“One who can drive further once the effort gets painful is the one who wins” – Roger Bannister
This is the first in a series of two – the next one (coming in Feb, 2017 – 7 Life Lessons I learnt from hike to Mt. Everest Base Camp) – blog posts, I decided to write about my pilgrimage to the Himalayas in Sept-Oct, 2016.
Wish I had a simple and single reason to why I always wanted to do this hike. I always had a deep, intense, latent desire, an inherent calling within me – which reared itself from childhood – to be up there in raw nature in the midst of the towering personalities and experience life at high altitude where survival with minimal resource is a challenge.
I always believed in the words of this world famous person – “It is not the mountains we conquer, but ourselves” – Sir Edmund Hillary
I wanted to get out and move towards something that fills my soul. I firmly believe and adapt it in my lifestyle, that the most successful people are the ones who keep challenging and improving themselves, not the ones who are constantly trying to keep up with society’s standards and peer pressure.
Mountains has always fascinated me, not just the idea of climbing them but their sheer beauty, grandeur and being surrounded by them. I wanted to experience the unknown, experience the hardships, thrill and challenges and how to overcome them and learn from people who have almost nothing surrounded with majestic, grand and powerful mountains.
I had watched the Everest IMAX movie Everest God knows how many times and read Jamling Norgay’s book – “Touching my Father’s Soul” a few times.
I always wanted to find out my limits – in terms of physical & mental endurance. I have molded my life – in always wanting to stretch myself – want to build a better version of me the next day – I have no competitors but – I just compete with myself day in day out 🙂
To me these experiences are invaluable, it creates for me memories and feelings than no material possession and wealth, can possibly replace or replenish. Life, money, emotions, and people all lie in ephemeral state. What you have today doesn’t equals you to be its proprietor forever. I have started living for today rather than for past or tomorrow.
I also wanted to try out diversified things, especially things which frightens you. Do the thing you fear and fear is powerless – has been my mantra. Doing these things gives enormous strength and boosts my confidence, and my internal and external wellbeing.
Apart from all that – I also had a deep desire to be myself. I have always found the deep power of Nature to heal, Listen to my inner self, I wanted to get away from everything be with myself – wanted to meet the real Sumit – away from noise, distraction, away from the maddening crowd, work, connectivity into the lap of nature and let myself loose and free.
I knew probably would be the most physically and mentally challenging thing I could do. At this stage of my life, I thought perhaps the time was right where I was still strong physically and mentally to surmount the problems encountered in such a trip.
Perfect time may never come – so decided to do it. Above all I have always loved to do hard things – easy things are boring for me – it is only when I get to do hard things that I get excited. I have also built myself mentally to accept failures as a part of growing up and never give up because I have failed.
On 14th Oct,2016 at Tribuvan (The three worlds) airport (Kathmandu) – I resisted boarding the aircraft till the final announcement came – my mind refusing to leave the place, I had fallen in love over the last 2 weeks. Despairingly, for the last time I said to myself “JaaneHo” with my eyes swimming in tears, with a heavy but a happy heart – I left the airport building – touched Mother Earth & bid adieu to the land of Himalayas – where I got lost and found my inner self and dawned upon a realization – that I had grown up more in the last 14 days than I had grown in my whole lifetime.
What took us 42 Miles of 1 way hiking to get to 18.2K feet at Mt. Everest Base Camp, within minutes the aircraft was cruising above that altitude and I slowly drifted into reflecting how it all started for me.
2 words will always echo in my mind forever – “JaaneHo” (have to go now), “ThikThak” (everything is well). These were the words the Sherpas, used to tell us before we started or continued on the hike – at the beginning of the day or when in between breaks.
