Murphy Dome Diaries

A journalist observes life in the far north.

Lukla and beyond

I am nearly in tears as I sit here in this Internet cafe in this strange land, and I don’t know if it is because I am reunited with my old friend, Murphy Dome Diaries, or because of the beautiful Nepali music outside or maybe it’s the baby girl who just now who called for her papa, who took her in his arms. There are many things to stir up my emotions today. Most likely it is exhaustion. Yesterday I walked five hours and today I walked for three and a half hours but it was much harder because most of it was uphill. Today I walked the height of Murphy Dome but over a much shorter distance.

I am in a village called Namche Bazar. I know because a map is spalyed out beside me. I am the only trekker in this computer room. The trail is quiet because of the fog that prevented flights from Kathmandu for three days. Two days ago, when we flew out, flights were sporadic, I am told. We were lucky. The Dutch couple who I commiserated with in the Kathmandu airport reportedly got out by helicopter. We wound up making it by plane. Have I mentioned that the start of the Lukla airport runway is a cliff? Nuru, our sherpa guide, said last year an airplane came in too low and smashed into the cliff, killing 17 people, mostly tourists.

I suppose I should tell you about the cast of characters. For that, I will need to break out my journal. Just a moment and I will find the page.

*Nuru is a high altitude sherpa. He may or may not be Alec’s personal sherpa on Everest. He is 34 and hails from the village of Phortse, which holds 400 people and lies two and a half hours north by foot of where I am sitting now. Four or five hours if I were the one doing the walking. When Nuru was 7, his father took him to Lukla and he began walking the trail that we are taking to Everest. He has walked it hundreds of times. Nuru has a wife, a weaver if I understood him, and two children. His father and grandfather were sherpas. Nuru’s brother is also a sherpa. Nuru has summitted Everest a handful of times.

* Nima is Nuru’s shy 13-year-old son. He just returned to Nepal after studying in India for five years. As we walked along the trail, people from Nuru’s village would stop and comment on how big Nima has grown. I took great pleasure in watching the father and son walk along, talking, knowing many years have pased since Nuru walked on this path with his son. The path he walked with his father so many times. I wished I knew what they were saying.

* Dawa is our porter. That means he is carrying our two gear bags, a weight I am sure is heavier than Dawa himself. He is 45. I feel guilty about Dawa, especially after the steep walk today. Alec says not to bother about it. After all, Dawa is doing his work. There are many porters on the trail, not a few carrying loads larger than Dawa’s. Most of them have a basket piled high, reaching way over their heads, and tied to their back. Then there is a strap across their foreheads. I think someone should rub Dawa’s neck tonight.

* Mrs. Doma is the inkeeper in Monjo, where we slept last night. This morning, I told Mrs. Doma that I think of the porters when I am tired and I don’t think I can go on. They walk faster than me with these impossible loads. I carry almost nothing and huff and puff up the mountains. I was heartened when Mrs. Doma said she does the same.

We are a third of the way to Everest Base Camp. The rest of our group is in Tengboche, about halfway to Base Camp. I will lose a rest day the day after tomorrow because of this. I am Ok with it because tomorrow’s walk will be easy. One hour up and one hour down to Phumjung, where we meet Russell Brice, the head of the expedition, who is flying in via helicopter. The next day, we go to Tengboche, but the group will have left by then. I think we catch up with them shortly after that.

Despite the physical hardships, I am enjoying the countryside much more than the city. The air is clean, there isn’t trash thrown everywhere and the people seem more genuine. I must admit I am popping Tylenol like candy. I swallowed two last night and one this morning. I will have to slow down or I will deplete my supply. The important thing is that my feet are in great shape and I haven’t the high altitude headache I’ve been hearing about. My only complaint is stiff muscles.

The trail is a mixture of dirt and stone. Except on the steep parts, there are houses and inns with gardens and small stores almost all along the trail. Typically the houses are white with blue roofs. Red-cheeked children usually can be seen playing outside them.

This morning, Alec put my damp liner socks inside his shirt to try to dry them, a gesture that felt deeply romantic. You know you are loved when your man puts your stinky socks against his skin. He wore them to breakfast and just before we departed for Namche Bazar, he checked for them and they were gone. He had dropped them under the table at breakfast.

That’s all for now. I promised Alec I would make a guest post on glacierboy.com, his Web site, where he is also making posts. I should save some material for that. I apologize but I was unable to link to his site from this computer.

I just read over this port. How unusual my writing voice sounds. It must be from the way I had to choose my words when talking with Nuru today.

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12 comments on “Lukla and beyond

  1. Helena
    April 5, 2009

    “Nearly in tears.”

    “Exhaustion.”

    “Popping tylenol like candy.”

    Take heart, Amanda. You’re on vacation, and on a once-in-a-lifetime adventure. But this past week hasn’t exactly been a stress-free cake-walk for you, so I hope you’ll cut yourself some slack. Feel like crying? Don’t try to stifle it, or justify it. Just go ahead and cry. And get it out of your system. Exhausted? Just know that you’ll be able to snooze to your heart’s content once you get to Basecamp. Sore muscles? Well, here I offer you a cyber-neck rub, for all the good that’ll do you.

