The Bazaar Near the Top of the World

Namche Bazaar; the mere name conjures up images of a large style market, something reminiscent of the meandering mazes of the Bazaars of Morocco or Egypt but alas, bazaar there is not. This pivotal village in the heart of the Himalaya lies about two things of the way up the Khumbu Valley from Lukla and for many is the place where you legs go to die. This, especially after a long days climb up from Phakding.  Laying at an altitude of 3,440 metres this colourful village sprawls out on the steep slopes that cradle it in a horseshoe like crescent. In fact that is half of the allure of the village. Once you arrive it is a further endless climb up to find your lodge before navigating several flights of stairs.

Now you may wonder why the name ‘Bazaar’ is attached. Traditionally, Namche Bazaar was a trading post with locals bartering yak cheese and butter salt, local products, dry meat, and textiles and in years gone by, buyers and sellers used to congregate once a week at the main square at the base of the town.

Today, it is bustling with tourists heading along the main trails to Everest Base Camp and serves as the main centre and hub of the region, complete with a few banks. Its many levels are lined with hundreds of shops selling gear, trinkets, souvenirs and books. There are even internet cafes. The best part of all is that when you are weary from the climb and need a place to tuck up nice and warm, there are always a myriad of restaurants, cafes, bars and bakeries to choose from, complete with the most amazing espresso’s. Yes, and Cappucino, Latte and any other form of your favourite bean. They are also great places to meet fellow trekkers and make new friends.

The most beautiful thing about Namche, are the views. It lies snuggled up between the mountains of Kongde Ri, Thamserku, Kusum Khangaru, Sundar Peak, and many smaller peaks.  A short steep hike up from Namche takes you to one of the highest hotels, called “Everest View,” because on a clear day your climb is rewarded with perfect views of Everest and her surrounding peaks.

As a stop over point on the trek, it divides the region and as they say in the classics, all road lead to Rome. Paths divert off to Tengboche, Khumjung and Thame. The picturesque village of Thame has produced some of the great climbers. Ang Rita Sherpa who in just 13 years reached the summit of Everest ten times without the use of bottled oxygen. He was recognised by the Guinness World Records in 2017 as the only person in the world to have climbed Mount Everest ten times without bottled oxygen, a record he still held in 2020 when he passed away. The village is also home to Apa Sherpa, who achieved 21 summits of Mount Everest before promising his wife he would stop climbing. Sherpa Tenzing Norgay’s house is located near the top of the village.

It is not surprising then that apart from the streets of tantalising stores which lure you in with brightly coloured buffs and shiny stones, Namche celebrates the Sherpa. To the far right of the village in Chhorkung is the privately run, Sherpa Museum. It offers visitors an impressive inventory of Sherpa cultural objects, from butter churners to bedding, pots to baskets as well as photos and newspaper cuttings covering all the Sherpa Everest summiteers. But like all things in Namche, the price to see this amazing display is a 20min walk up to the top of the village. Once there of course, getting across to the Monastery is much easier, and entails a long relatively flat walk to the opposite side of town. Many travelers to Namche miss this beautiful monastery, neatly perched alongside the trail to the Heli Pad.

There is very little that Namche lacks. It even boasts the world’s highest Irish pub offering everything from Jameson whiskey to Guinness. It sports a sign as you enter that strikes to the heart and soul of what Namche and her people are all about.

It reads, “There are no strangers here, only friends who haven’t met.”

For more information on Everest Base camp and other treks in the region email tours@nomadicadventures.co.za

Article by Debra Bouwer

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