each team member, then lightly bumping his forehead to theirs in a traditional sign of love. 

We pulled into Phariche around 2pm. The stone structures of this village stand defiant of the barren landscape around them. The wind blows. The dust flies. Piles of Yak manure are heaped against each building, drying to the point when they may be used as stove fuel for heat. But the gathering room at our teahouse is warm and inviting. Measuring 30x50 feet, the perimeter of the dining room is furnished with carpeted benches facing inward.  Tables and chairs are arranged next to them. There is a stove in the center of the room with another row of benches set close in a C pattern. The Sherpas typically occupy these warming benches.  This far up the valley electricity is expensive, so most hallways are unlit.  Even the dining room enjoys the illumination of just a few bare incandescent bulbs.  But the cheerful banter of occupants hailing from varied and distant lands weaves a colorful auditory tapestry which is vibrant and pleasing.