Big Adventures in a Small World

Namaste – Part 1

{Previously I have tried to write so that the author could be either one of us: Jack or Ryan.  It seems that this attempt to keep identities vague hasn’t gone as well as planned, so I will be writing in first person from now on just to keep things simple. – Jack}

We are back.  The mountain men are alive and well.

We arrive in Kathmandu early in the morning after spending the night in a surprisingly nice Dehli Airport [we thought that we would have to lock our bags to our bodies with bike locks while we huddled in a dark corner – instead we slept on reclining lounges in a clean and safe terminal].  We walk through customs and see a big smiling face holding a sign for “Ryan & Jack” among a sea of cabbies prying for our attention.  This is already starting off better than our Machu Picchu budget adventure.  We greet him and are swished through the crowd to the car where we get “laid” with traditional Nepali flowers.  This big sherpa man we have just met is Mingma and although we don’t know it at the time, he is absolutely extraordinary.

Upon arrival at the hotel, which is tucked away from the busy streets of Kathmandu, we meet Marcia and attempt to get settled.  Mingma soon has us unpacking, creating shopping lists, and is pushing us out the door to get whatever gear we need for the mountains.  Once out the door, we find ourselves in Thamel, a small part of Kathmandu, that is a maze of shops selling fake mountain gear.  Thamel winds and snakes below a rat’s nest of wires with dust, bicycles, cars, and people all fighting for the small amount of open street space available.  After an hour in Thamel, we have acquired down jackets, gloves, candy and more.  We make our way back to the hotel to meet the final two members of our group: Vanessa and Bianca.  Vanessa is 25, fresh out of Teach for America, and on her own trip around the world, and Bianca is an older friend of Marcia’s from Rhode Island with an accent that I just can’t place.  The group is complete.

That night we head out into Thamel and have some wonderful Nepali/Indian food in traditional fashion while sitting on the floor.  Afterwards we meander to a bar for our final beer for a few weeks.  The bar is unlike anything I have ever seen before in the fact that there are quotations written all over the walls.  Quotations of mountains, greatness, and inspiration.  The following would be a guiding light for our adventure: “All men dream, but not equally.  Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake to find it was vanity.  But the dreamers of the day are the dangerous men, for thy dream with eyes wide open to make all things possible.”

Hindu Temple

The next day we are met by one of Marcia’s friends here in Kathmandu who is a top caste, Hindu woman who happens to be the main Kathmandu tour guide for National Geographic.  Over the next few hours we go to two of the most influencial religious locations in Nepal.  The first is the largest Hindu temple in Nepal and it is almost overwhelming.  There are people all around, monkeys running practically between your legs and bodies being cremated on funeral pires out in the open.  It is really impressive and extremely foreign at the same time.  Following the Hindu temple, we go to a wonderful Bhuddist stupa that is pretty much the other end of the spectrum from what we just experienced.  The Bhuddist

Bhuddist Stupa

area is quiet, calm and serene.  It is wonderful being with the guide for these two places because we get to hear about the two religions and their interlaced history – how Bhuddism evolved from Hinduism as well as how the two cultures intermix in Kathmandu.

Kathmandu Airport Mayhem

That night we have our final dinner in civilization and before we know it, we are waking up at 4am for our flight into the mountains.  Although it is early, the airport in Kathmandu is alive.  There are hundreds of eager trekkers making their way through “security”, Sherpas moving these trekkers to the “gates” and porters throwing suitcases and gear around like we

would toss a football.  Soon enough we are shoved onto a bus on the tarmac under a burning red sun and get onto our “plane” which looks more like a WWII relic or a tin can with wings than an actual airplane.  Surprisingly enough the plane lifts from the ground and the 12 passengers are trying to handle the mix of terror of the flight and joy of making it out of Kathmandu and into the the Khumbu Valley.  15 minutes into the flight we can see mountains, big mountains, and we are pretty excited.  Looming above the clouds are these mamoths that previously only existed in our dreams.  This moment of awe quickly passes when I see how close we are to the ground.  I look forward and see Ryan giddy with excitement – he can

Lukla Airport

see into the cockpit and through the pilot windscreen – and I realize that we are flying right towards a cliff.  I assume the worst and wonder how big of a fireball this plane will make once we collide with the cliff – I am thinking midgrade fireball.  10 seconds pass and I realize that we have not burned and we are instead touching the wheels down on a smooth surface, but the surface is inclined.  I hear the whine of the engines and lurch forward as we come to a stop on a runway that couldn’t be longer than an aircraft carrier.  I let out a silent sigh of relief and Marcia turns to us and exclaims “Boys, welcome to Lukla!”

