We reached Namche to find it in a cloud. Everything felt damp and dark, the sounds were muted. I remember squeezing close against a wet stone wall with a local woman pressed against me as a large Yak barreled out of the mist straight at us in an alley where both his flanks almost touched the walls and our faces.
Yaks and mists aside, here was the land of tourists. The hawkers with their jewelry and incense, the music of Nepali prayer on repeat in all the shops and streets, german bakeries, internet cafes, and t-shirts showing Everest Basecamp. We hiked up the Gokyo valley first. It was spectacular. Rows of Yaks kicking up dust, their tounges lolling as they labored up the hillsides in the heat. I felt sorry for them and worried if they had water when they needed it, and my friends laughed at my concerns. The food was simple but very good. In hindsight, I wish I had embraced Dal Baht earlier, but I started my trip off with a bad stomach and eating dal baht, and it put me off of it till the Annapurnas. Instead I ate friend noodles with liberal amounts of tomato sauce and green chili paste. The landscape became open, snowy peaks in the distance. Occasional views of Everest, which seemed less exciting in person. So many gorgeous mountains, the allure of “the tallest one” for me paled in comparison with being surrounded with mountains on every side. And truthfully, it was surreal. The idea of staring at the tallest mountain on earth seemed abstract throughout the trip. Gokyo lake was beautiful and I regretted being on a time frame as I didn’t hike up to the 5 lakes above Gokyo and feel that would have been worthwhile. I could have on our rest day at Gokyo, but I found I really needed a rest day. And I had not taken care with my camera settings for the sunset over Everest the night before and found myself hiking a second time to the Goyko Ri viewpoint (5,357 meters or 17,575 feet) for sunset- a heady hike in itself. With the fatigue of altitude I could not have done both hikes in the same day.