All is Right with the World…Together Again!
It’s been pretty quiet around here without the rest of the group. I’m not 100% I enjoy the solitude. They really are a special group. I almost with I had been able to keep up with them so I could have gotten to know each of them a bit better. Oh well, what will be will be, right?
I woke up at 8:30am which is really sleeping in around these parts. Danu did knock on my door right at 8:30 with some hot water to drink and he even managed to get some water for a quick wash up. I ordered my breakfast and he said he’d be back to pick me up (nor sure if he thought I was going to get lost or what), but I walked down there myself. I saw him a few minutes later rush through the gathering room in a panic. I think he thought he lost me! I finally caught his eye and I’m pretty sure he gave a sigh of relief.
After breakfast, we set off on another hike. He told me it would be good for my knee—likely story. We walked up a hill, up behind the lodge, and towards the new hospital. Then we came back to the lodge and kept on walking. We walked around the entire airport. It really is a short runway! I can’t believe we’ve landed on that thing and lived to tell about it. During our hike, Danu carried my water bottle for me (such a gentleman). I was also able to get some video of a plane landing and taking off on that miniscule landing strip. My knee was acceptable during most of the walk but afterwards it was pretty sore.
My “exercise” hike with Danu
As we walked, I asked Danu about his family. Come to find out, he is in his mid-thirties (around my age), married, and father to two kids (a 7 year old and a baby). He has two sisters—he’s in the middle. When we got back to the courtyard of the lodge, I showed him some pictures on my phone of my family, dogs, and trips to Mongolia and Africa. He then showed me pictures on his phone from a trek to Mansulu (another trek in Nepal that he works on). When we were done with sharing, he gave me a menu for me to order some lunch. I ordered and he gave me a weird look before asking, “Are you sure?” The food was good so I’m not sure why the look.
I took a short nap after lunch. When the clock hit 2:45, I went downstairs with my journal so I could be there when the group arrived. I wasn’t there for 10 minutes soaking up the sun before I heard the clinging and clanging of the yak bells. It was a welcomed sound (I love the bells except for when I’m on a horse!). Cami showed up and walked right by. Then they came in…the group! It felt right being back with them. I can’t explain it, but the trek was much more fun because of the variety of personalities on it.
Mingma, Amy, and Erik hiking from Monjo to Lukla to join me
The group, of course, was loud but looked pretty beat. The trek was mostly uphill for them and I could tell they were happy to be at the lodge finally. The boys—Yakman, Alain, and Thomas—got some beers for everyone. It was appropriately named Everest. I took a few sips just to say I had some, but I’m not really a beer drinker so the taste was lost on me.
Alain and Yakman toasting with Everest beer.
We did the “Circle” tonight where we got in a circle with all of the Tusker workers. We each had an envelope or two to hand out. Before commencing with the “Tip Handing Ceremony”, Thomas gave a wonderful speech, thanking each member of the Sherpa team. After all, had it not been for the dedication and hard work of each member, none of us would have had the experience we did. Eisha then sang a beautiful rendition of “Lean on Me”. As far as tips, I had Danu—I requested him because he had been such a good babysitter and companion, it was the least I could do.
A Fond Farewell
We made it to the hotel today. But again, it was a long day. We woke up early for the first flight out, but that didn’t mean an early flight! At breakfast, Mingma and our Sherpas offered us katas (my third!). We were allowed to stay at the lodge while we waited for the word that would tell us our plane would soon be arriving in Lukla.
I was quiet this morning. I’ll be honest, I’m not 100% sure how I feel about all of it. Maybe by the time I get back to “reality” or home, I’ll be able to put some of this into words.
Finally the call came and we were ushered across the cobblestone path to the airport. I was called to place my yellow duffel onto the table for Security to search it. Well, it wasn’t really a search. I unzipped the stupid bag so the women officer would have easier access for searching, but she just asked me questions. After a couple of minutes, I was free to zip it back up and the bag was tossed behind them. Next came the security checkpoint I had to get through in order to move onto the “lounge”. This security checkpoint was interesting. I placed my daypack onto the table in front of the man. He asked me one question. I guess I passed the test because I was asked to go through the metal detector. Once I was through, he gave me my bag back. We waited for maybe a half hour to forty-five minutes. We watched a couple of planes land, commenting on the faces getting off them…faces full of excitement for what they would encounter over the next couple of weeks. It was hard to believe that two and a half weeks prior, those faces were ours.
The flight was easy, far less scary than when we were headed to Lukla. Upon landing in Kathmandu, we were quickly returned to our hotel, Shangri-La. I was excited about having an actual hot shower and getting a haircut at the hotel’s salon—I promised mom I’d have it chopped off after this trip and I thought this would be a nice surprise for her. Other members of the team were booking massages and treatments at the spa. We only had a couple of hours before our ride arrived to carry us to the celebration dinner. Before I could do anything, though, I had to go the local clinic to have the knee checked out.
