Everest Base Camp Trek Dispatch
April 27, 2009 – Changes in Nepal and the Team is Underway!
Flying into Nepal’s fabled capital, Kathmandu on Thai Airways “TG 319” has been the door opening to adventure in the Himalayans for me for three decades now. There are lots of other good ways to fly into Nepal these days of course, but as their Thai Airways posters proclaimed last year in their 40th anniversary of flights into Kathmandu, they really did “open” this famous but little known place from the 1960’s on. For many years TG 319 came into Kathmandu from Bangkok 3 times a week. The terminal that the trekkers, climbers, and adventure seekers from around to world would enter to clear Nepalese immigration and customs was the same small building that we use for our domestic flights to places like Lukla these days. Now Thai Airlines flies Boeing 777’s into Nepal’s capital 11 times per week, twice daily most days. When the plane pulls up to the new terminal there is a line of other international flights from different parts of the world sitting on the tarmac, and while those of us with mountain clothing and dreams of high elevation are a much smaller portion of the deplaning foreigners the excitement is still the same.
My 777 flight from Bangkok cruised at 40,000 and we watched Rangoon, Bangladesh, The Bay of Bengal, India on the video monitors in the cabin, an exciting trip. But a few minutes out, still at full cruising altitude, the pilot directed passengers on the right side of the plane to view Mount Everest. Actually at that point looking from east to west you could see 5 of the 6 highest mountains in the world from the tiny window, Kanchenjunga, Makalu, Lhotse, Everest and Cho Oyu. The dark summits of Everest and Lhotse were our main interest, of course. To think of the Sherpas and climbers already climbing to high elevations on Everest on this clear Himalayan day and knowing that we would soon be visiting their Base Camp was exciting to say the least.
When BAI’s staff meet me at the airport I learned that Lida and Callie Ann had gotten off to Chitwan without problem. When we got into the center of Kathmandu and made the turn to go to the Yak and Yeti, I saw a sign that gave me a shock – something that I never thought I would see in my lifetime: The Narayanhiti Palace Museum. The changes that have been coming slowly in many ways with the end of the Nepalese Monarchy, but also very rapidly since April 2006, did not prepare me to actually see the forbidden palace grounds that we had walked past for decades actually open to the public as a museum. No one is going to report that it is a particularly interesting or beautiful museum. Nepals’s culture, art, history and pulsing life is still right outside the palace gates in places like old Durbar Square, just as it has been for centuries. But the fact that the gate is open and that life might move in the other direction off the streets and into the Royal Palace, just out of curiosity and to take a look and perhaps “just because they can” represents a new era in the history of Nepal. There is no going back now.
Back to Thai Airlines. We all came in on Thai. Lida and Callie Ann got here first and went straight down to Chitwan National Park. They came back to the Yak and Yeti with bright eyes and were full of stories about waking early on beautiful mornings in the jungle, and an unimaginable variety of bird life and elephants! Mostly elephants, elephants washing, playing, Lida and Callie Ann climbing up their trunks and riding them barebacked!
Steve arrived from his home in Bangkok excited to finally be in Nepal. He is going to the mountain of his dreams in a big way. After years of climbing successfully and with dedication around the world with BAI Steve is taking the next step toward his goal of climbing to the top of Everest. We are going up to Base Camp for him to take a look at his objective and learn the all important first step of approaching those elevations along the trails of the Khumbu valley. The history and culture we live and breathe in the coming weeks will have a special meaning to Steve.
Our final team members to arrive, the Nova Scotia boys, David Christie and Rob Dunn, stepped of TG 319 yesterday. Weary from international travel, but eager to get on the trail, Rob and Dave are as full of stories, laughs and love of adventure as always.
While they were coming in from the airport, Steve, Callie Ann, Lida and our city tour guide were having a great time visiting some of the main sites of Kathmandu. I advised them before they left, “don’t do any shopping today, there will be plenty of time for that later.” They all looked at me with straight faces and said, “right, no shopping today. “ They returned to the hotel full of laughter and with some rather large bags that I had not seen them leave with in the morning.
We finally had our pre-departure team meeting early last evening. As always France Klatzel, joined us for an update on current events from the perspective of a long time Nepal resident. We also enjoyed visiting with noted mountaineer and filmmaker David Breashears. David is always gracious and has a great sense of humor. His sage advice to the group about their journey to Everest Base Camp was ” take the inside of the trail when you meet the yaks”.
Now is a predawn morning at the Yak and Yeti. Just as Lida and Callie Ann were getting up early in the jungle, we are all getting up early here. We will leave the hotel at 5:30, duffel bags packed, small backpacks in hand, hearts full of anticipation for the legendary flight to Lukla!