Back in Kathmandu and a Maoist greeting, of sorts!
We all relish the comforts of civilization, but everyone does R&R in their own way. We have a final day in Kathmandu…for shopping the dazzling array of wares in absurdly small stores packed with all they can hold…for gazing up at 17th century pagoda temples stretching into the sky of the palace square…for lazing by the pool with a beer.
All that happened, but not as expected. As it turned out, we returned to an unfortunately typical situation in Nepal: a nationwide shutdown in political protest. The Maoist party is trying to reassert control, and the current government refuses to step down without exacting some concessions and commitments. While some feared violence, the protest marches have been entirely peaceful.
As for our group…I called shopkeeper friends and restaurant owners who opened their shuttered gates long enough to allow us in. We spent an easy day by the pool, in the garden, and watching Everest climbing movies. After a delicious dinner, I arranged a nighttime rickshaw tour of pagoda temples and sacred courtyards – magic in the dark and quiet peace of the city at rest.
We part, we return to other lives, and we carry new visions…of Nepal, of each other, and of ourselves.
Wrapping Up Trekking Season in Nepal
Special thanks to Helly Hansen for fantastic new EBC gear this season! I already appreciated the quality and style, but now that I’ve seen our Nepali staff put these jackets to the test, I’m truly impressed! (And so are they! All the sherpas want a red HH jacket. Little do they know the best HH gear for me has been hidden the whole time: thermal base layers!)
Deana and Pemba
Sometimes guiding a trip to Everest Base Camp is like this:
Happy and excited trekkers listening to me weave stories of Nepali history and culture as we walk through our days — yoga and stretching in the sunshine of an alpine valley with only the sound of wind and glacial streams around us — stories of climbing and adventure, danger and rescues, told by Pemba over dinner — prayer flags whipping in the wind on the roofs of village homes and strung across high passes — yak caravans with bells clanging as the animals lumber up steep trail — teaching about Buddhist philosophy and the meanings of paintings on monastery walls — stars crisp in the thin air and mountains floating in moonlight — avalanches that crack and rumble down in the night as we sleep in tents on a glacier.
But…sometimes guiding a trip to Everest Base Camp is like this:
A knock on my door at 1:30 am by someone who is throwing up, scared, and sick — watching carefully who eats their dinner (loss of appetite being a common altitude problem) — test riding horses to determine if they’re too unruly uphill/downhill for evacuating weak clients — finding the only uninterrupted 30 minutes of personal time in my day is from 5:30 to 6:00 am — being responsible for the health of 20 – 40 Nepali staff in addition to clients — no shower for over a week…and then always being the last in the group to shower — someone breaking into tears because they are sick and tired and just want to give up (and helping them find the strength to continue) — frozen toothpaste, again.
The thing is, guiding in Nepal is never one or the other. It’s all wrapped up together, and even the hard parts are rewarding – for me and for my clients. Seeing people overcome their physical and mental challenges, seeing their joy and awe in the mountains, seeing their pride and satisfaction at accomplishing more than they ever bargained for when they first sent in a trip application, seeing them joke with and tease our Nepali staff with easy familiarity – it’s all part of why I keep coming back to do it again and again.
Some adventurers get addicted to danger and thrill. I think I’m addicted to the intensity of personal transformation that occurs in people on these trips. I love supporting it, witnessing it, being part of it…but it’s a good thing I’m going on vacation next week. I’m tired!
Retracing Our Steps — the trek back to Lukla
Down to Debuche and its quiet nunnery.
Down to Namche and the feeling of towns and people
Returning to Namche Bazaar, biggest town in the area
Down to Lukla in a long day of hiking where we celebrate the end of our trek.
Lowland pastoral on the way to Lukla
On the final night in the mountains we have a big Nepali dinner all together: rice, lentils, vegetables, chicken curry. Our Nepali staff sing traditional songs, feed us local moonshine, and then send us out on an early morning flight to Kathmandu. Both Nepalis and clients are moved as we part. Saying goodbye makes everyone realize just how much we’ve been through together and how much we’ve grown to know one another.
Video: The Porters Sing To Us