Namche Bazar is the lively, colourful capital of the Sherpa region of the Khumbu. Hanging in an amphitheatre on the side of a mountain, it sits at 3400m above sea level, much of the time above the clouds, and is surrounded by towering forested peaks with, if you're lucky, views of the high snow-capped tips in the distance.
Thing is, Phakding is in the valley at 2600m....
A lie in yesterday until 6.30 and a substantial breakfast set us up well for the day's walk, the first part of which was 'Nepali flat' - it undulated, following shaded paths which were most welcome in the already increasing heat of the day. The occasional teasing glimpse of white peaks in the distance gave us a flavour of what's to come. We criss-crossed the Dudh Khosi river a total of 5 times today on the famous hanging bridges, affording us spectacular views down the valley with the blue glacial river beneath us.
The final one of these crossings was just after lunch and marked the start of the Namche grunt, which is basically a 700m uphill slog. Unforgiving and unrelenting! Not to mention a cruel shock to the tender lungs of unsuspecting sea-level dwelling trekkers.
The upper bridge is the one in use; Namche is near the top of the mound to the left!! It was a great relief at one point to have a train of zopke (cross between cow and yak, used for carrying loads) in front of us as we had to go at their speed - and they, like us, need their breathers on steep slopes! The top did come eventually: 3 hot, sweaty, panting hours after lunch we were happily tucking into tea and biscuits in the lodge. Short walk into Namche to see the changes since we were last here 14 years ago, and boy are there lots! Rest / acclimatisation day to look forward to tomorrow.
Or not. At least not rest! Today we started out to walk higher sleep lower, as is customary with a good acclimatisation programme. The aim - go to an Everest viewpoint, visit Khumjung, where the Sir Edmund Hillary Foundation built a school for local children and the monastery famously holds a Yeti scalp, and try our first run at altitude. Really hard slog (again!) to reach the viewpoint about 400m above Namche but beautiful views on the way; Everest was in cloud but we were fortunate enough to see Lhotse before the clouds ascended (!) to obscure the view.
A pleasant hour spent in Khumjung was followed by lunch then the opportunity to recce and run the final 2 miles of what will be the marathon route. Oh my word - one short middlingly steep uphill but mainly fairly flat-ish / downhill running - but boy was it hard! Didn't help that lunch wasn't yet fully settled but it was more the breathing - I sounded like a steam train every single slight step up! Still, a good insight into what it's like to run at altitude.
Now to look forward to 6 hours' trekking tomorrow and more stunning scenery!