December 10: we continued to descend further into the Khumbu Valley before beginning a long ascent to Lukla, where we launched on this incredible journey! The clouds continued to build all day and the humidity climbed....I know because John's hair gets curlier as the humidity rises!
We were cold and tired upon our arrival into Lukla. Our anticipation for a hot shower was about to materialize......so we thought. The shower was warm but far from hot! I was way more cold after my shower than before my shower but nothing a hot milk coffee couldn't fix. We stayed at a lodge right next to the airport and the takeoff/landing strip. It's pretty wild to see just how slanted the runway is to assist the take off and landing of planes! This is considered the world's most dangerous airport!
Dec. 11: We had to get up early and look out the window to see if we could see the other side of the valley. Yesterday none of the flights left Lukla because it was too cloudy so there were a bunch of people stuck in a Lukla from yesterday and more trekkers that hiked in yesterday that needed to fly to Kathmandu. Luckily we woke up to clear skies so we were at the dining room by 6 o'clock ready to eat breakfast and walk over to the airport. I have this thing for small planes. I just can't help but watch them take off and land. I just love them! So after we checked in for our flight (mass chaos) I stood outside in the freezing cold watching planes come in, turn around on the tarmac to park, people from Kathmandu get off, then people get on for their flight. I was happy as a clam but a cold clam! I was lucky to get a front row seat in our plane where I could see out my side window with no obstruction from the engine and look forward through the windows in the cockpit (Seriously I felt like a kid who just got her own cotton candy at the fair and I'm sure I still have smile creases in my face from smiling so hard!)
Because our plane was the last to land there was no room in the regular parking spots for planes so our plane parked at the very beginning of the runway which meant we were going to be the first to take off! My body was filled with pure excitement as we boarded the plane and I was so ready to do this take off! It kind of reminded me how I felt for my first float plane take off in Alaska last summer! Again.......I kind of have a thing for planes! Before you take off the pilots rev the engine as high as it goes with the brakes on. They have to get the plane to full power before it starts going forward because the runway is so short. They have to get hundred percent power pushing that plane forward to get maximum speed by the end of the runway so that you can lift off! We had two pilots flying the plane and I watched them them like a hawk switching switches on and off, pulling levers and turning dials. Did I mention that the copilot was a female? That was the first female pilot I've seen since we've been in Nepal and it reminded me of my good friend Tina. While they were revving up the engines at the beginning of the runway the excitement poured out of me like Old Faithful! I felt like a little kid getting ready to go for her first roller coaster ride! The plane kept shaking and rattling and was super loud......I wasn't sure if I should be a little nervous or not? I guess I just felt like I needed to trust the situation. Soon the pilots took the break off and the plane started to move forward. There's a little bit of time where the plane goes on a flat surface and then soon the plane dips down the slanted runway giving you the feeling that there's no turning back, it's all or nothing! The plane accelerated down the slanted runway and I could see the end of the runway coming as I looked through my iPhone which was pointed out the cockpit Windows and before i knew it we were lifting off! That feeling of flying in the air and looking around at all the Himalayan mountains! At that moment I was still excited but I was already starting to miss the Khumbu Valley. I truly love the mountains and being on a trail hearing nothing but organic material crunching underneath my boots and everything I need to survive on my back. There's nothing like the feeling of not knowing what's around the next corner or bend in the trail and being able to choose when and where you want to stop to sleep. I love that ........which is why I spend so much time in the woods in Colorado. However Nepal is different. It's the people of Nepal. I've traveled to South America a few times and you just don't feel as safe as you do in Nepal. The Nepali people are incredibly hard-working and kind people that only want the best for everyone. They care about others. They live a hard life, according to Western standards, but do it with so much grace and enthusiasm! I can't tell you how many times I just wish I could bring our local students to Nepal or to countries like Nepal so that they can experience a different culture and appreciate the opportunities that we have here in the United States. I'm not saying our country is perfect but I can say that I was lucky to be born in the United States.
We landed in Kathmandu and were welcomed with open arms by Tashi and Lakpa Sherpa and their family! Just a reminder, Tashi and Lakpa come to Winter Park, CO every summer for three months to sell jewelry. We met Tashi along the trail at her lodge a few weeks ago and both Tashi and Lakpa are now in Kathmandu for the winter since the trekking season is almost over. Nepal follows the Chinese calendar which means some years are called "black years" making it so people cannot get married during those years. 2016 is going to be a black year, so right now there have been many wedding ceremonies including a wedding ceremony in Tashi and Lakpa's family. So we were greeted by many family members into their home and of course we were invited to stay with them! I can't tell you how gracious Tashi and Lakpa have been to us! After the standard tradition of enjoying milk tea together were off to explore Kathmandu with our own private tour guides (Tashi and her cousins)!
The crew! Tashi is next to John. Entrance to a monastery.
We headed to the Boudha Stupa to see and experience that area! Unfortunately due to the earthquake they were still rebuilding the very top of the stupa that tumbled down during the earthquake. We were surrounded by spiritual practice with many local people walking around the stupa in a clockwise direction and turning the prayer wheels. Today was a very special day because it was between the moons which means Buddhists do not eat meat or drink alcohol for this day. Many people converge at the stupa lighting butter lamps to cleanse their souls or the souls of other people.
My time in Kathmandu always takes quite a bit of adjustment for me. I'm so used to being outside in the woods where it's relatively quiet. The chaos in Kathmandu is like New York on steroids! New York is big and crazy but there is far more order in New York than Kathmandu. I just don't know how to explain the organized chaos here in Nepal! There really aren't any traffic lights or signals to control the movement of traffic and people just kind of drive wherever they want but they make it work! I feel like Nepali drivers are very skilled and have eyes in front and in the back of their heads knowing what's going on at any given moment.
It was very special for us to spend this day with Tashi and her family because we got to see the inside life of a Nepali citizen. We capped off the evening with a wonderful dinner with Lakpa and Tashi's family, then John and I headed to bed around 9 o'clock. 9 o'clock was actually a late night for us because we've been exhausted and going to bed at 8 PM most nights when we were in the Khumbu Valley (for many reasons). First by 8 o'clock is when the woodstove usually dies down and it's too cold to hang out in the dining area and secondly we've just been so exhausted from so much hiking that the only thing we could do is let our bodies rest. We both went to bed this evening with full bellies of yummy Nepali food and warm feelings from our time with Tashi and her family. No tourist could pay money to get the inside experience we got with Tashi and her family. Thank you Tashi and Lakpa!