May 17, 2007 Savoring Our Final Days Together
On the morning of May 16th we awoke even earlier than usual (5:30AM) and quickly packed our duffels. It is a long way from Namche Bazar to Lukla, especially for the yaks that carry our loads, and we wanted to get an early start.
The big beds and very comfortable rooms at Panaroma lodge had been a great home for us in our last two nights in the Khumbu region, but we were eager to get on the trail toward Kathmandu and home by starting for Lukla. On the trail down toward the airstrip we saw the amazing sight of many porters carrying loads toward Namche market everything was heading up the hill, building materials, meat, vegetables, giant loads of San Miguel Beer, in cans, not bottles, as required by Sagarmatha National Park regulations.
Last night at our lodge in Lukla, we had a nice quiet time celebrating with all our staff. The guides, cook, kitchen helpers and yak girls are people we will always remember. I often say, people come to Nepal to see the mountains, but they leave with memories of the people of Nepal.
The scene in Lukla was a bit crowded and anxious because there had been no flights from Kathmandu that had been able to get in on the 15th due to cloudy weather. But for us there was nothing to do but hope for the best and enjoy our final evening (hopefully!) with our staff.
This morning we awoke early and it did not look good for flying. Although the sky overhead was clear, there were thick banks of clouds in the Dudh Kosi river valley below us that came all the way up and covered the airstrip at Lukla.
I will have to say that the group seemed a bit nervous as we sat down to have breakfast at our lodge by the airstrip. I reminded them that it was still only 6:00AM and anything could happen. It only takes Sita Airlines about 25 minutes for the flight to Kathmandu, and even though we could not be sure that we would go at all, I told the group to remember that there was no way the Yak and Yeti would have any rooms ready this early in the morning anyway.
After breakfast we went outside to have a final group photo with all our staff. Then Nim Phuti, one of our Yak drivers and the woman with the world’s greatest smile, presented each of our group with a silk Khata blessing scarf.
This gesture must have turned our fortune around, because right after that they came quickly to get us and tell us to hurry across the airstrip for the departure area. We saw the clouds lifting as we walked over to the security area. By 7:15AM or so we had boarding passes in our hands and planes and helicopter were zooming into the Lukla airstrip one after the other. We were boarded on the first Sita aircraft that landed and found ourselves in Kathmandu by 8:00AM after all!
One of the first things we heard upon arrival was the exciting news that on the 16th most of the same Sherpa climbers who had so graciously received us at Base Camp when we visited a few days ago had successfully reached the summit! Apa Sherpa who had ushered us into his tent and served tea for us to drink while he worked with his sat phone to get a call through to his wife in Salt Lake City reached the top of the world for a record breaking 17th time. Also Kami Sherpa, and Lakpa Galgze Sherpa, two of the Berg Adventures Sherpas from our successful October climb of Everest only 6 months ago, reached the top again with the Lions Club, Nepal Television team. There were many other successful Everest ascents from the Nepal side on the 16th as well and we send our congratulations to all the climbers and their support staff.
But back here in the lowlands Kathmandu things are going fine as well. Dan had something happen to him that is not that unusual. After showering at the Yak and Yeti, he walked across the street to the Thai Airlines office and was told that if he wanted to begin flying for home today there would probably be seats available all the way back to his home in Los Angles. So Dan is already on his way! From porters and yaks along the trail to a Thai Airlines jet, Bangkok and home to L.A. just like that!
The rest of us will enjoy Kathmandu and Nepal a bit more however. Today I had lunch at the Yak and Yeti with Ben and Cam and saw Cam consume the same massive size plate of pasta that he often had during the trek. And this was after he’d had a big plate of other food from the buffet. Trekking life can keep the appetite keen. Ben and I ate big quantities as well. I think Ben had at least three big plates of salad.
Tonight we are all going to the famous Rum Doodle bar, where Everest Summiters and other adventurers sign the walls to record the dates of their summits and expeditions. Tomorrow our friend Tsering Dolkar is sending a driver to pick us up at the Yak and Yeti and take us to her family’s carpet factory for a tour.
There is a great feeling of satisfaction within this group. Hard trails are behind us now, and we will savor the final hours and days together in Nepal.
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