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Nepal 2014

Day 18. Everest Base Camp Trek. Namche Bazaar to Lukla

NEPAL | Saturday, 31 May 2014 | Views [871]

We dressed grimly this morning. On Everest 13 Sherpas confirmed dead with several unaccounted for and some injured following the avalanche. All Nepalis, dead and injured in the service of Western dreamers and playboys. See my earlier comments on Western excess...

We all feel a kinship with the victims although we are just another version of Western excess, pressing poor people with little opportunity into our service. If Everest were in Colorado or the Swiss Alps, there would be no Sherpas to make our dreams come true...

We made grim preparations also because the descent from Namche is brutal (recalling the ascent) and there were many rough kilometres ahead through the villages along the Dudh Khosi river gorge before the final ascent into Lukla.

Overnight all our injuries from the previous days had worsened so bruised toes were taped and blisters were drained and padded and we set off in a silent chorus of pain, each step punctuated by a grimace.

I recall nothing exceptional of the walk other than quietly ticking off the hours knowing that eventually after 8 or so, the trek would be over. 2 hours trek before Lukla it began to rain in a solid downpour. We sheltered a while until we agreed we were avoiding one evil while delaying the other, so to hell with it, get wet and get the ascent over.

At Lukla Gate we congratulated each other, thanked Gopal and our porter, Ram, and headed to The Nest lodge for R&R. The following morning was also to be an early start for the airport so we repacked and prepared for our flight to low altitude and 30oC degrees temperature, a wardrobe challenge since at 6.30am it would likely be close to freezing at Lukla airport.

We consumed 8,000 rupees of beer and popcorn between us in celebration that night, inviting both Gopal and Ram to join in our celebration, taking turns to voice a summary of our feelings and experiences in the past weeks.

Here are mine:

Emotionally the return to Lukla (end of trek) felt similar to me to the 2006 walk into the Plaza de Compostela in Santiago de Compostela in Spain after long days on the Camino; a mixture of pride of achievement, relief at the release from self-imposed effort, a happy-sad / laugh-cry emotion; a strong feeling of immense privilege to have been permitted to pass among the giants of Nature unhindered; privileged to have witnessed the nobility, strength and character of the Nepalis in spite of the inconceivable privations they endure; to have been in the presence of the gods with godly people made strong by their desperate circumstances, unbending, uncomplaining, not blaming or resentful; and to have a small inkling, finally, of why people climb mountains.

 As for lessons I learned on the boulder fields, the impossibly rocky ascents, challenging descents and the cold, thin air:

  • Hiking in very rough terrain is an exercise in mindfulness. Every step is made with deliberation and care. You must focus to avoid the twist, the stumble, the fall that could spell disaster.
  • At altitude you are present with every part of your body; your breath, your muscles, your vision, your sense of time and place. It is a rare opportunity to feel your body as a complete entity, not as separate, selfish and competing parts.
  • When faced by obstacles to your intended path, take them one step at a time. Haste and impatience won't get you through them in better condition or faster.
  • When faced with a seemingly impossible task you will find a way if you take it slowly and keep your balance.
  • You are capable of much more than you think you are. Nothing we do in our everyday life brings us close to our limits of achievement despite what we think.
  • We give up too easily. We must believe we are stronger, healthier, younger and more capable. 

When I recall some of the settlements I saw on ridges a thousand metres above us, I am still in awe of the industry, the perseverance, the dedication, the love, the honesty that drives these amazing mountain people to construct their homes, their lives and their families' futures painstakingly, patiently, lovingly, one stone at a time. Building retaining walls for their tiny strip terraces to plant small crops of millet and barley, spinach and kale; carrying every rock and then cutting and shaping them to construct their houses; harvesting the wood to shape their windows and doors.

  • We do not know what labour is. We have no experience of true love.

Can you imagine having your children learn to walk on rough cobbles, where your patios and terraces drop metres to the next level without guard rails, where there is no surface that is level, no running water, no heating, primitive sanitation and an unvarying diet of rice, lentil dal and vegetables. Can you imagine yourself then, with these privations, smiling and welcoming strangers to pass through your space as honoured guests?

  • We have no idea how fortunate we are, and we are oblivious to how selfish we are.

Tags: everest base camp trek, lukla, namche bazaar


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