(Our team,Lauren,AnnaBelle,Jae, John,Belle,Nathan, Julie,Isa,Trupten & Sumit)
Day 0 – Arrival in Kathmandu (4K Ft) from Boston (25th Sept and 26th Sept, 2016)
I arrived in Kathmandu on 25th Sept, morning and accommodations were made for us by REI at Hotel Marshayangdi in Thamel. All 9 hikers arrived on different days and during the next 1.5 days we kept running into each other in the hotel lobby/restaurant, getting friendly and knowing each other. On our arrival at the hotel – we were given packets from the REI team which contained the maps of the hike and medical instructions & schedule for the next 14 days.
I spent the next 1.5 days in the hotel, trying to get rest from the 22 Hr flight from Boston and prepare for tough days ahead.
Evening of 26th Sept, 2016 – all 9 excited souls (6 ladies and 3 men), assembled to meet, greet and get to know our Sherpa team leader – Sherpa Trupten (former monk at Tengboche Monastry) and get the necessary instructions. We went over details especially for the first 2-3 days, do’s and don’ts. Shower and consumption of alcohol was prohibited for our own wellbeing.
Tremendous excitement & unbounded joy of venturing into the unknown kept me awake the night of 26th Sept, 2016, knowing this was the last comfortable place I would be sleeping for the next 2 weeks. Little did I realize, this would be one of the next series of nights where sleep would be difficult to come.
Day 1 – Kathmandu (4KFt) — Flight- Lukla(9.1KFt)–Hike–>Phadking(8kFt)
27th Sept, 2016 – the day, I seemed to be waiting forever, finally arrived, and after light breakfast at the hotel and weighing our backpacks and duffle bags, the team headed for Kathmandu airport early morning 6.00 am to board the most exciting flight of our lifetime – to Lukla – an airport with a small runway one end of which runs into a mountain wall and the other end is the valley and classified as the most dangerous airport in the world, in good weather – where the pilot has just 1 chance to land.
After checking in a bus took us close to the tarmac where we waited for 30-45 min amidst screeching sounds of lots of small 12 seater planes which would take us to Lukla.
Lukla is the place from where all hikes to mountains east of Nepal start.
As soon as the plane was airborne – seated right next to the propellers, through the little windows we immediately were transformed into a different world altogether. On the horizon we saw, snow covered peaks lined up for display. Immediately close by – we were travelling through deep gorges and valleys, in between mountains with lots of greenery and winding rivers.
It was a 22 min ride – but every min worth it – the experience, excitement, awe and the views. Cramped and seated inside the small 12 seater plane we could see the 2 pilots and the windscreen, and when the plane finally landed we could see the, runway through the windscreen and hear the huge thudding noise of the wheels touching the land and the screeching brakes started to kick in to stop the plane just inches before the looming mountain ahead. Uh! What a ride it was.
We were met at Lukla Airport by about 10 Sherpas who would be part of our team and who carried our duffle bags to a nearby lodge. From the airport we walked to the grounds of the Lodge alongside the landing strip, and like little kids watched planes take off and land during a 15-20 min walk to the lodge grounds. The idea was we would be repacking our backpacks & duffle bags before the hike. On arrival at the lodge ground we were met with more Sherpas who had prepared tea & light snacks for us to warm up, get ready for the hike.
It was here we learnt the phrase – “JaaneHo” (Ready to go) & “ThikThak” (all well and good). We were told by the Sherpas – we would be saying these words every time we started the hike from now on. We started about 10.30 am and were all energized, fresh looking souls eager to embark on the hike. Luckily, the 1st day’s hike was all downhill to reach Phadking. It would be a 5 Hour hike to Phadking from Lukla.
We started the hike going back through the same trail we came from the airport, crossed the airport went through the small town of Lukla. Everything we saw and smelled seemed so nice, fresh, novel and exciting. We had not even started the actual hike and the camera clicks had started in full frenzy.
Here the trails were well laid out paths but wet due to rain and fog were muddy and filled with Zopkyo poop. We hiked through, rolling hills up and down and winding paths crossing small streams and during the last 1.5 hours walked along the Dudh Koshi, river with its fast flowing rapids and the sounds of the gushing water floating all around, crossing it multiple times over swaying suspension bridges.
