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 Day 23 Pheriche to Tengboche

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Pheriche

Tengboche

Latitude

27° 53.54N

27° 50.13N

Longitude

86° 49.34E

86° 49.02E

Altitude

4,256 metres

3,860 metres

Descent

396 metres

Time (excluding rests)

3 hours 30 minutes

Distance

8.5 kilometres

The new bridge over the Imja Khola, with the old bridge preserved beneath for trekkers looking for that authentic dodgy Himalayan bridge experience

Sherpa girls playing scrabble

Debouche Convent

Porters

Potato planting

Carved boulder

The entrance to the Tengboche monastery

The footprints of Lama Sange Dorje are impressed into solid rock - he must have been quite overweight...

Prayer wheels

Thankga inside the monastery

The endless knot is symbolic of the endless wisdom and compassion of the Buddha

The gompa building

The stupa outside contains relics of lamas

     Today's trek takes you to Tengboche Monstery which has arguably the best mountain views in the world, and not only that, you get to stop at Pangboche for lunch.

Tengboche Monastery

     Leave Pheriche and walk back down the valley, re-crossing the bridge and climbing up to the stupa on the ridge. After 2 hours, reach the village of Pangboche.

     Continue down to the bridge over the Imja Khola (2 hours 25 minutes). You can still see the old bridge below. Cross the bridge, and at this point the path levels out and becomes a delightful walk through the forest of the Sagarmatha National Park. Pass a small village, the Sagarmatha National Park Office and a very long prayer wall (2 hours 45 minutes). Pass the Himalayan Trust Health Post and the Rhododendron Lodge.

     The Debouche Convent (3 hours) is in this region, and is well worth a visit. Unlike their wealthy brothers on the hill at Tengboche, the nuns live a spartan life untouched by modern influences and, unfortunately, money. Debouche was founded in 1929 by Lama Gulu of Tengboche. In 1957 von Furer-Hamendorf reported 20 nuns, and there appeared to be a similar number in 2002. Like Tengboche, this is a Nyingma Pa institution.

     Tengboche (3 hours 30 minutes) is a magnificently situated monastery, on a ridge in the forest with awesome views of Everest and Ama Dablam and views down three valleys. It's the best location on the whole trip, and worth staying a few days, if you have the time.

View of Everest and Ama Dablam fron Tengboche

     There are several lodges:

  • Tashi Delek Lodge
  • Himalaya View Lodge
  • The Gompa Lodge
  • Thyangboche Guest House

 

Tengboche Monastery

     Tengboche was founded in 1923 by Lama Gulu from Khumjung village. Lama Gulu's religious vocation started late in life, for as a child he suffered a misfortune that happens to many trekkers, he fell into a Himalayan toilet. Rendered unclean by the contents, he was overlooked as a candidate to become a novice monk. As a mature man he studied in Tibet to become a lama, and in his old age he founded Tengboche monastery.

Tengboche, looking up the Gokyo Valley on the left

     Three hundred years earlier, Tengboche was the site of the hermitage of the legendary Lama Sanga Dorje. Whilst at Tengboche, the lama slipped on a rock, leaving behind his footprints. You can still see the footprints to this day in a rock in the entrance to the monastery. Lama Sanga Dorje thought his slip up inauspicious, so rather than found a monastery at Tengboche, he went instead to Pangboche. He may well have been right, for Tengboche Monastery was destroyed by the great earthquake of 1934. Disaster struck again in 1989 when it was burned to the ground, a result of dodgy electrical wiring in one of the monk's hairdryers. It was re-opened in 1993 better than ever. The growth of this Nyingma Pa Buddhist monastery has continued despite these setbacks. It was founded with 11 monks, and by 1933 had 25. By 1957 von Furer Hamendorf reported 32 monks. Harka Gurung reported 12 in 1971. The number grew to 30 in 1993 and in 2002 there were 60 monks led by the reincarnate Lama Tengboche Rimpoche, as he is known.

Tengboche looking up the Khumbu Valley

     The land around Tengboche is sacred and all animals and birds and their habitat are protected. This is because Buddhists recognise all creatures as fellow 'sentient beings' subject to the same cycle of death and rebirth. By giving the local beasts an easy life, the monks get merit contributing to a better rebirth for themselves. Everyone wins. The conifer forest is wild with the impeyan pheasant, musk deer (mutant rabbit-like deer), tahr (goat-like antelope) and goral (antelope-like goat) and even the occasional yeti.

The view of Everest from Tengboche

     In 1953, the acting abbot of Tengboche told Sir John Hunt how, one winter evening, when the snow lay roundabout, he saw a five foot high grey haired yeti emerge from the sacred forest, scratch himself on the behind and throw a few snowballs at the monks before being driven off by lamas blowing monastic horns and conch shell trumpets. The yeti must have been disappointed not to get a proper snowball fight from the monks.

     Although devoted to Nyingma Pa Tibetan Buddhism, Tengboche's primary pastoral focus is the people of Khumbu rather than western tourists. As a result, the presentation of the Buddhist doctrine here is not especially accessible to westerners. Thami monastery does have some westerners in residence. At Tengboche, you'll have to content yourself with the murals depicting the life of Buddha, and the annual Mani Rimdu festival, held here in October, which tells the story of the Buddhist victory over evil.

© Ian Johnson 2003

Comment by: Suzanne Delaney     suzannji@aol.com
Date of trek: 1991,1992,1993,1997
Date of comment: 7 February 2007

Your pictures are absolutely beautiful--thanks! And your route descriptions are accurate. But please, why should Tengboche make its teachings accessible to Western tourists? Like, maybe Tengboche should offer a crash course in Nyingma Lite? Shouldn't it be up to the tourists to seek, rather than to expect to have everything presented to them? Solu Khumbu is not some sort of Outward Bound Disneyworld established for the entertainment of tourists. It's home to the Sherpa and anyone who is fortunate enough to travel through Solu should remember that a guest in someone's home needs to be respectful. For you to jokingly suggest that the local people might eat deer rather than potatoes is to disregard the fact that a.) Buddhist people try to avoid killing other creatures and b.) deer are an endangered species in this area. And by the way, the religious painting you describe as "Naughty Buddha demonstrating mysterious tantric practises" isn't naughty at all. The male and female deities represent the union of wisdom and compassion. There's nothing naughty about that, except in the dim dirty minds of ignorant westerners.

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