Our guide Rishi has explained that Namche Bazaar has a long history as a trading post. In the very early days (I’m not sure when) the town was a trading hub for Tibetans bringing salt down across the mountains from that country. I imagine that they traded for produce such as wheat which is more readily grown in these slightly lower regions than on the Tibetan plateau. I had long wondered where the name of the town had originated. Namche is a very Nepalese sounding name (names such as Peniche, Pengboche and Thanygboche have similar etymologies to my ear), but the name “Bazaar” does not seem to fit. The word bazaar is Persian in origins, and it causes me to think that perhaps the name was established since time in the 16th century or so by moghul traders (or even invaders). This is just speculation on my part, and when I get home I’ll attempt some curious research.
Further to the above, after I drafted these words we visited the fabulous Sherpa Culture Museum (more of that later), where I found out that Namche also used to go by the names of Nauje or Nakpoje (which of course still doesn't explain the “bazaar” name.)
We're spending two nights at the Yak Hotel in Namche. The main common room in the hotel is festooned with mountaineering memorabilia and old photos. There's a fascinating back story. The hotel is owned by Chime Sherpa and his wife Nima Sherpa. See the two photos below.
The first photo is of Namche over 50 years ago. The present Yak Hotel is identified, although at the time it was simply the family home. As an aside, Namche now is completely unrecognisable from Namche then.
The second photo is of the team of the 1953 Everest expedition – how fitting is that, that we should be staying here. People identified in the photo are:
Back row, L to R – Tom Stobart, cinematographer; Dawa Tensing; Charles Evans; Charles Wylie; Edmund Hillary; John Hunt, expedition leader; Tenzing Norgay Sherpa; George Lowe; Mike Ward; Tom Bourdillon; George Band; Griffith Pugh; Alf Gregory, still photographer; Wilfred Noyce.
Front row – Chime Sherpa’s father, Mingma Tsiring Sherpa, (8th from left, marked).
So here's the back story. Chime’s father died when Chime was 8 years old (of a stomach ulcer). His mother did not want Chime to follow his father into mountaineering work because “too many family members had died”. So he went to the Kumjung School, which had been established by Hillary back in the 60s. He attended until Grade 11, and then went on to become an electrician and worked in the hydro power station for some 27 years, before converting the old family home into the current Yak Hotel. Chime’s is a real success story for the power of education, and especially within the context of this trip. With some real emotion he told me that “Hillary will always be in our hearts”. Today he is a leader within the Namche Youth Group, I guess paying forward that which was provided to him.
I'll finish this segment with a photo of Mr Chime in front of his wall
A little after 9am we headed off up the hill to visit the site of the Tenzing Norgay Sherpa Heritage Centre (officially opening in 2 days). Along the way we bumped into George Hillary, grandson of Sir Edmund, who along with many members of the Hillary family are in the region to participate in the celebrations.
The group with George Hillary (back row centre, black puffer)
At the Tenzing Norgay Sherpa Heritage Centre
The view from the top is lovely, and shows just how far we walked uphill from Monjo yesterday, and why that was a bit of a test for legs and lungs. The village of Monjo can just be seen, centre. See below:
The next highlight (how many times can I use that word) was a visit to the new Sherpa Cultural Museum, officially opened – again as part of the celebrations – only 2 days back. This museum tells and displays a huge amount of Sherpa culture, and it alone would warrant a trip to Namche. A couple of shots follow:
Tomorrow we're off to Khumjung (the "programme" tells us it's around a 4 hour walk - Chime used to walk there and back every day to school, 45 minutes each way). It's the first day of the official events, and I think we have a busy schedule, so there may not be a blog post for a couple of days. Stand by.
I'll close with a weather report – the clouds have descended and the rain returned, and it's a tad chilly – so it'll be a quiet afternoon ahead of the 6am departure in the morning. Until next time ...