gmhTODAY 07 gmhToday Mar Apr 2016 - Page 92

bowl of water for us to “freshen up”. It was a welcome ritual since there would be no showers or baths for the 10 days of our trek. Breakfast was served at 7:00 am in the “dining tent” or at an outside table. We had a choice of omelet, cereal and occasionally French toast or pancakes, which we enjoyed with tea, coffee or hot chocolate. Day 2 involved more steep trails and a long sturdy bridge spanning the rapids of the Prek Chu River. We greeted passing tour groups with the Hindu salutation, “Namaste,” and took in the beautiful canyon and mountain views. After 4 ½ hours we arrived at the Tshoka campsite (9,700 feet). After lunch, we hiked up to a small, very old monastery and then further up the trail as part of our altitude “readiness.” Back at camp, I had my first encounter with the cold, wet fog that would settle over us every afternoon. I retreated to my tent to journal and stay warm, ate dinner at 6:30 pm, then headed back to the tent to sleep. I awoke on Day 3 feeling rested. Good thing, as I needed my energy to hike a very steep and rocky trail that cut through forests of rhododendrons and magnolias. We were told to go at our own pace, so I found myself behind the faster trekkers and ahead of slower members of the group. I used this “alone time” to contemplate and appreciate being in this unique part of the world. After three hours, we made camp at Phedang (11,200 feet). After a delicious lunch 92 GILROY • MORGAN HILL • SAN MARTIN including Tibetan Hot Bread (like a soft pretzel but better), we headed further up the mountain for an hour of altitude preparation. Returning to camp, the fog returned, creating a mystical, pastoral setting. On Day 4 we caught a glimpse of Mt. Pandim (22,000 feet) before the fog returned. It was a magnificent scene only to be surpassed by the arrival of runners competing in the first Mt. Khangchendzonga Marathon. As we cheered them on, I was amazed to see some wearing nothing more than shirts and shorts! We hiked to the top of a mountain that leveled off on the approach to Dzongri (13,000 feet) and then up another steep hill to reach our campsite. The rocky trail was extremely steep with narrow switchbacks. It felt like we were walking in the clouds. At the top were a few outbuildings and a very small, rustic store with goods sold by Nepalese women. I bought a wool hat for my granddaughter, and beer to share with my fellow hikers. We were greatly amused by a sign that said “free wifi.” The password was “just kidding!” At 13,000 feet, it was colder, and the misty fog even more frigid.