Off we set.
The Lukla lanes were like Diagon Alley. Little stores tucked here and there with sunny shopkeepers “namaste”-ing each and every person as they passed. It reminded me a little of a Christmas Village from a children’s movie, all cheer and joy.
For the first day we only had a tiny trek of three hours. A mere dent in the journey! We were joined by the assistant guide Sanjay, a 22-year-old slip of a thing who’d been doing the job since he was 15.
It was amazing. At a peaceful pace, we all gazed in awe at the surroundings. Being from New Zealand I’m used to incredible beauty in scenery, but even I was open-mouthed at the flowing milky white rivers, the flourishing flora and the stonework walls and cottages. It was a storybook.
At one break point I was standing looking at a section of stones. I was thinking how it looked like a little rock garden, when Ram came and stood by me. “That was a tea house,” he said sorrowfully.
I felt like an absolute idiot. The rocks were rubble. All the stacks scattered around? They were the aftermath of ruined homes and businesses from the earthquake.
I asked Ram if he was happy to be back; he hadn’t returned to the region since before the devastation. He smiled sadly and said, “Yes I am, but it’s hard.” It broke my heart.
Our group walked together, alone, in a pack, in twosomes; as the time went on we just merged and mulled. I spent some time with Josh laughing and making poo puns (poor sod had food poisoning, so shitty. But once we started we were on a roll and couldn’t put a plug in it). Then I clambered the climb with Sarah, and recognised her as a kindred spirit.
I won’t go exactly into our converstaion track, but one part of our musings really struck me. We talked about marriage, having kids and settling down and whether that was what we wanted for ourselves. And she made a very interesting observation.
She said how wasn’t it funny; of the three of us females on this trip, the full trio may all be unable to have kids due to natural reasons. She was 36 and was yet to meet a man she wanted to spend her life with, and was starting to accept that a family may not be the way her life panned out. I’d said how I might not be able to have children because of health reasons (I didn’t go into specifics; not that open). And Tegan is united in a civil partnership with her “wife” (Australia has not – yet – legalised same-sex marriage), so having children wouldn’t be a natural for them. Three distinctly different reasons; age, health and sexuality.
It amazed me. I can’t explain exactly why, but it was such an interesting aspect we all shared.
Sarah has become my Nepal Eva. I just feel this innate kinship with her, like a true soulmate.
One thing I’ve noticed that has changed about me; my photos. On previous adventures and even in every day life, I’d always have photos taken with me in them. Forefront. The subject. It may be capturing a monument/view/scene, but it would be the background. Pop was the purpose.
Of course there are still cascades of the same in my phone now, but rather than be the focal point I’ve found I stand to the side. My presence is more to mark the memory of being there or to capture my expression at the moment. And the vast majority of my photos don’t contain me at all; they’re of sights, pure and simple.
We reached the tea house and dumped our bags in our rooms (the porters had taken off straight from the plane and delivered them to our doors). I literally squealed in delight at the little wooden cabin, complete with wood-shaving scent (and a fully functioning Western-style toilet!).
After a brief nap, we went on an hour-round little walk (when I say “little walk”, it was a pretty steep uphill) to a nearby village. And wow.
We came to a schoolyard full of uniformed children. Running round playing tag, gossiping in little groups, climbing up the single slide and shabby see-saw.
They were the most beautiful children I have ever seen.
At first I felt so sorry for them. Isolated in their mountainous home, most of them never ever having the opportunity to leave in their lifetime.
But then I watched them and their purity of play. They were so happy. Absolutely overjoyed. I thought of the kids I nannyed in Auckland and their privileged lives; private schools, iPads and Western ways. They were rich. But these children right here? They were the real wealthy. They were enriched.
As we walked through the schoolyard, the children danced around, giggling and namaste-ing us. I was filled with such a sweet, sweet sadness.
Along the walk we saw many Nepalese men and women steadily staggering up the steps with massive baskets of supplies on their backs. One man was literally bent double carrying a big box boasting an LED TV! Literally back-breaking work. Everything comes into Lukla by plane, therefore must be carried up to shops and such. And the main mode of transportation? The people bundling it up on their backs. Their strength was astounding, but saddening too. Imagine the repurcussions of such weight on the spine each and everyday.
We went back to the tea house and sat outside in the sun. Sarah asked Ran what the book he was reading was about, and it’s like the dam was opened. He started showing us photos from its pages, then told us tales of trekking 15 years ago when the Maoists would be wandering around with machetes and guns. It was enthralling and his shy side disappeared in a sea of enthusiasm.
We all went inside when rain came and spend a lovely lazy few hours writing, reading and having the odd spot of sporadic conversation.
An early dinner and communal viewing of Into Thin Air, then bedtime to fuel up on the zzz’s before
tomorrow’s seven-hour stint.
I feel happy. I feel safe. I feel secure. I feel at absolute peace.
Coming here is like coming home.
A quick P.S of a fun fact: I asked Ram if animals suffer altitude sickness at all, and he said that yaks do, but they suffer lower altitude sickness. What! Apparently if the yaks come down to our current 2650m height, they can be here no more than seven days or else their hair starts falling out and they get feverish. Imagine!