Travel: Namche Bazaar

There is a stiff 1,000 meter ascent to reach the Sherpa capital of Namche Bazaar, gateway to Nepal’s world-famous Khumbu Himal. We planned our arrival on a Friday afternoon when the village prepares for its well-known Saturday market. Groups of porters pass us on the steep trail, smoking cigarettes while talking on their cell phones. Yaks laden with goods crowd us off the bridges. Water buffalo are herded towards the slaughter-house. In the morning, it’s a struggle just to walk through crowded streets as locals shop for everything from rice to shoes to buffalo cut into one kilo chunks.

Namche was the starting point of our two-week trek traverse of this section of the Himalaya, a giant circle that took us out near Makalu to the foot of Everest to the base of Cho Oyu and finishing back in Namche. We also knew a Sherpa family in this village, Tsering Gyaltsen and his wife Angie, who put us up in their hotel (room with a shower!) and fed us constantly. On our return we found out that flights out of Lukla were backed up due to persistent cloud cover down the way. It was easy to cool our heels for a week in Namche.

During our two-week absence, the village’s central potato fields began to transform into a refugee camp as Tibetan traders began to arrive over high passes from China. Yak trains arrived hourly laden with factory sealed packaged goods that were dumped in fields before being set out to pasture (how do 500 yaks just disappear???). The traders set-up camp next to their piles and for weeks turned Namche into a bazaar that made the Saturday market look like a convenience store. Daily we would jump into the frenzy of barter and trade, working our haggle skills for  a bag of oranges. Good fun was had trying to find a pair of faux The North Face shoes for friend Dean Soderberg, who wears a size 12. Well, guess you can find almost anything in Namche’s Bazaar.