Memories We Take Home From Nepal
Clients have always told me upon returning from the Himalaya that their experience in Nepal was one of a kind. I recently discovered that I had only understood half of what they meant.
Marla Fenske photo
There are many ways to get where you want to go, but in the end, reaching your destination is only a small percentage of the stories and memories you take home. And our stories and memories were largely thanks to our attentive and knowledgeable guide, Deana Zabaldo, and her spectacular team of 22 Sherpas, porters, cooks and yak drivers. I can now proudly say that I fully understand the feelings of gratefulness, nostalgia, excitement, pride and satisfaction that many trekkers before me have tried to convey.
Our star Sherpa team and guide! Om Kumar, Nanga, Dawa, Deana and Mani.
Kayla Fenske photo
One of those very special memories came from our encounter in Pangboche with the revered Lama Geshe. This Tibetan Buddhist monk, next to his colorful wall filled with signed photos of climbers on the summit of Everest, receives visits from trekkers and climbers from all over the world seeking his blessing before they begin their journey.
Lama Geshe. Marla Fenske photo
We, too, were each given a chance to offer our donation on bended knee and receive his special blessing of good health and safety on our journey to Base Camp. Although Lama Geshe spoke Tibetan while his daughter translated his blessings and words of wisdom to us, his kind nature and infectious smile needed no translation. Eric and JD even received special blessings for their continued journey to the summit of Island Peak, and our Sherpas received a blessing along with a good-natured reminder about not giving up on traditional Buddhist practices.
Joanna Y receiving her blessing from Lama Geshe. Kayla Fenske photo
Our Sherpa staff, along with the rest of the porters, worked harder than any of us thought possible. Carrying loads nearly twice their size, waking up before dawn to prepare the tea and coffee to be delivered each morning at our door, breaking down the cook tent, cleaning and then running ahead of us on the trail to begin preparing our next meal before we arrived… the list goes on!
Mani presenting us with an incredible veggie pizza in Tengboche. Marla Fenske photo
While resting one afternoon in Dingboche, we had the honor of sharing tea with our staff. We learned each of their names, where they came from and what they do in the off-season – many of them farm and raise a family. For these men and women, these 2 – 3 trekking trips each year make up much of their total annual income. To share tea and snacks and exchange curious questions was a very humbling experience and allowed us a chance to connect with these people who would be sharing the trail with us for two weeks.
Ang Kila (yak driver), Nanga (Sherpa), and Dambar (head cook). Marla Fenske photo
Chris and Pam, with the help of our Sherpas, kept the interactions between trekkers and porters alive with the promise of a high altitude baseball game! While trekking through the gorgeous rhododendron forest, our Sherpas detoured off the trail until they found a perfect sized branch for Chris to whittle into a bat.
Marla Fenske photo
The Sherpas then carried it for us until our return to Debuche, for the long-awaited baseball game. Although many have probably only observed cricket matches, the gist of the game was understood and much entertainment was had by both parties trying to keep the ball up out of the valley below and attempting to run at 11,800 feet!
Chris C with a Nepali boy he gave a baseball and cap to. Chris Calcagni photo
Returning to Lukla at the end of the trek, we all gave a sigh of relief. Whether our goal was to see Everest, reach Base Camp, climb Kala Pattar, or just experience the culture and people of this wonderful country, we all had succeeded. And what better way to celebrate that success than with a traditional Nepali meal and dance party! As a thank you to our wonderful staff, the trekkers had the opportunity to serve the delicious Nepali dal bhat (a dish primarily of rice and lentils with chicken curry and other vegetables) to our staff as they had done for us on so many occasions before.
Dana serving dal bhat to the staff. Marla Fenske photo
Following the meal came song and dance, both Nepali and Western-style. With the help of some Everest beer and sake, the teahouse dining room at the Sherpa Coffee Lodge was hopping that night as we celebrated a successful trip, our new friends, and lungs full of oxygen!
Everybody dance! Kayla Fenske photo
Although we were sad to say goodbye to our new friends and leave this amazing backdrop of snow-capped giants, we were all very happy to be heading towards home. With one more dose of the bustling city of Kathmandu and an incredible insider’s guide to the best shopping in Thamel (thank you Deana!), we wrapped up our time together. That night, we enjoyed a celebration dinner on a rooftop terrace and Deana pulled her last surprise out of her sleeve – a nighttime rickshaw ride through the now-deserted streets of the Thamel district and Durbar Square! What a sight it was to see seven colorfully painted rickshaws racing each other through the city, with each of us whooping and hollering all the way back to the Yak and Yeti.
Racing rickshaws through Kathmandu! Kayla Fenske photo
Until our next adventure, whether it be in Nepal, Asia, or another continent – thank you to my fellow trekkers and the Mountain Madness Nepal staff for an incredible, unforgettable adventure!
The team in Gorak Shep before heading up to Everest Base Camp. Marla Fenske photo
~ MM Operations Manager Kayla Fenske