Namche greets me with fog in the morning. I’m up after dawn; the weak, flat light makes the mahogany dining room feel distant and pale. No matter; the tsampa is warm and leisurely, and there’s running water.
There’s also internet; the first internet I have in a week. It’s part sensory simulation and part a chance to drop off two worthwhile emails, and delete a few hundred. A dollar well-spent.
I’ve crossed above 3,000 meters – the elevation gain is now the main challenge, and not the daily mileage. I leave late, knowing it will be a short day. It’s an easy walk to Samde for lunch – 3640 meters and steaming daal bhaat. The altitude makes itself known – I’m not pushing hard, but feel a tingling in my hands and face when I stop. It’s a slow day; pregnant with anticipation. There’s not much ground to cover, and it’s not all that hard to move; my mind meanders about as I march forward. Thoughts come and go; each pauses to plant or harvest between my ears, before departing.
Two more hours, and I’m in Thame. It starts to rain, and I push up the final climb dodging droplets. The trail winds up a steep gorge; as the rain picks up, the stream changes from a whispering sliver to a roaring funnel. Thame itself is diced up by low rock walls; they break up the infinite smoothness of the naked hills. I stay at the Sunshine Lodge, and am the only taker off-season.
The place is expanding, adding on another wing of stone rooms. Masons chip away a dozen hours a day, and silvery flecks dance in the sunshine. The rocks come from a mile away, by yak, blown out of the mountain four kilometers into the sky.
In the common room, Amma-ji loads yak shit in the stove; it burns slowly and hot in the suffocating cast iron drum, and my feet are fully honest-to-God proper dry for the first time in a week. Over dinner, the phone rings; it takes me a full minute to understand it’s a phone, ringing. After dark, I lean against the frosty windows, drink tea and read “Pnin,” at altitude.
The day yields after 10.9 km, in 3 hours on with 1.5 hours off. I end at 3805 meters, and after climbing 643 meters and dropping 296 meters.