Erik and Mingma were the chosen ones to escort me to the local clinic. It was about a 20 minute walk from the hotel. A British woman sat behind the desk and she seemed a bit scattered brain to me. A few people were waiting to be seen…travelers passing through the city, hikers, and me. As I waited, I tried reading however I was easily distracted by the comings and goings of the place. I saw two men—hikers I’m thinking—leaving with huge bandages wrapped around their hands and toes. I’m assuming some kind of frostbite? Mingma fell asleep, his head nodding down (no snoring). Erik read every magazine they had in the waiting room. Finally, a doctor called me back. The diagnosis? Just a sprained knee. He wanted me to come back in a couple of days, but my flight leaves tomorrow so I convinced him to just give me a letter for the insurance company and that I would go see a doctor once I got home. After waiting at the clinic for over an hour, we were free to go. Once on the main drag, Mingma pointed Erik and I in the right direction to the hotel and said he would see us later that night for dinner.
At the hotel, I immediately jumped in the shower and scrubbed the dirt off me. God, it felt so refreshing to clean up and put on clean clothes that didn’t smell of sweat and grime. Afterwards, I went to the salon. I had eight inches cut off. It felt great! Thomas was also in their having his hair taken care of…he had the women in there cracking up!
Our celebration dinner at Chez Caroline.
Dinner tonight was at a French restaurant. We sat outside at a large rectangular table with two space heaters near us (the temperature was in the 50’s—comfortable after the temps we had just come from). I sat next to Dave (one of the most polite men on the trip) and Ann-Marie. After ordering and having glasses of wine poured, Amy handed out Tusker patches to each of us. I already have the Tusker patches for Kilimanjaro and Mongolia, but now I can have the EBC patch sewn onto my “expedition” jacket…there’s just one more Tusker patch I need to acquire (Bhutan) and it’s a little early to be thinking about the next trip. Then Mingma handed out yak herding hats to the men and beautiful earrings to the ladies. I love my earrings and I will always cherish them. Several toasts were given throughout dinner and soon we were taken back to the hotel for our last night at Shangri-La.
The earrings from Mingma.
Tomorrow, most of us leave (Ann-Marie and Tanya will be staying on in Kathmandu for a few more days). Pops, Yakman, and Eisha will be the first to leave at 10am…I’ll be next at around 3pm. Around 8pm, the rest of the team will depart for the airport. It is Election Day in Nepal tomorrow and that comes with some consequences. No vehicles will be allowed on the roads except for military vehicles and buses shuttling tourists back and forth to the airport. Shops will also be closed.
I don’t want tomorrow to come. I want this feeling of contentment to last forever. I want to stay with most of these people. I will miss this…
Fly Away Home
I left Kathmandu today. No. I really don’t want to talk about it.
This morning, for the last time, we all met downstairs for breakfast. Afterwards, a couple of members went on to the spa while the rest of us hung out downstairs for the first group to be picked up. The van soon pulled up to take Pops, Yakman, and Eisha to the airport. Those of us that remained in the lobby to say goodbye, offered hugs and waved the van away. My heart fluttered as it knew that I would be the next one off.
To kill some time, I walked to the small shop on the hotel grounds. I wanted to pick up some additional gifts for people and the shop offered all sort of wonderful goodies. I purchased a beautiful purse (it maybe costs $20) and some pouches. I walked upstairs, with a lady following me, to view what they had. Along the staircase, an elaborate Thangka painting hung. Thangka is a traditional Nepalese scroll painting. It can take months or years to finish the intricate detail on one. I asked about the price of that particular one but it was way out of my budget so I asked if there was one with a lower price tag. The lady took me to a place upstairs with numerous Thangkas. She took one and showed me, quoting a price of $150US. It was breathtaking…with purples and gold.
The Thangka I purchased in Kathmandu.
I was starting to get hungry but I didn’t want to risk crossing the street to the Vietnamese restaurant and missing my 2pm ride to the airport (Mingma informed me the time had changed) since it was already 12:30pm. I didn’t know when I’d be able to eat again so I turned to the hotel restaurant; Tiffany and Francois joined me. I wasn’t there for twenty minutes (I had already ordered too!) when Mingma showed up telling me my shuttle was already there. It was like a punch in the gut! I hugged Tiffany and Francois goodbye, assuring Tiffany we would stay in touch.
Mingma walked me down the hall to the lobby, where, sure enough, the shuttle waited. Everyone else was across the street eating so no one was able to see me off. It was probably a good thing because I could feel myself getting a little emotional. I hugged Mingma tight and climbed into the van, sitting in the far back, feeling my eyes water. Mingma called Amy (who was at the spa) to let her know I was leaving. She came quickly to say bye. She asked me if I was sad. I wasn’t sad, but I told her that leaving this trip has made me quite emotional, more than I thought it would. I’m never emotional. Sure, I can be sensitive, but I can usually keep my emotions in check. Not over this. Last night, she told me my experience on this trip had been different than others…including Karyn’s experience (I met Karyn in Mongolia and she had been to EBC the year previously). My chest hurt from leaving. Tears were rolling down my cheeks as I thanked her for everything. I kept telling myself to suck it up and stop crying, but like usual, I didn’t listen. The door to the van closed and I gave one last wave, unsure if I would see either again.
And that was that. The end of EBC.