May 21 - Saying Goodbye to the Khumbu

Today the Sherpas woke us with tea and coffee very early, 5:00 AM. By six o’clock our duffel bags had been packed and carried over to the airport, just a few steps from the “Everest Lodge”, where we had spent the night in Lukla.

Waiting to board the plane for the flight back to KathmanduBy 7:00 AM we were lined up to board the Twin Otter for a 35 minute flight back to Kathmandu. When we arrived at Lukla yesterday afternoon, our muscles were a bit weary from having trekked all the way from Base Camp in four days, but this group, Bob, Fiona and Maggie had savored each step of their last day of trekking. Along the trail from Namche, we had continued to meet old and new Sherpa friends. Phu Dorjee, one of our guides and the Sherpa kitchen cook from last year’s BAI Everest Expedition found his grand-nephew at one of the tea shops where we stopped for refreshment. This boy’s grandfather had died on the 1972 Japanese Ski Expedition to Everest and was a very special young man to Phu Dorjee.

Pasang explaining his Thanka painting to FionaWe also found my old friend Pasang Sherpa, who is a painter of traditional Thanka paintings. Our group enjoyed visiting with Pasang, learning of his craft and purchasing some of his work. Later we were welcomed into his home and took tea with his wife and young daughter. Maggie had brought a collection of stuffed animals from Pennsylvania to Nepal to give to children. Pasang’s daughter at first seemed a bit frightened by her new toy, but once her mother had played with it and then presented it to her she liked it more.

I am happy to report to you that by the time this group flew from the Khumbu that they had been more than suitably “blessed”. As our trip to Base Camp had progressed Fiona and the others kept asking, “How do you get those white scarves that everyone is wearing?” I explained that the Khatas are a Buddhist blessing that is bestowed on one at appropriate times as a symbol of good luck in travel and life. It is an honor, not a purchase, and that at the right time – perhaps as they were leaving their many friends in the Khumbu – they might all receive a Khata as a gesture of blessing and friendship.

Fiona is blessed with her Khata scarfFiona confessed that she was terrified of the possibility that she might have to get on her international flight to leave Nepal having never received a Khata. Well, beginning in Pheriche, on the trek down from Base Camp, the Khata began to collect around the necks of our team members. At each stop, they were remembered by the Sherpas of the village and given heartfelt best wishes. In Pangboche, we stopped to see Ang Temba’s wife, Yangzing, and used the radio in her house to talk to Base Camp and confirm that Will Cross was safely down to Camp II. By Namche, the scarves were adorning Bob’s Tilley’s hat as well as his pack.

In a few moments we will meet for drinks and a dinner at the legendary Chimney Room, at the Yak and Yeti. Ken Zafren, from Anchorage Alaska, who is an old Nepal adventurer and one of the physicians who has been involved with the Himalayan Rescue Association clinics since 1989 is joining us. It will be a time for stories, fond memories and bittersweet recollections of great adventures and companions in the Everest regions. Our days in Nepal are not quite over, but now we are well-showered and the return to Kathmandu brings us back to modern civilization. We will very soon be missing the trekking life.

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