Along the Trails
Hiking along the trails in the Khumbu region is not as barren as you might imagine. Between the many Buddhist monuments and the tourist concessions along the way, there is a lot to keep your curiousity keen at every turn. The many feature of the Khumbu, of course, is the fantastic view of the snow-capped peaks and the vast slopes leading down to the milky glacier rivers. That's just a remind to keep looking around once in a while and to pinch yourself to remind your you're not dreaming. The Sherpa society is very closely wound with the Tibetan Buddhist religion, so everywhere across the landscape (almost literally) there are reminders to repeat the mantras and to be of service to others.
Strung across housetops and from the highest windswept reaches on hills you will see streaming prayer flags. Their blessings are activated as they catch the winds as they are inscribed with spiritual texts. Look up at any ridgeline or any high point and you'll likely see some of these flags, lined to the east with the colors blue, white, red, green and yellow. You'll know you've reached the top of the pass when you see the prayer flags. Another prominent feature you'll see is the "stupa", which is a pointed tower on top of a circular mound, as well as the all-seeing eyes of the Buddha paintend on the side. It is important to pass around this monument to the left (passing on your right shoulder).
Large boulders along the trail are often rendered into "mani stones", which have great Tibetan texts carved into them, then painted to accentuate the lettering. These are inscribed with prayers, and you must remeber the pass them on the left. You will also find "mani walls" made from piles of smaller inscribed tablets. These stone tablets are intricately prepared and usually look like ancient artifacts. Incorporated into many structures you'll also find prayer wheels made of copper that are imprinted with the Tibetan prayers. Passing on the left (going clockwise) you spin the wheels with your right hand. The payer wheels come in may sizes, and around a monastery or a "gomba" you may find a great, brilliantly colorful wheel that also rings a brass bell as you spin it. Along some fast-running mountain streams the water run beneath small shacks and wooden paddles catch the current to spin large prayer wheels. If you climb high on certain ridges you'll find square stone pillars that serve as memorials for those who have passed away. The memorials are usually unmarked and serve as a small monument for many people.