We had a break for lunch for 45 min where our Kitchen boys cooked delicious sandwiches and vegetables for us.
On arriving in Phadking, Our tents were set beside the gusty free flowing ice cold – Dudh Koshi river with high peaked mountains all around. Uh! What a place it was – I was just too excited.
This was going to be our first night out under the open sky, surrounded by mountains all around, a small flat patch of land. We had an early dinner and after that were introduced to the Sherpa team along with porters and kitchen boys. I was excited and exuberant before going to sleep, forgetting the slight pain in my legs of walking around 5 miles of downhill from Lukla.
As I lay on the thin little mattress inside my tent – I reflected the day, where I had woken up that morning in my half asleep state in the hotel in Kathmandu, the memorable experience of the flight to Lukla and the 1st, 5 mile of adventurous hike to Phadking.
The tent was small and cramped with just enough space for me and my duffle bag and a vestibule area to keep my shoes.
Going through the activities of each day would really make this a long blog. I will just highlight the details of each day as we went through the next 14 days of hike through, dense forests, rocky climbs, bridges and waterfalls.
There were 2 most difficult parts of the hike, we had to endure every day. Mornings when the body is not warmed up enough to start on the hike after the breakfast and then starting on the hikes immediately after lunch.
Most of the hikes except the first day started at 8.00 am – we were all awake by 6.00 am and used to laze around outside the tents drinking hot water/tea gazing at the mountains and the beauty all around and the activities of the villagers around. Most of the days the hikes were over by 3.00-3.30 pm, after which, we used to rest in the tents and then used to get up for tea/coffee around 4.00 pm, from then till about 6.30pm when we had dinner we used to huddle by camp fire in the dinner tents and used to play cards or just and hear and tell stories of each of our experiences.
Out of the 14 days we spend about 5 days in the tea houses and rustic lodges and the rest in the tents. We encountered heavy downpours during nights on some of the days in the tents.
The weather was the most unpredictable part of the hike and this made dressing up for the hike equally difficult. It could be sunny and warm one moment and within 10-15 min wind could drive in a lot of clouds and it could become dark and foggy and misty, with rain and winds hiking could become easily very difficult in reduced visibility along with the cold.
The cold made life difficult – where we were all visibly tired from steep hike and wanted to rest and get some breath but the cold winds would make one even colder if we rested too long.
There were also times during the hike – where I felt I was so drained out of energy that I needed to eat something immediately otherwise I would have to stop and rest.
Mornings were the most beautiful time of the day – most of the days the morning sky was clear, and the visibility was great.
Day 2 – Phadking (8kFt)—–Hike—–>NaamcheBazaar(11.2KFt)
Uh! What a day it was going to be I had no idea – when I woke up – the 1st night under the starry sky and beside the fast flowing Dudh Koshi river. Today was going to be a difficult hike for us steep climbs – we have been forewarned. Even experienced Sherpas dread this hike from Phadking to NaamcheBaazar.
Initial 2-3 hours were manageable but the most difficult part started after lunch – from Monjo – it was all just relentless climb for next 4.5-5 hours through beautiful terrain and valleys and suspended bridges. What made the climbs even more difficult was the wet trails which one had to be careful of and pools of water from overnight rain made the climbs slippery.
At some places along this climb, I vividly remember – hold on to the twigs and branches of the trees while we had to rest for breath and water and our cereal bars to prevent myself from sliding down.
But, once we arrived in Naamche Bazaar, I had forgotten the tiredness of the long long hike – what a nice town this was – beautiful terraced farms, kids playing football/soccer with an old dilapidated ball on 1-2 patches of flat land and some kids flying kites. I stopped and could not move – what a sight it was – for a few minutes, I vividly remember, I lost myself amongst the kids – yearning to go back to my childhood days.