20 minutes after landing we are meeting our porters, 2 young guys and one old man from down valley, as well as our assistant guides, Kamchya and Mingma Dolma.  As the porters toss our bags onto their backs like they are full of feathers, we gear up and head out.  The trek has begun.

Bhuddist Stupa

That first day we hike through lush valleys full of blooming flowers and rushing rivers.  We stop for lunch at Mingma’s inlaw’s teahouse and we get our first look at the Khumbu Valley menu.  For the next 3 weeks we realize that we will have a choice of vegatable fried noodles with egg, vegatable fried rice with egg, vegatable fried potatoes with egg, or the Sherpa staple of dhal bat, which is rice with a side of potatoes in a lentil sauce.  Mingma begins to laugh when we ask where the meat is and he explains that because the sherpa people are bhuddist, they do not kill animals and therefor there will be no meat on the menu.  Wonderful.

That night we get a good night sleep in a nice teahouse low in the valley and wake up for a big hike towards Namsche Bazaar.  A healthy portion of eggs and toast in the morning and we are off onto a relatively easy trail.  On the meandering trail we are wondering why Marcia has been gearing up for this hike like it was going to be

Bridge with Namsche Wall in background

super intense – we soon find out why.  About 3 hours in, we hike across this suspension bridge fluttering with prayer flags above a river filled gorge to find the dreaded “Namsche Wall.”  This “wall” is where the trail turns from meandering through villages to a devilish switchback on a steep incline.  2 hours into the wall, I am doing my best to not get squered by a yak, keep my eyes clear of the dust, and not push another trekker off a ledge 200 meters down to the river.  Just as we finishing the wall we see a group of sherpas running down the trail holding a strecher and we get our first, certainly not our last, glimpse of how much respect should be given to the mountains.  The sherpas are running down a local porter who went up too high, too fast.  If that guy couldn’t handle the altitude, what the hell are we going to do?

The next two days are spent in Namsche, which sits in this bowl on the mountainside, and we do a bit of day hiking to acclimatize.  This is an excerpt from my journal from that day hike:

Jack & Ryan with Mt. Everest
peak with plume of clouds forming on right side

“So I am currently sitting above Namsche Bazaar and after 2 hours up the mountain I have gotten my first glimpse at her.  She sits far off in the distance surrounded by mountains that might be more beautiful than she, or more daunting, but she remains the largest.  She looms with blue sky around and a plume of clouds off of her right side.  The surrounding mountains have clouds continuously dancing up and down the sides, but she remains.  It is hard to describe the feeling I had when I first crested the ridge and I saw her.  It was as if 12 year old Jack had finally achieved his goal.  I AM HERE IN NEPAL – HOLY HELL THAT IS EVEREST – THE LADY OF MY DREAMS.  Its funny though, I have no desire to get to the top.  I don’t know if its because I doubt my ability, or I might be scared, but I think it is because I respect her too much.  It is my belief that there are some things that are to be left alone, in their natural state, to be viewed upon by men with awe, wonder, and respect.  She is one of those things.  As I look up from this writing, she is gone, lost in the clouds.  She is fleeting with only the lucky few able to see her glory, but you always know that she is there – watching, guarding, protecting – the Goddess of the Mountains.”

The trek has begun and we have seen Mt. Everest.  The adventure begins.

-Jack

Current Location: Namsche Bazaar, Khumbu Valley, Nepal 11,286ft.

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This entry was published on April 18, 2012 at 12:56 pm and is filed under Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

2 thoughts on “Namaste – Part 1

  1. Janice Blizzard on said:

    Beautifully written! What a wonderous adventure…..every one is a WOW!!!!

  2. Denise Deane on said:

    With great respect for all that you two have experienced …. Incredible!
    Hugs to you both- Denise

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