Happy Birthday to you......Happy Birthday Dear Mary.....Happy Birthday to you
Awake from legendarily good sleep- ah 0330! Great. The room smells strongly of kerosene- I wonder if there is to be an arson attempt, a new way of killing roof rats, Korean BBQ....? At 0600 when I wake up again it's gone. Another Himalayan mystery. The sun is pouring through our window and we have a big Ama Dablam view- so awesome. So, it is Mary's birthday. As a big birthday treat we have some Himalayan bread with our porridge and black tea. Say goodbye to the Germans, buy a toilet roll and are on the road again. The plan is Phortse for lunch and Machermo to sleep. Todays terrain is again very easy- it's flat or slightly down hill, it's dry and it's another beautiful weather day. Great day for a birthday. I decide that I am going to tell every trekker I meet to wish Mary a Happy Birthday... as I am generally well in front I can tell them all out of earshot. The first 2 we pass are from The Netherlands- 2 about 60 ish year old ladys- I ask if they could possibly be related
to a young guy in a big group who went over the Chola Pass a few days back- yep- one of them is his mum. She is very happy to hear news and gives Mary a BIG HAPPY BD and a hug. Next are a bunch of Intrepid trekkers- they oblige too- it's fun, Mary's pretty amused, mission accomplished. Reach some up hill stints and spot the Tengboche Monastery across the valley. It is very recognisable.
Team meeting- Dhana has had a long chat with the Netherlands group porter and we have a change of plans. The new plan is a long day skipping Phortse Tenga and Machermo and heading to Thore. The trail to Thore is now passable and going this way will give us an easier route to Gokyo. Sounds good. Meeting over we get back to spreading out again and enjoying our walk. The birthday butterflies are out and the noise of the river has started. As we descend a hill I spot tahr- obviously birthday tahr. There are about 10 of them, mostly brown in colour, they look at at for a moment then get back to what they do best - grass eating. Next
on the BD agenda are those little blue forget me not flowers, lots of them, scattered daintily through the vegetation. I try to photograph them with no success- anyone know why blue flowers dont photograph well? It's now about 1100, we are starving. Spot Phortse off in the distance. We pick up the pace.
As we near the village a series of orderly fields present themselves. Lots of people out and about harvesting, mostly women. We then encounter a somewhat surreal sight- an old guy babysitting 4 toddlers - each toddler restrained in those baby walker things... in the sun... in a potato field....I add it to my classic Nepal moments. We try a couple of teahouses- noone home- out in the fields. The third one agrees to open up so we have noodle soup and more BD tibetan bread. The Sherpa owner then comes in and presents Mary with a Kata (ceremonial scarf)- very nice gesture. Good soup. Fuelled up we leave around 1pm.
The post-lunch portion of the walk is really amazing, just out of the village is a plantation of birch and rhododendron, there are also pine and juniper everywhere- it smells and looks wonderful.
Hear some scraping noises- 2 Himalayan Monal (Danphe) are foraging around.... but wait.... there's more.... a musk deer. We joke about it being right on cue for Mary's BD- I then tell her the truth- yes, it was me.... I organised them specially... (For some of you this will not come as a surprise- I have been known to organise birthday dolphins, black swans, etc- my best French friend will vouch for this skill- oui??).
So, after the birthday treats we get back into some serious walking. The afternoon cloud descends, the temperature drops and we still have a long way to go. We are doing a fair bit of climbing and some light snow starts to fall. Dhana really picks up the pace. We are treated to the most amazing views as we have a quick birthday cherry ripe at the next chorten. There is one narrow outcrop of stone coming out of the mountain that I feel utterly compelled to go walk on- i love the feeling close to the edge- it is very mesmerising. We carry on, looking back the peak that we have climbed up and down has a very Japanese look to it. It
is misty, now snow covered, and.... there is a birthday eagle perched on top. Maybe a Golden eagle? It's another magic moment in the day!
Anyway...... trekking, trekking, trekking onwards. The clouds drop on us and rush past, the snow flurries pick up again and we walk on for another 2 chilly hours. Visibility is poor- maybe 30m, I guess that isn't a big deal if you are a snow country, I am not from a snow country so it seemed like a bit of a big deal to me. Lost sight of Dhana for most of the 2 hrs. At 5pm we finally reached Thore chilled to the bone. The one open teahouse in this tiny village is also freezing but just about as soon as we get there the owners have got the stove lit. The dining room is then completely rearranged with clean blankets being taken out of chests and used to cover the benches. Kettle goes on the stove and the wife presents us with 2 bowls of hot water to go have a wash!(we must really smell?) Such a nice gesture! Back to the fire in clean clothes and fresh socks- the room is
warm, the Danphe and Himalayan snowcocks are putting on a performance out the window... and the wife appears with 2 plates of boiled potatoes- seriously good. Another surreal moment was had- all of us sitting around the dung stove eating boiled potatoes with the snow falling outside.
What next? Well there was dinner- potato and vege pancake, lots of tea.... and a birthday cake!! Apparently produced in the pressure cooker in between boiling water, boiling potatoes, cooking us dinner and keeping the fire going! Amazing! Mary then got presented with another kata. Some singing, lots of photos. We finished the night playing yahtzee by solar light and head torch. Quick trip to outside loo at 9.30- the cloud had lifted to reveal an inky black sky full of stars. Perfect day.
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