The plan was to stay in a lodge for the next 2 days and I was not too happy because I wanted to stay in the tent, when we checked in to the creaky, moist, damp, cold, low lit rooms – I realized how much I missed my tent.
Day 3 – NaamcheBazaar(11.2KFt)—–Hike—–>Everest View Hotel and Back
To acclimatize to the higher altitude – the plan for the next day, was to hike to 13K feet to Everest View Hotel and come back down for a 5Hr hike. We left early around 8.00 am after a healthy breakfast. Hiking up during the day and coming back to lower altitude is a typically what most hikers do at this altitude to allow the body to get adjusted to the altitude and low oxygen level.
This was an uneventful day as we hiked slowly but steadily through the beautiful valleys and terrain. All hikes around NaamcheBazaar were very steep and one needed to stop every 20-30 min for a break. Hiking on the beautiful slopes of this beautiful city we could see the far out snow peak mountains and the closer mountains with steep gradients and a lots of waterfalls.
On the hike we were also pointed to at the trails we would be taking the next day to go to Phortse at 14K feet. At the Everest View hotel – though we could not see Mt. Everest due to cloud covering, but we got good views of other nearby peaks and some other distant mountains.
The descent back to NaamcheBazaar was more romantic and edgy – where we took a different route a very steep descent through graveled stairs. All through the descent – we never lost sight of the village NaamcheBaazar way down below.
After about 2 hours of steep descent we finally arrived into NaamcheBazaar again, quite tired around 2.00 pm for lunch. After some rest we went exploring the town of NaamcheBazaar and also went to Sherpa Trupten’s house – where he showed his remarkable paintings and the gold medal awarded to his father by President J.F.Kennedy – for saving an American citizen during a hike to Mt. Everest.
This was also Anna Belle’s birthday and our cooks prepared a sumptuous dinner for us followed by a heartwarming cake.
Day 4 – NaamcheBazaar(11.2KFt)—–Hike—–>Phortse(13KFt)
Phortse was our destination for today – another 5-6 hour hike from NaamcheBazaar. Phortse was the land of the Sherpas – this is a sleepy village with about 20 families or so nestled amongst the mountains where almost every house is proud to have a Sherpa who has climbed Mt. Everest.
This was the day we crossed through Sir Tenzing Norgay Memorial on the trail. This was the first day where we hiked in quite a downpour for about 30 min or so. This was 2nd of Oct, 2016 and over lunch I talked to our team about that day being Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday. We had lunch at this beautiful place, where I and John played with some of the boys of the village. I also gave away some candies to the beautiful looking, innocent but happy children.
The last 1 hr part of the hike was extremely steep and overwhelming – since it was the end of the day and we were approaching our energy limits. A little outside the village we saw piles of harvested potatoes and women busy digging deep holes, which we were told was a way of preserving the potatoes during winter. We stopped and watched for a while and I felt a deep desire to go and help these ladies.
After 2 days in the lodge in NaamcheBazaar, we were going to be back in the tents and I was excited. However, when we arrived at the tent sites, we were amazed to see that the tents were pitched in a patch of land which had an incline 🙂 Uh! That was even more exciting, since there was no flat place to pitch the tents in this village.
This was one of the best Starry Nights I had ever seen in my life. Up there in the mountains at an altitude of 12k+ ft., in clear weather, no light pollution, I probably had the best view of the Milky Way. When I saw the stars and the bands of light in our Galaxy, for a few minutes probably, I forgot the cold outside, where I was and who I was, I was lost into oblivion. I have never seen so many stars at 1 time in my life and was frozen in sheer beauty, ecstasy, amazement and grandeur of the small part of the universe I was able to see.
I remember getting up at night a couple of times to go to the bathroom – this was an adventure always when we slept in tents. I liked going to nature for nature calls but in the middle of the night, with just a flash light in hand, on uneven ground on an incline and searching for the right spot to do my nature call was really adventurous.
