In early April, National Geographic Traveller Aus/NZ editor Geordie Torr and competition winner Laura Waters joined a group of Kathmandu Summit Club members for a 14-day ‘Rebuild Nepal’ trek through the foothills of the Himalaya. Having raised funds for the Australian Himalayan Foundation (AHF) as a way of giving back to the communities that they would visit, the group visited schools in the Solukhumbu district to see first-hand some of the work that’s being carried out by rural education and environment NGO REED Nepal, with support from the AHF and Kathmandu, before joining the ‘tourist circuit’ for views of Mount Everest and other famous Himalayan peaks.
In the morning, after breakfast, we all individually made our way down into Namche to make any last-minute purchases and withdraw whatever cash we needed for tomorrow. As we all met up again, I grabbed a quick (and pretty decent) espresso and then we began retracing the route that had brought us up here, beginning with the steep downhill walk back to the double suspension bridge at the confluence of the Dudh Kosi and Bhote Kosi. On the way down, we stopped again at the rest stop with the paid and free toilets, where we took in our final views of Everest.
Back down on the flat track along the Dudh Kosi our passage was halted by a particularly large contingent of mules that was crossing one of the suspension bridges, some 40 or so heavily laden animals bouncing their way from one side of the river to the other. We stopped for lunch not long after, and as we were finishing up, a few spots of rain began to fall. Continuing on our way, the raindrops very slowly became progressively more frequent and soon enough, raincoats that had sat unused in our daypacks for the past two weeks were finally donned. Conversation all but ended as we put our heads down and focused on getting to Lukla and out of the rain.
Eventually, we reached the turn-off and our route took one final distinctly uphill turn. The rain had eased off by now but we were surrounded by low cloud that drifted through the twisted trees and flapping prayer flags around us. And then, topping a rise, we found ourselves in Lukla. As we walked through the village, which bustled with tourists and porters, I couldn’t help thinking that the mist that hung over us was making the whole place look a lot more appealing than it would in bright sunshine – more rustic, less commercial.
Our guesthouse was located right at the end of the village, conveniently close to the airport, and the path took us past the runway. As I mentioned in an earlier post, Lukla airport frequently tops lists of the world’s scariest airports – and it wasn’t difficult to see why. The steep, short runway disappeared into the cloud below, while behind us rose the steep mountainside that would punish any pilot error.
After checking into the guesthouse and finding our rooms, we reconvened in the dining room for a cup of tea and a biscuit, before Lindsay went around and collected up our tips for the porters, guides and other staff. And then she, KK and I tackled the complex mathematical conundrum of how to equitably share the money out. Once we’d counted, recounted and recounted, we went outside to where the team was waiting for us and distributed the cash, before gathering together in the fading light for some group photos and expressions of thanks and farewell from both sides of the employment divide.
It was quite an emotional parting; we all feel a great debt of gratitude to the seemingly tireless porters and other staff who’ve cooked and served us our meals, put up and dismantled our tents, carried our heavy bags (and our tents and the cooking equipment and the food and the tables and chairs and, well, pretty much everything else), and done all of the other little chores that were required to make our trek run so smoothly – always with a ready smile (when it wasn’t replaced by a grimace of effort). Some of the men will now go home to their families, others already have another portering/guiding job lined up and some will be back at the airport tomorrow to try to get work carrying some of the freight that gets flown in each day.
And with our parting, our trek drew to a close. Tomorrow we fly back to Kathmandu and back to our homes, wearier and fitter than when we left them, and with myriad memories of our time in Nepal, an extraordinary country filled with extraordinary people.
Australian Himalayan Foundation
Kathmandu community partnerships
Kathmandu Summit Club treks