|My first turn of a prayer wheel.|
April 2, 2013
Phakding: Elev 8,691 feet. Sp02 = 93 RHR = 68
I woke at 3:00 a.m. with a busy mind. There were a few good pictures I had taken the day before and wanted to load them onto the blog. After leaving Kathmandu I would not likely find the bandwidth to do so, and we were leaving early for Lukla. I took my laptop down to the hotel lobby and spent the next 2 hours building out the entry from the day before.
The flight to Lukla was smooth. Clear skies afforded our first views of the Himalayas, jagged and white. After forty minutes the nose of the plane dropped as it took aim at the infamous Lukla airstrip, an abbreviated tarmac cut into a cliff at 9,500 feet. The strip is perpendicular to the cliff, thus eliminating the option of aborting any landing attempt. This creates an incentive to set the plane down as early as possible, yet too early is just as problematic as too late. For a moment we all went silent, watching the cockpit window fill with cliffside, then runway, then cliffside. The wheels chirped and the thrusters reversed in combination with heavy-handed braking. We had arrived.
We settled into a sunny courtyard at a nearby cafe. I ran into my good friend, Guy Manning, there. Guy was a member of my Vinson Massif team in Antarctica and, like myself, has come to attempt Everest. I recall the topic of Everest coming up while we were still in Antarctica. I said I was not sure if I would climb it, to which the typically quiet Guy piped up “Oh Dave. It’s obvious!” Guy will be climbing with the excellent British outfitter Jagged Globe. A British ex-pat now living in the Cayman Islands, Guy has summited the high points of Africa, South America, Antarctica, and Europe. We caught up with each other over a cup of tea. It was nice to see a familiar face in such an exotic and unfamiliar land.
Our Team set out for the village of Phakding in short-sleeve weather. There are no motorized vehicles, or even bicycles, on the stone footpath that strings together the many villages of the Khumbu valley. We share the road with Donkeys, Yaks and Sherpas carrying loads of all manner. Indigenous rhododendron and magnolia are in full bloom on the hillsides. I listened to Scottish guitarist Tony McManus on my I-pod as we strolled past terraced gardens and stone walls.
The Team spread out along the path as each member found his own pace. I would find myself walking next to someone and strike up a conversation. We would chat for a bit until one of us stopped to take a photo and the other continued on. In this casual manner we formed a meandering river of trekkers, replete with back-eddies and faster water. At times I listened to music. Other times I listened to the babbling broke of dialects around me.
We arrived at the Sherpa Farmhouse Inn in Phakding in the late afternoon. The simple room Ty and I shared was unheated. There were two twin beds and a bare incandescent light bulb hanging from the ceiling. The Proprietor explained there were only 3 working toilets at the Inn, and they did not work particularly well. We were instructed to place toilet paper in a waste bin instead of flushing it down. All of this might be off-putting if not for the simple fact it was still much better than tent camping ...and this was Nepal. The dining room at the Inn did a fine job of turning out dinner for the Team. I enjoyed a Yak steak and Sherpa salad, which is an assortment of quartered onions, cucumbers, tomatoes.
A rocous thunderstorm rolled up the valley as we settled into our sleeping bags. We tried to watch an episode of the Discovery channel's Everest series on my laptop, but even this topic was no match for our exhaustion and we both fell fast asleep.