On the dinner table – we heard heroic but hair raising stories of 2 Sherpas from this village who climbed Mt. Everest. One of them holds a world record of climbing up to Mt. Everest peak(29K Ft) in 10.5 hours from Base Camp (18.2K Ft). For experience hikers it takes around 6-7.5 hours to just cross Khumbu Icefall with ladders leave alone going to the Summit in 10.5 hours. Another Sherpa who climbed up to Mt. Everest, stayed at the Summit for 21 Hours – unbelievable (why we may never know), but after he came down, he died within 2-3 weeks. Something probably happened to his respiratory system while he stayed up there for that long a time.
Day 5 – Phortse(13K)—–Hike—–>Pangboche(15.5K)
Floating sounds of bells woke me up, and I got out of the tent and saw lot of fog around me. I went out of tent and started staring out on a side where I could see a patch of blue sky, and stood there for a good 1Hr or so – just watching the peaks in the distance and the daily rituals and routines of the villagers. At a little distance I could see horses roaming and some yaks lazily chewing on the shrubs.
The hike as usual started at 8.00 am after we had a hearty breakfast. This hike was going to be exciting since we had a good climb ahead and also we would be encountering more Yaks from now on – since we were beyond 14K altitude. Yaks tend to stay above 14K altitude because they like the grass at that altitude and seems they do not like the grass below 14K altitude.
Today was going to be a short day around 5 Hr hike to Pangboche. We arrived in Pangboche around 1.30 pm, to a very small village perched up somewhere on a mountain side.
Today we got a better patch of land to pitch our tents. From this patch of land – we could see the peaks/sides of the famous mountains called Nuptse and Lhotse. These 2 mountains could be seen always from now till we reach the Base Camp. Mt. Everest stood in between these 2 mountains but was still hidden in the clouds.
What beautiful Starry Nights again – I was simply mesmerized by the sheer number of stars I could see again this night. These 2 nights provided me with a view of the sky as I have never seen in my life and probably I will never see again. Up here high above in desolation and loneliness – I looked up at the amazing star lit sky and lost myself in the Milky Way and realized how miniscule we all are. There is so much grandeur and mystery out there – why do we fight amongst each on trivials like race, color and nation and petty things.
If we could all – Not care about who created the earth but care more about the planet itself – I thought.
Day 6 – Pangboche—–Hike—–>Dingboche
This was again a routine hike – which took us through the last set of tree line over quite a lot of rocky climbs and trails. We stopped at a Monastry to check it out but unfortunately it was closed and we had to keep moving ahead.
We were planned to stay at Dingboche for 2 nights. From now on during the evenings we all got addicted to playing card games. Our Camping site was overshadowed by the spectacularly elegant and beautiful snow covered Mt. Dabalam just beside us.
Day 7 – Dingboche Hike
This was the 2nd time, we did a day hike to higher elevation and come back down – to acclimatize to the altitude. This was a short day of about 4.5 hr, of hike to a nearby mountain with steep climbs and steep descents.
By this time most of us were losing our appetite due to the altitude. During the day hikes we did see lots of choppers flying in an out through the valley.
Day 8 – Dingboche —–Hike—–>Lobuche
After 2 days in Dingboche and getting accustomed to 15K elevation – it was time to move on. This is when the hike got really interesting. This day we went through Thukla Pass – at 16.5K feet where we saw memorials of the great legendary hikers who had perished on their climbs to Mt. Everest. Just before Thukla pass I remember distinctly, we had to cross a stream over a single plank bridge. I will remember this place because it was here on the way back, one of my hiking sticks fell down close to the stream and Sherpa Trupten kindly got it back for me 🙂
The climb to Thukla pass was quite a treacherous and dangerous one and drained us all. At the top of Thukla Pass we all had to rest for a while and had packed lunch.
After Thokla Pass – the landscape changed dramatically with no trees and shrubs and the terrain got distinctly rough, rocky and barren, as we started hiking atop the receding Khumbu glacier. Most of the hike was over the moraines left behind by the receding glacier.
