Day 6 part 2: Start of the Everest trek !
Today's walk was a gentle amble to get used to the terrain and walking. One of the first things we went past was a Starbucks on the side of a mountain - I was disgusted!!
However, after that the sights became incredible. We passed Buddhist good luck symbols everywhere! Across the suspension bridges were colourful prayer flags blowing in the wind, every so often you would come across a large, colourful, revolving cylinder memorials called Mani Wheels which contain Buddhist prayers that get stronger each time the wheel is turned. Doing this is meant to cleanse your body from any sin. There are also huge rocks known as Mani Stones carved with a single Mantra (chant) or a complete prayer to the God of compassion. They're very impressive and beautiful.
On this first trip up the mountain we were struck by the beauty and lush vegetation everywhere, the amazingly fresh air and breathtaking views. Whoever you passed on the mountain would stop to say Namaste "greetings", and the people were all very friendly. Herds of yaks went up and down the mountain with bells attached to their collars. The sound of the bells ringing as the yaks move up and down the mountain is almost magical. We also crossed our first suspension bridge - an prospect that was daunting to many in the group. However, the bridges were sturdy and not half as scary or unstable as we expected.
After 2 hours we stopped for lunch at a tea house. We were served lemon tea which we drank sitting on the wall looking out on the mountain. Lunch was cooked from scratch and although there is a menu, it is easier and quicker for the chefs to cook a massive batch of the same thing. We were served rice, chips and noodles, and masalla tea: a carb packed diet suited to walking.
We walked for another hour and arrived at the tea house we would be staying in at Phakding. It was very quaint but much bigger than I had expected. They also had a "western style toilet''! Each room was small with two beds, but the walls were so thin it felt as though the couple next door were in the room with you. We went down to the ice cold river to wash some clothes and explore. Later on we were served dinner. We ordered about 2 hours in advance; I chose the meat noodles cooked with yak meat! We went to bed early as we had to be up at 6.30 the following day ready to leave at 7.30.