Trekking to a Buddhist Monastery in Tengboche, Nepal

After spending a day in Namche Bazaar to acclimatize to the altitude, I was ready to continue my trek to Mount Everest. During my acclimatization day I had climbed up to a viewpoint above the village, where I got unobstructed views up the valley to Mount Everest in the Khumbu region of Nepal. In the distance I could make out the tiny village of Tengboche, which would be my next stop on the trek. The village didn’t look all that far away and the altitude seemed to be about the same, all that stood in my way was a huge valley with a river to cross in between.

View towards Tengboche with Mount Everest in the background

View towards Tengboche with Mount Everest in the background

The trek began fairly flat, making it’s way along the edge of a mountain. Along the way I passed several Buddhist Stupas and Mani stones (flat stones with prayers carved into them) which reminded me of how old the area is and that I was in a truly sacred part of the world.

Stopping often to take in the scenery, I was still cursing my luck with my broken camera. The weather and views were perfect, but I was saving most of the film on my one disposable camera for Mount Everest itself. I didn’t let this dampen my spirits too much though, and made sure to stamp the images into my mind.

Stopping for a cup of tea at a small house along the path, I saw a lone old yak that looked to be half blind, waiting patiently at the door. As I was sipping my tea outside, the old Sherpa woman that served me came out to hug the old yak and talk to it as if it were part of her family. I thanked the lady for her hospitality and began making my way down the valley.

At the bottom of the valley was a small village, where I stopped for some lunch, knowing that I would need the energy to make it up the other side of the valley. On my way down the valley I had seen a lot of people huffing and puffing their way up in the opposite direction, and I knew that’s what I would probably be facing on the other side.

After crossing the fast flowing, glacier fed Dudh Kosi River, I began my accent to Tengboche. I knew at this altitude it would be best to take it easy, so I continued with my slow pace, stopping to rest and re-hydrate often. Plenty of people passed me in the beginning stages of the accent, and further up the mountain I passed the same people who were now struggling to continue due to the altitude. Slow and steady wins the race when it comes to high altitude trekking.

I hardly felt the affect of the altitude at all and before long I made it to the top of the valley, and entered the village of Tengboche. After checking into my tea house I sat outside with a cup of tea and enjoyed the stunning Himalayan mountain scenery.

Tengboche is home to the largest Gompa (Buddhist Monastery) in the Khumbu region. At 3867m, the monastery and village of Tengboche is surrounded by spectacular peaks. I can understand why they built the most important Gompa here. When I was told that I could visit the Gompa and in fact sit inside to observe the monks going about reciting their prayers, I jumped at the chance.

The monastery at Tengboche, Nepal

Tengboche Monastery

As I entered the Monastery, I removed my shoes and entered the main building. I could hear the loud dongs and beating of drums as I approached, and when I entered I could begin to hear the throat chanting of the monks. As I entered I was overwhelmed by the beauty of the place, with it’s amazing carvings and paintings and the giant gold Buddha at the back of the Gompa. A monk directed me to where I could sit and told me that I could take photos as long as I didn’t use the flash. I took one photo with my disposable camera but it didn’t turn out at all.

I sat still and quiet as I observed the monks chanting the prayers. The monks sit cross legged on low wooden bench type seats, with the head Lama sitting at the top of the Gompa in front of the large Buddha statue. At the other end, close to where I was sitting, monks were beating large drums and gongs at certain points in their prayers. The throat chanting was almost hypnotic and something that I felt truly privileged to be a part of. After a while a monk came along giving out a type of Tibetan flat bread to the other monks. After passing all of the monks he came up to me and offered me some bread. Not knowing what I was supposed to do, I grabbed one small piece with my right hand and said “Namaste” before bowing my head. He waited until I took a bite, then smiled and walked away.

After a while I quietly got up and left the Gompa. Visiting Tengboche Monastery was such a privilege, an experience I will never forget. It seemed that every day that I was in the Himalayas, I got to see more and more of how friendly and kind the local Sherpa people are. I think the rest of the world could learn something from these people.

In the morning I was awoken at 5am by the gongs from the Monastery, and although I’m not usually a morning person, on this particular morning I felt ready to get up and start my day. Today I would continue my trek to Mount Everest.

Everest Base Camp Adventure Series:

  1. My Scariest and Most Spectacular Flight
  2. Following the Dudh Kosi River to Namche Bazaar
  3. Trekking to a Buddhist Monastery in Tengboche
  4. Snowed in at Dingboche
  5. Going Face to Face With Mount Everest

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9 comments… add one
  • Looks like you’re on quite the adventure! Not good that your camera crapped out on you though… 🙁

    • Dean Wickham Aug 5, 2011

      Hi Raymond, it definitely was quite an adventure, it’s the type of thing I love to do most. There probably isn’t a worse place in the world for a camera to break, I could have taken thousands of photos. But I learned a lesson and now I always travel with my main SLR camera plus a compact camera for backup – just in case. Also, not getting enough photos is an excellent excuse to go back 🙂

  • Nomadic Samuel Aug 8, 2011

    I’ve always wanted to trek in Nepal – one of the few countries I haven’t yet visited in Asia. It’s really unfortunate what happened to your camera. I’ve had some issues with camera equipment while backpacking & I can relate to how stressful it is.

    • Dean Wickham Aug 9, 2011

      I guess that’s what can happen as we rely more and more on technology. I keep a backup camera with me when travelling these days, so I shouldn’t miss any photos again :). Nepal is a wonderful country, and not as dangerous as some people think. It’s also so cheap, hope you can get there soon. Cheers

  • Charu Aug 9, 2011

    Having grown up in Chennai (formerly Madras), I’ve always wanted to go to Nepal. Prayer wheels are soothing to me and the scenery in Nepal is something I’ve wanted to experience as a child. Everyone who goes there say they’ve felt a real calm energy. Thanks so much for capturing this beautifully in your narrative and photos!

    • Dean Wickham Aug 9, 2011

      Hi Charu, I agree with what you said about Nepal. It definitely has a calming and peaceful feel to it, especially in the Himalayas. The whole experience gave me a new outlook on life. I hope you can get there sometime soon, you will love it. Thanks for the comment 🙂

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