We arrived at Loubuche at around 3.30 pm and what an amazing place it was – completely overshadowed with the mighty Lhotse overlooking us. It seemed as if we could touch Lhotse.
I was doubly excited this evening since we would be reaching Base Camp next day. This was also the night – where I could not sleep a wink. This was when I started getting Altitude sickness and how I dreaded it. I remember this torturous night where I was not tossing side to side to get sleep but just lying all awake staring at the low ceiling of the rustic lodge and waiting to fall asleep all night, but it never came.
Day 9 – Lobuche –Hike–>Gorakshep–> Everest Base Camp –> Gorakshep
Today was John’s birthday and what a day it was for him – he would be on Everest Base Camp today – Did he plan it so meticulously. This was going to be a tough day – 3 Hours to Gorakshep and then 3 hours to Base Camp from there and another 3 hours to be back to Gorakshep. There is no place to rest/camp for the night in between Gorakshep and Base Camp.
This morning with no sleep last night, I was little silent – just hoping to preserve some energy for the long hike of 9Hrs ahead. Unable to sleep, I was already tired and jaded, but I was super excited to be at Basecamp later in the day. This was one of the most difficult yet the most scenic most breathtaking hike I had ever done.
We were hiking on Khumbu glacier all along, over rubbles, loose rocks and stones and one had to be extremely careful at each step, and during the hike, I realized I was looking down at the trails more than looking up at the beautiful scenery around. The difficult hike with uneven rocky, rumbling trail really made me forget my tiredness and lack of sleep.
One could notice the happening in this landscape carved out by landslides, avalanches, glacial lakes and disappearing, rivers carving away land masses, caves and crevasse. Most of the hike we spent marveling at the spectacular scenery which left us speechless and depleted of superlatives.
After 3 hours of treacherous hike, we arrived at Gorakshep at 17K ft. at just around 11.30 am. When we arrived at Gorakshep, we saw couple of choppers and someone told our group a boy had fallen on the rocks and had broken limbs and was being air lifted.
Gorakshep was a beautiful little village with a population of about 20-30 people and more hikers than it can probably support. There were 2 rustic lodges and the view from these lodges was just amazing. We could see Lhotse, Nuptse and parts of Mt. Everest from here and peak of Kala Pathar and another holy mountain in Tibet from here. I felt I was ready to stay here longer given a chance. Just the very sight of these mighty grandeur mountains around me raised my spirits and I, had forgotten about last night with no sleep.
We had another 3 + 3 Hr of back and forth of hike to Base Camp. Luckily my spirits had lifted after I arrived in Gorakshep. We had a quick lunch, and set out for our final destination – Everest Base Camp – “Jaane Ho” – 2.5 to 3Hrs depending on how quickly we could hike up to 18.2 Ft.
All through the hike we could see the looming Khumbu Glacier and Khumbu Icefall at the feet of Mt Everest. I had been yearning to see Khumbu Icefall, ever since I saw the IMAX movie Everest. The very word Khumbu Icefall raises my spirits and excitement and makes me shiver too – while hiking I was recalling, some of the scenes from the IMAX Everest movies about Khumbu Glacier. The most dangerous part of the climb to the summit of Mt. Everest is to cross the deep gorges and chasms hidden in Khumbu Glacier.
The trails was similar to the one we did from Louche but grew steadily more steep and rocky and soon became a ridge. Within an hour of hiking we, could see at a distance Everest Base Camp. We could see some hikers from another team who had already reached there looking like dots in the distance against the backdrop of massive Khumbu Icefall and the majestic Mt. Everest in the backdrop.
Finally after 3 hours of almost non-stop hiking from Gorakshep – we reached Base Camp. Once there – I literally was crying in joy, ecstasy and exuberance though I was visibly tired and jaded. Everest Base Camp is a hostile place to say the least. Rumbling noises of Ice shelfs breaking off, constant noise of the Khumbu Icefall moving, blowing gusty winds and hardly a solid piece of flat rock where we could stand stable. Only signs of life other than a dozen or 2 human souls here were the black ravens flying around.
