There’s a white zopkiok outside my tent and it keeps making noises, deep throaty grumbles and soft cooing moos. Night has fallen but the animal’s white bulk remains softly illuminated by the florescent bulb outside the lodge whose yard we’re camped in. My tent is a lovely orange dome, a well-lit haven where I can easily stretch my legs, shoulder s and arms.

Today we walked through to just past Phakding. It was a quiet day on a busy trail through this beautiful, though clearly western influenced, land. The rocky, worn path led us past Best View and Paradise lodges, signs calling out Chinese, Italian, American cuisine. Out of a German bakery and cyber cafe, loud music blared, a call to weary hikers ready for a Himalayan internet fix. On the patio sat a group of white-skinned westerners drinking lattes and sitting comfortable in plastic chairs. Most of the Sherpas I spotted were guides with a duck row of trekkers in tow.

Ahead of us on a metal cable suspension bridge, a dapple gray pony walked alone, its sturdy legs stayed steady to the bounce of bodies on the bridge. When he reached the other side, he continued on the gravel pathway of town, meandering to his own agenda like a stray dog.