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Mount Everest

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Mount Everest

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Famous for its spectacular mountain peaks and the loyality and friendliness of its inhabitants (the Sherpas), the Everest region (Khumbu) is one of the most popular destinations for tourists in Nepal. While many of the routes through the mountains are arduous, there are ample places to rest and enjoy a meal along the way. Furthermore, don't worry about getting lost. Just say the name of the next village on your route to a local, and they will point you in the right direction. Most Sherpas under the age of fifty can at least understand basic English. Khumba is one of the few areas in Nepal still unscathed by the Maoist insurgence and is considered a safe region for tourists.

Day One: From Lukla to Monju: Pass directly through Lukla and follow the path to Namche. There will no doubt be a string of porters carrying goods up to the Sherpa capital, so the route is easy to locate. The first village after Lukla is Chablung, and further down the trail, you will pass through Ghat and Phakding. Both these villages have a good selection of lodges and restaurants and are good places to have lunch and catch one's breath. However, if you still have enough stamina, it is advisable to press on to Monju (about 90 minutes to two hours from Phakding) to spend the night as this will give you a good start for the steep ascent to Namche the following morning. Monju has several lodges, but the solar lit Mount Kailash Lodge can be personally recommended.

Day Two: From Monju to Namche. After passing through the Sagamartha Park entrance (1,000 Rs for overseas visitors), the trail passes through the village of Jorsale and then along the river. You will cross two bridges before beginning the steep ascent to Namche, which can take up to three hours to complete. Be aware that there are no tea houses or lodges on this path, so ensure that you have ample water to get you to the top. In addition, you are now heading into a high altitude area, so take it easy. Even the fittest people are prone to altitute sickness.

Day Three & Four: Namche Bazaar. It is recommended to take an altitude acclimatization rest day in Namche. Although no more than a village, the Sherpa capital boasts two museums (at the top of the village off the trail to Tengboche), several internet cafes, and, at last count, two pizza houses and two cafes (locally known as bakeries), so there is much to keep you occupied during your stay here. Namche also has two official money changers, so it is a good place to stock up on local currency for the days a head. There is also a reasonable selection of English books, though the prices are higher than Kathmandu. Almost every house in Namche functions as a lodge and the prices and quality of accomodation are similar. However, Namche Hotel and Camp de Base offer en suite accomodation at reasonably prices. Incidenally, if you are suffering with any ailments, Namche is a good place to get them treated. Dr. Sherab is a very competent doctor of Tibetan medicine and his clinic can be found next to Camp de Base Hotel and the village also has a fully equipped dental clinic.

Day Five: Namche to Tengboche. After a short but steep climb out of the village, the path levels off and you can enjoy a few hours of pleasant flat hiking. However, before arriving at Tengboche, the trail leads down to the river and then from the hamlet of Phunki Thanga (marked by its water driven prayer wheels), the trail ascends steeply. Take it easy going up here. The air maybe thinner than you are aware! Tengboche is the largest Sherpa monastery in the Khumbu area and exerts the greatest influence. You may join the ceremonies at the monastery, but filming or photographing is only permitted after receiving special permission to do so. Audience with the head rinpoche (abbot) can also be arranged, and these meetings are generally held in the morning. In addition to the monastery, one should also take time to visit the eco-center located outside the main gate. Here there is a permanent exhibition on Sherpa culture, a gift shop, and a small cinema (a film is shown on Sherpa culture and Tengboche Monastery every half hour.) There are four lodges serving the monastery. The quality and price is about the same. However, there is a new cafe opened next to Gompo Lodge, which is modelled on the bakeries of Namche.

Day Six: For those heading for Everest Base camp, the trail will pass through the villages of Devuche (here there is a small nunnery on the left - definitely worth a visit), Pangboche, Dingboche and finally Periche. All these villages offer food and logings. Pangboche is, however, probably the the most pleasant as it is surrounded by trees. So, if you decide to take the journey slowly, this is the best place to rest and relax. Tara Lodge in Pangboche is long time favorite with trekkers and lies conveniently on the path that passes through the village. For those heading for Mountain Peak and/or the Lhotse Glacier, your final destination will be Chhukung. As this is further than Periche, you will definitely need to stop the night in Pangboche or Dingboche. In Chukkung, the recently built Panorama Lodge offers a great sun-room with views all around the valley and especially clean and hygenic facilities - a special recommendation here.

Day Seven: Whether in Periche or Chukkung, you will need to take a day to acclimatize to the high altitude. Take short slow walks around the villages and dig out the book you bought in Namche. Don't push it at this point, and if you do feel unwell, inform your guide or lodge owner and return as quickly as possible to a lower altitude.

Day Eight, Nine & Ten: Periche to Lobuche. Spend night in this small village.Lobuche to Gorak Shep. Gorak Shep has a small, usually frozen lake, but little in the way of accommodation (especially during the cold winter months). Therefore, you might want to get an early start, pass through Gorak Shep, visit Kala Pattar (where locations near the peak offer unhinhibited views of Everest) and return to Lobuche to sleep.

Side Trip: The trail to Cho La is spectactular and not as crowded as that to Everest. From Pheriche the trail turns off the main Everest route at Phlang Karpo and passes through the villages of Tsholo Og and Dzongla. The latter has a couple of similar lodges, but The Himalayan View Lodge is particularly recommended as a pleasant and clean place to spend the night.