A journalist observes life in the far north.
NAMCHE BAZAR–One thousand rupees to anyone with a shoe that will fit my foot, I called out as three porters walked by.
By then, I had been walking with one bare foot across a sandy valley south of Lobuche Camp, tucked about 15,000 feet high in the Himalayas of Nepal.
I guess I should explain how it came to be that I was walking with only one shoe.
I dragged myself to Everest Base Camp, which is almost as high as Denali (Mt. McKinley) in Alaska at about 17,000 feet.
From the Lobuche Camp, it takes most people about five or six hours to cross the Khumbu Glacier to Everest Base Camp. It took me eight and a half hours. I had a screaming headache, nausea and with every step it felt like some invisible force was trying to push me back.
My guide, Ang Nuru, carried my backpack the last couple of hours. Alec, my partner and a member of the Himalayan Experience 2009 Expedition, met me just outside of Base Camp. I fell into his arms and stifled tears. Alec had awoken early that morning and ran to Base Camp in time to participate in a blessing of the climb. I left a few hours later.
After I had arrived in Base Camp, the expedition doctor looked me over. I remember my one evening in Base Camp as a blur. I swallowed multiple tablets and had an injection to battle the symptoms of mountain sickness.
After a restless night, I awoke the next day and joined the five trekkers on the journey back to Kathmandu.
The hike from Base Camp back to Lobuche Camp took me about six and a half hours. The terrain over the Khumbu Glacier is pretty rocky and my shoe had begun rubbing against my left ankle, making my skin tender and then causing a bruise.
On the second day of the trek from Base Camp, I noticed the reddish purple mark on my ankle but I thought I could bare it.
But after walking down steep hills for hundreds of feet, I decided I couldn’t take it anymore and I removed my shoe.
It felt good to walk without pain shooting up my leg but soon the guide, Laachu, began directing worried glances at my bare foot.
You will hurt the bottom of your foot, he said.
After we had arrived in the tiny village of Pheriche, Laachu began going from house-to-house to find me another shoe. He was having no luck, so that’s when I decided to start offering the passing porters cash for a shoe.
As soon as I made my offer, three dumped their baskets onto a rock ledge while the man in the middle began ruffling around. He produced a pair of electric blue Crocs.
For a couple of years, I have had a policy against Crocs, similar to my policy against capri pants. I think they’re cheesy, unflattering and too trendy.
But when you’re standing in the middle of the Himalayas of Nepal with only one shoe, fashion standards are easily compromised.
I grabbed the Croc, which was a bit grubby, and tried it on. It fit. The porter threw in the right shoe so I’d have a matching set, I handed him the 1000 rupee note and said dan-ya-bat, which is Nepali for thank you.
I have been wearing the Crocs for two days now with no foot problems to report. I suspect they’ll be my favorite souvenir of the trip.