A group of us began the day early - we were off to Namche to collect EEG data from the Buddhist Monks at the monastery in Namche but we did not know when we would be able to work with them so we headed out for Namche at 7am leaving the main party behind to trek later. The path today was considerably less populated, especially in the later stages and was incredibly beautiful. Probably the only downside is we were ascending - a net gain of 1968 feet or 600 metres but we began the day heading down so the final climb up into Namche was considerably more than this. We crossed several spectacular bridges and there were some amazing viewpoints.
The climb was well worth it - Namche is an incredibly scenic town with breathtaking views located ona very steep slope. Namche is the traditional crossroads for trade routes between Nepal, Tibet, and India so it has been a regional centre for a long time.
The highlight of the day was our visit to the monastery. We were welcomed warmly and first sat and had tea and watched the monks study - the monastery here is only opened for punjas - or celebrations where the monks come from all over the region to study sacred scrolls.
Following tea, we were led into a special meditation room in the heart of the monastery where we set up our EEG systems and literally began to record the brain wave activity of expert and local monks while they meditated and completed one of our experimental tasks that assesses cognitive function. To say that the experience was amazing would be the greatest understatement of my life. We worked with the monks for 6 hours and when it was time to leave we were all given the traditional khata - or ceremonial scarf by the head monk of the monastery. I left with tears in my eyes feeling blessed not just to be able to conduct such cool research but simply to have come to such an amazing place.
Tomorrow, we hope to work with the monks some more on our rest day to acclimatize in Namche and also collect some more altitude data, we are 11286 feet (3440 m) after all!