Saturday, May 7
We met Mingma at the airport early to catch the first flight to Lukla (9000ft), the beginning of our trek. A series of miscommunications at the airport lead to our seats being given to other travelers. However, Mingma found us an alternative almost immediately. A helicopter (piloted by a 42-year-old journeyman named Ryan) was going out to Lukla to pick up someone with a broken leg, so we caught a 45-minute flight that spared us from having to land on the infamous 18-degree landing strip.
After reorganizing our bags and distributing some weight to two porters, the four of us trekked down to Phakding (8300ft) where we had lunch. This is the traditional first night on the EBC trek, but it was only 1pm and we were feeling energetic, so we pushed on to Monjo (9000ft) to save ourselves some climbing the next day to Namche Bazaar, probably the hardest day of trekking.
On the way we documented some tea houses under construction and the building methods they were using. There was a lot of wood framing, but some hand-carved stone blocks as well. One cladding material I hadn’t seen in photos before was very thin (.45mm) sheet metal. It was flat and nailed directly to the studs, which were about 32″ on center. The only other layer in the wall system was a sheet of 5- 10mm plywood on the inside, which also could be the finish. There was significant oil canning on the metal sheets, which come in rolls. However, it’s definitely cheaper than stone or wood.
We passed a friend of Mingma’s on our way up to Monjo who was an 85-year- old Coloradan who had become a Buddhist monk years ago. We told him our destination and his response was, “You’re going to Base Camp? You should save yourself some time and instead check out the New York or Seattle Dump.”
Sunday, May 8
We trekked a challenging morning from Monjo to Namche Bazaar (11,000ft), with a net gain of about 2000ft, but considerably more overall climbing. The trail criss-crossed the river fed by the Khumbu Glacier (and contaminated by any waste that is currently dumped below Gorak Shep) before moving off the banks to Namche. We made didn’t have much of a problem despite the elevation, though we made sure to take plenty of breaks. Mingma’s Sherpa wisdom of the day: “For a long life, do not take short cuts.”
We made it to the Yak Hotel, owned by friends of Mingma’s in time for a late lunch. Mingma is from Namche Bazaar and of course knows everyone we pass on the street. Although most people spend two nights here to acclimatize, we have scheduled three to make it easier to schedule meetings with the Central Buffer Zone Committee and SPCC. Namche is the center of the Sherpa region, and it is home to both of these organizations. I’d also like to meet with a builder or two here, as well as check out the Emergency Center just built this year with heavy support from REI.
After a nap we reconvened to plan for our upcoming meetings over coffee and surprisingly decent apple pie. Bakeries are on every corner here and most now serve Italian espresso drinks – sometimes you wonder if this town would exist if there weren’t hundreds of western tourists coming through every day. In the meantime, Brenda set up a Facebook page for the MEBP to which we can hopefully post these notes and some photos.
Mingma explained the dynamics of the BZC and the SPCC, and how we might present the project to both of them. We have brought packets of visuals of the project, as well as a full plan set. The SPCC will be most interested in our progress solving the technical aspects of running a biodigester at high elevation. We discussed how to address the “exit strategy” question and how we envision these organizations sustaining the project after it’s built. Mingma suggested we ask them for their suggestions, as they already have mechanisms for extracting fees, taxes and paying for infrastructural and environmental resources.
Mingma was confident that our showing our faces in the Khumbu Valley alone would go far in showing how serious the team is about implementing the biogas project. Nevertheless, he recommended Garry begin by recounting the history of the project and why everyone involved is so invested in the idea, the people and the region. The head of SPCC is supposed to arrive in Namche from Kathmandu tomorrow, so Mingma hopes to schedule the meeting for Tuesday morning. The BZC meeting may be at the same time, or possibly on Monday.