We spend about 1.5 hours at the base camp – taking pictures and just letting the feeling sink in to be there.
What a great day and great moment it was for all of us. Sherpa Trupten told us that this was the first group he had led which had no casualties on the way to this point – since in all of his previous excursions someone or the other had to drop out mid-way because of some problems.
I will not write too much about the trip back down from Gorakshep to NaamcheBaazar, except the brief diversion we made from Debuche to go to Tengboche monastery on the way down to NaamcheBaazar. This was where Sherpa Trupten was formerly a monk and had to leave the monastery for personal reasons. This was the first time, I had been into a monastery. It was so calm, peaceful, mystical and awesome inside. One had a different feeling altogether once inside as if we had walked into a different planet.
Day 12 – Naamche Bazaar (11.2K Ft) to Phadking (8K Ft)
On the way down from NaamcheBazaar to Phadking – which was one of the most difficult climbs (our 2nd day of hike)- we ran into lot of hikers – huffing and puffing their way up – and I am sure at every step on the way down – we were thinking – “Uh did we climb this”
At one place – for one last time we saw a clear view of the Grandest of all Mountains – Mt. Everest for one last time.
That day was also Anabelle’s 26th birthday.
I was probably the least fit member of the team and also the slowest – I was slow not due to fitness but just that, I wanted to go a little slower and enjoy the surroundings and stop more for the views. It was just my style. I was the last walking member of our team and Sherpa Trupten and Sherpa Badri always used to accompany me at the end. I was about 5-10 min behind everyone almost all through the last 12-14 days.
Day 13 – Phadking(8K Ft) to Lukla (9.1K ft)
Uh! What a day it was – during the last 10-12 days – the thought that I will never see a snake here had crossed my mind once. I have always had close encounters with snakes in my life and only time I have been violent in my life was I had to kill (against my wishes) when one of them entered my house.
But, lo – this was not to happen – as almost 1Hr before we reached Lukla, I saw a snake slither just in front of me and Trupten and go down the side of the mountain. Trupten told me that this bode good luck for me.
Phadking to Lukla was a hike up since we had to go to 9.1K ft. from around 8K ft. over long winding trails. During the hike we went through the same route on which we had come and all the memories on the way out came flashing back.
We stopped in a lot of places for rest, and water the last views and pictures. Deep inside for a couple of moments – I felt and wishes this hike never ended.
Day 14 – Lukla(9.1K Ft) to Kathmandu (4K Ft)
This was the day I felt deep pangs of pain, desolation and separation. The night before was the coziest one, I had spent on the trip over the last 13 days though it was another, where I could not sleep well – sad to leave this wonderful place, the people who helped us so much, maybe I will never see them again.
With swollen eyes and heavy heart we started our walk back to Lukla Airport – probably the only airport on the planet where one walks to get in / out of the airport.
Lodge owners had prepared a great breakfast we were all eating but hardly anyone was talking. May be deep inside we were feeling the pain of leaving these people who had taken care of us so well – who took us to that Altitude and back safely with hearts of pure gold.
I have been an emotionally very weak person, and like everyone else at the Lukla airport – I was choking up feeling deep inside me a pain to leave this magnificent place. I do not have enough words to describe this feeling.
I had one more surprise waiting for me – once I entered the airport boarding area – I sat down and the famous words which I had always believed in was staring at my face
“It is not the mountains we conquer, but ourselves” – Sir Edmund Hillary
On the way back when we landed in Kathmandu – seemed like we were on a different planet. Realized for 2 weeks we had not seen any vehicle or a building or street lights 🙂
While up on the mountains the following three thoughts occurred to me multiple times at different places.
- What a Day, What a Place, What a bunch of people around me – do I need anything else ?
