Take things as they come

Should we embrace a teleological view of the trek, that it only has meaning based on its purpose to complete its objective and arrive at the final point, or should we follow that impressive advice of Robert Louis Stevenson, ¨to travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive¨? Dear reader, you will probably feel that with his Zen advice on trekking, the writer must accept the latter dictum. Already the readers are bristling into armed camps of liberals and conservatives, the conservatives insisting on completing the trek as planned, and the liberals favouring Lao Tse´s flexibility in the face of perpetual change: take things as they come.

Having an objective to be reached in planned stages on the trek gives order, a sense of progression and control, defines proper effort and expenditure of energy, and gives blessed form to the immediate future in the turbulent seas of this uncertain world! But still, the mind will ¨What if …?¨  us, so travelling hopefully is tempting. Altitude might intervene, a snowstorm might confine us to immobility in a lodge, or even on a ledge, some injury might occur.

Early morning cold, brilliant sky, the valley narrowing, and a promise of the new heights and views once we reach Namche. Here we look towards the mountain sacred to the Sherpa people, and thus unclimbable, Khumbi Yul Lha, which towers above the villages of Khumjung and Khunde, above Namche. There is an example in the foreground of two of the many boulders engraved with mantras in Tibetan, chiseled letters then highlighted with paint.

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And on the trail, quite busy with trekkers, mules and yaks descending, half way up, a first glimpse of Everest through the pines.

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Namche, commercial capital, calling  trekkers for a two-night stay, with rest day, on the way up, and perhaps for a celebration on the way down in its mini-Thamel section (reminiscent of the famous tourist quarter in Kathmandu), now seems over-built in its elegant nest and horse shoe crescent shape, with some tall tea house residences, where potatoes used to grow in the short summer growing season. Higher up there are fairly newly planted pines to bring stability to the steep hillside. An underground stream gushes out, turning massive prayer wheels, providing a public washing place for clothes, our last opportunity for the laundry.

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The constant struggle between ascetic and sybarite is resolved in favour of good coffee and apple pie in one of the cafés open, even in this low season. Take things as they come!

The following day is the ´rest´day, as even though we climb up to the villages of Khumjung and Khunde, some 400m, we will descend to sleep again in Namche. There is a sense of peace in these quiet, deserted villages, not only as views on the way open up gloriously in the clear air to the Everest massif, but also because they are homes to two Buddhist monasteries, and in Khumjung the school inspired and built by the efforts of Sir Edmund Hillary and other donors. We walked around the deserted school compound of small-scale and well-built stone buildings, students being on the January break. The monastery at Khunde blends perfectly into the hillside, with a quiet and discrete power. This area is the higher spiritual plane of the area, with Namche, or to give it its full title, Namche Bazaar, the material world below!

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The landscape is serene, empty and sun-bleached, with a Zen garden feel, each rock a presence.

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With the cheerful certainty of the dogmatic, I led Madhu and Temba through interconnected and flowing yak enclosures, to seek the way down to Namche, despite their mild, polite protests that the path was much further over. My confident road to nowhere was just an aesthetic preference.

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But, to travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive!

Still, it was quite quick to get back to the proper trail down to Namche, very steep; then we were rewarded with a perspective of the blessed, sheltered balcony that cradles the town.

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Now we are truly on the upland route, one week into the trek. Here with quiet, stoical and steady Sherpa Temba, as Everest looks down with its distinctive plume drawing us upward and inward.

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Here is that beautiful, thoughtful contemplation from Lao Tzu:

All Things Pass – Lao-Tzu

All things pass
A sunrise does not last all morning
All things pass
A cloudburst does not last all day
All things pass
Nor a sunset all night
All things pass
What always changes?

Earth…sky…thunder…
mountain…water…
wind…fire…lake…

These change
And if these do not last

Do man’s visions last?
Do man’s illusions?

Take things as they come

All things pass

 

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