We then took on the 6 hour walk to Monjo. Although the overall height gain was very small, the path undulated so there was quite a lot of ascent. We were on the main trail for Everest Base camp so it was much more crowded than it had been in the Annapurna region. The trail passed several mantra rocks and prayer wheels as we were now in Buddhist country. Entering a village through an archway was meant to cleanse you of all demons.
The valley and glacial river are very beautiful with superb mountain views. We had several stops on the way up including one for lunch and one for ginger tea. There was a warm welcome with tea and cake awaiting us at Monjo. Because of the altitude, we were now in a mode of self-denial regarding alcohol.
This walk was considered to be one of the most strenuous of the trek - mainly because of altitude. We took it slowly. The views were incredible and there were many photo stops, including our first view of Everest.
After lunch in the hotel we took a walk up to a viewpoint above the town. Here we had our first views of Aba Dablam, a spectacularly beautiful mountain which was to become a much-photographed favourite. The views all around were stunning and many more photos were taken. There was also a football pitch/ play area where some young Nepalese boys were playing with joyous enthusiasm. The altitude seemed not to be a problem for them. As the sun went off the area we went back down to dinner and early bed.
The route was quite short and fairly level though the 'ups' were much more difficult than usual because of the altitude. We had several photo stops as well as the usual stops to allow porters and yaks to go past. At the end of the walk, Santos took us off the main track onto a lovely quieter track through woodland.
After lunch Santos offered us the chance of a helicopter flight the next day. We succumbed as it was not a chance we would have again. We then relaxed in the sun for the afternoon.
The day started with the promised helicopter flight. We were in the first flight and Camilla was lucky enough to have the front seat. The flight was superb. We followed the Gokyo valley up to the Gokyo lakes and then turned towards Everest and made our way down the Pheriche valley to the Tengboche monastery where we landed. One of our guides was waiting there, having walked up from our lodge at an early hour, and we stayed by the helipads enjoying the wonderful views and waiting for the others on the later flights. Santos came with the third helicopter and showed us round the monastery (the fourth oldest in the region). We then walked around, enjoying the different views and discovering some unexpected old man's beard and an impressive solar device for boiling water using mirrors to focus sunlight on the pan. We also saw some participants completing the fifth leg of the Everest Trail Race, including the Nepalese runner who was to be the eventual winner of the womens' race, taking just over 27 hours to complete the six-legs.
After lunch we walked back to our lodge. The uphill part was easier than the day before - we were beginning to acclimatise to the altitude.
Today we started our return going first to Namche Bazaar, where we had some shopping time and lunch. We then walked down steeply to the high bridge and then back along the river (two more bridges) to the lodge at Monjo where we were once again greeted with tea and cake.
After the usual breakfast of porridge and omelette, we set off on our final trek back to Lukla. The track was very crowded with porters, dzhos and other trekkers but after about an hour we left the main track and climbed up to pass through a couple of villages on a pleasant wooded track. We rejoined the main track, via a rusting bridge, and had lunch at the same place as on our first day. After lunch we set off on the long climb back up to Lukla. We all congratulated each other and made ourselves at home in the lodge by the airport.
The flight from Lukla went well and we relaxed at our hotel in the afternoon. The next morning we had a tour of Patan, including the palace square, the palace and the museum. We then went to the 'monkey temple' - so called by the hippies in the 1970s. A picture from 1964 showed how much Kathmandu has grown since then. Another lazy afternoon followed.