- There was a day during the hike – when I felt so much at peace and at Ease that I felt I should die now
- There was also a day – it was in the evening when walking along the trail I saw women, kids working in the fields – they had harvested lots of Potatoes and they were digging a 8-10 Ft hole to store the Potatoes for winter and they seemed so busy – but so happy, at peace and so engrossed in their work – at that very moment the thought of coming here again may be when I am a little older and setting down here in this land where life is so hard came to me.
There is probably only one force of nature which can move these grand mountains – the most powerful force on the face of the planet – an earthquake. Two of the Sherpas in our trip had experienced the massive earthquake that rocked this place in April 2015 while they were close to Everest Base Camp. One evening they told us the story of how they had rescued a person who was engulfed with rocks and debris just immediately after the quake happened. They also said that they would forever remember what they saw during the few seconds of the massive earthquake, the very sight of mountains moving like a slithering snake.
Over our entire hike – we saw signs of the devastation the powerful force of nature had wreathed on this beautiful land.
I recall how there were so many places along the hike – where I felt I just need to stay here longer and more time, I felt a pang of desire – this is so beautiful, calm, serene, do I need to go any further. I felt time had stopped and I was just frozen there not due to cold but the landscape, the place, the scenery and simplicity of the place.
At the end of my journey I bowed down to the Yaks & Zopkiyo’s – expressed my deepest gratitude and thanks to them – hopefully they understood me – they carried our luggage and food which fed us when we was hungry.
I have never fought harder to hold back tears than I did on those few days nestled the Mountains – the abode of the Gods – and even today – 2.5 months later – as I write this, my eyes are drenched in tears. Having done it once, I can do this again and again, however, there is the deep romance in doing it the first time and the memories of this first time hike will remain with me forever for the rest of my life.
Little did I know that the names of the Sherpa – Trupten, Sabin, Badri, Rinsing will forever echo in my mind for the rest of the my life and the awesome Sherpa cooks who accompanied us – Madhu and Micheal.
This was the place I would give anything to be back. I found my inner calling – I have to come back here, may be in the Vanaprastha phase of my life (where according to Sanatana-Dharma during the last quarter of one’s life, one heads to the forest to spend the rest of the life and prepare for the next life).
To have shared the grand moments and breathtaking experience on this trip with those who, 2 weeks ago were total strangers is a remarkable achievement. Everyone who helped us make this a success were wonderfully warm, happy, friendly, smiling and happy people of the Himalayas, I thank them from the bottom of my heart. I felt a deep connection to the people of this region – something I have never felt anywhere anytime and I would love to spend the last part of my life here nestled amongst the mountains with these happy people.
This was probably the easiest part for me. I have been running outside for the last 7 years about 1.5 miles every day even in deep Boston winter (unless there is snow on the ground).
I have been an intense level badminton player playing regularly 2 times a day for the last 17 years. All this has built and shaped my, leg muscles and built enough endurance both physically and mentally. In fact one of the prime reasons I do run outside even in deep winter is to kick out any laziness in me and make myself mentally strong.
3 months before the hike – I started pushing myself more. I started going to the gym and doing Stairmaster and running on the treadmill (on an incline of 15%) more intensely. A month before my trip, I increased the intensity trained 2.5 miles of Stairmaster every day 4-5 days a week followed by 2.0 miles of running on treadmill with a backpack of 10-12 lbs.
I went to train more so on the days, when I felt I was in pain and needed to relax, very well realizing that on the actual hike, I will be going through 6+ Hr hike days for 15 days in a row.
It was easy to give up, find an excuse, procrastinate and escape the pain and regimen of going to the training. That is when my inner self and inner voice woke up and I pushed myself harder to go for the training.
After nearly 3 months of intense training – I was ready and raring to go. I had no fear or anxiety about the trip – I was all excited looking forward to venture out. There was however 1 thing that I had not trained for and there probably is no training for it – it was training for the altitude – just go out there and face it.