A journalist observes life in the far north.
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.