Feeling: SO CHILLED (AND NOT SO BECAUSE OF THE SNOW)
You know how I declared I was a little in love with India? Well, I’d been in Kathmandu a mere hour and I was already head-over-heels for Nepal.
The drive to the hotel had me mesmerised. I was enchanted. The colour, the vibrancy; it put India to shame. My driver chuckled at me in the rear view as I ululated at the most seemingly mundane sights. A corner shop declaring itself as the “Brother Sister Store” had me crying out in glee. A fruit stall had me pointing in merriment at its hanging pomegranate, apple and banana arrangements. The colours, the esprit, the vitality; you’d never guess it was a place pulling itself up from the rubbles of ruin.
I didn’t observe a single section of earthquake damage until twenty minutes into the journey, when my guide Ram pointed out the previous-palace-cum-museum midway to Thamel. “The gate was destroyed,” he said sorrowfully, gesticulating to the wrecked wall. “But we’re getting it all back.”
I was so touched; Ram, being well into his fifties, was to be our group guide up to EBC. And he made the effort to come along with my driver to collect me from the airport. He could’ve easily have met me at the hotel, or waited until the meeting at 2pm, but instead he made the trip and greeted me at the airport exit. What an absolute sweetheart.
I asked him how many were to be in our tour. “Five,” he replied. “You and four Australians.” Of course, I thought. Aussies and Kiwis would be the case.
I was deeply saddened. Not by the Australian stats, not at all, but by the dwindled numbers; when I’d booked my spot a mere few months ago, the group had been almost full. There had been a couple of Canadians, a handful of English birds and boys and the ever-present Aussies. So to drop from 16 to below 6 hit my heart.
After checking in – namaste namaste namaste – I went for a wander of the enticing streets. My, what heaven! It was a clean, sweet-smelling India minus the hassling, the havoc and the slight unease. I felt safe and secure roaming on my own, and marvelled in the insanely talented arts and crafts adorning windows and walls. I couldn’t believe the array of trekking gear on display; it was like a North Face nucleous.
I was in turmoil over the treasures. Why oh why had I bought so much in India! The offerings here were of impeccable beauty, such craftsmanship and delicate detail. I just wanted to collect a cornucopia to take home.
After my wandering I had a brief skype with the fam, a brisk nap, then trotted to the courtyard – namaste namaste namaste – to meet with my Aussie accompaniments. I’d had it in my head that the quad were two sets of couples who’d come together, so I was surprised on introductions that it wasn’t so in the slightest.
Josh, from Brisbane. A sparky taking time out for two months to travel. He’d booked EBC on a whim 20 days ago, and had none of the recommended gear in his possession. He looked and reminded me of my best friend Beaver and I was instantly drawn to his quick wit and fun-ness.
Daniel, an expat American from Perth. On a roll from just having completed a South American trek, he was keeping on form and following up with Base Camp.
Then Tegan and Sarah, two friends from Melbourne who were absolutely lovely. Working together at Camp Quality, the pair often engaged in outdoorsy activities together and had booked EBC a week before the earthquake.
Instantly, we all clicked and I could tell the dynamics were going to play out sensationally.
After the meeting with Ram – he’s done Base Camp more than 70 times, imagine! – Daniel, Josh and I went roaming to hire and buy the last of our needed gear. At one shop I purchased a pair of purple waterproof pants and a North Face down jacket for 6000 NPR. Having managed to cojule the lovable shopkeeper down on price, he thanked me for my patronage admitting it was the biggest sale he’d had since before the earthquake. It made me so sad. I don’t think he was at all bullshitting; he stated so after I had my glad rags in my hand and I’d passed over the cash, and he seemed completely genuine.
After the purchasing of SIM cards (so I can post as I go, woohoo!) the five of us Everest Expendables (first Intrepid group since the shake) met for a beer at a bar. We sat for a few hours, laughing and getting pleasantly tipsy on Everest beer.
At about 8pm we all went on our way to pack for our 5am leave to Lukla. I loaded my luggage in a merry mood (not drinking for a fair few weeks had one bevy having me hammered), so I’m hoping on riffling through tomorrow drunk-ish Pop has done me proud.
It’s all about having a can-do altitude.