    Your feet are in good shape and you’re not getting high-altitude headaches? Now *that’s* something to celebrate! Your separation from little Lucky? You know she’s in the best of hands. From what you’ve written, I think the separation is a lot harder on you than it is for her. It’s all good, Amanda. Try not to stress, ok?

    Again, I’d like to thank you for sharing this with the rest of us. Your journey is remarkable. And your insights . . . invaluable. Thank you, thank you!

    H.

  2. Don
    April 5, 2009

    Amanda… Your blog is excellent but don’t misunderstand the term “Sherpa” (with a capital “S”) … it is an enthnic group (tribe) whose people live in the Khumbu (and a separate group of Sherpas live in another area of Nepal) but it doesn’t mean the same thing as ‘high altituide porter”… thus, many Sherpas enter the monestary (or convent) and are still Sherpas… other peoples act as high altitude guides/porters but they come from other countries and are not Sherpas….

    Keep on truckin’… you have already completed the steepest and longest hill on the whole trek to EBC…. !

    Don

  3. Bottle Washing Fairy
    April 5, 2009

    I continue to try to post, but I’ll send my true message to Jill.
    mltbwf

  4. Midge
    April 5, 2009

    You are one awesome travel writer, Ms. Amanda. You’ll be so glad you pounded out these notes while the sights and sounds are still surrounding you and you’ll be able to look back at them for years to come. Keep on trekking! You rock!

  5. Lady Friend from the Outside
    April 5, 2009

    Thank you for sharing your incredible journey. You are doing a terrific job relating your experiences – the joys and disappointments. Your honesty makes the story real. Soak it all in, the sights, sounds, tastes, smells and feelings ’cause they will blend together to make fabulous stories to share with Lucky for years and years.

  6. Rich Bivins
    April 5, 2009

    I’m really enjoying your posts Amy. Thank you for allowing us to share with your amazing adventure. You make it very real for your readers and friends. I have to say, you are definately not that little girl I remember from Round Lake. This is a much better version of her. I sure hope you’re taking pictures. Stay safe.

  7. 'Nanne
    April 6, 2009

    This is so fine, Amanda — it gives the rest of us encouragement and insight to embark on the difficult adventures we’d really like to do. It’s eye-opening to find cyberbars in what we’d think of as out-of -the way places! I hope they lie ahead so we continue to hear from you, and you from us. Take care.
    PS — I get to see Lucky and the Bottle Fairy tomorrow.

  8. Jill
    April 6, 2009

    This message was from Mom (BWF), sent Sunday 4/5/09 at 11:46am. Arriving late because I was out watching a great new musical called Stunt Girl, based on the life of Nellie Bly–the first well-known female newspaper reporter. Here’s Mom’s message:

    How did you get to Namche Bazaar so fast?!? I’m following along with this map on the wall. You go, Girl. You have good reason to be tearful and tired.

    Jade goes first thing each morning to your bedroom door and knocks. I take her in and throw her on your bed. Gleefully, she snuggles. Then, she plays there for awhile. This morning, I kept her in my arms when we left and headed to the bathroom to brush her hair. She insisted we stop and look at the pictures of Mama and Daddy and Jade. She looks, grins her little hands open and shut as I say, “Mama is bye-bye. Daddy is bye-bye. They’re coming back in a little while.” She’s, as you said, “perfect”.

    Much love, the bottle (and laundry) washing fairy

  9. Helena
    April 6, 2009

    BWF, aka Mom, aka Jill, you so totally rock! I’m so glad little Lucky’s with you! I’m so sure Amanda and Alec are infinitely more so!

    H.

  10. Jill
    April 7, 2009

    You are so sweet Helena.

    To clarify the family tree, I’m Jill–Alec’s middle sister. I’ve been posting for my mom because this blog for some reason won’t list her posts.

    The BWF aka Mom is Edith, Alec’s mom (mine too) and you are absolutely right, she totally rocks.

    And Jade (Bingjie, Ethan, Ling and Colton) have all benefited by her superior grandmothering skills after they entered the world (or the country for Ling and Bingjie).

    Alec has two new entries on his blog glacierboy.com (looks like 3 but two are the same). I keep wanting to ask questions. What is the temperature? What is the food like? How do you communicate with everyone? How many climbers? How is everyone getting along? Did you catch up with everyone? What does it feel, smell, sound, taste like?

    Vicarious adventuring indeed.

    Love to Alec and Amanda and all who watch over their journey with love and fascination.

  11. Helena
    April 8, 2009

    Thanks so much for the update, Jill.

    Yeah, I just looked at glacierboy.com. Alec mentioned something about computer problems/issues, so maybe that’s somehow related to no additional entries on this blog. But, Amanda’s blogging on glacierboy. She wrote an entry yesterday, and looked simply mahvelous, dahlink! She seems in very good spirits.

    Yesterday they were at 14,000 + feet. I just now learned that base camp is at a whopping 17,700 ft elevation. Jeez Louise! Somehow I’d imagined it would be much lower than that.

    I read somewhere else that it takes about 8+ days to get to base camp from Lukla, so they should be reaching base camp around next Monday, or so . . .

  12. Dave
    April 11, 2009

    Amy, this is incredible! Dawn and I will pray for safety.

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