I awoke early to clear skies and made my way around the Namche Gompa to turn the prayer wheels and exchanged a cheery greeting with the Abbot.
Called a “rest day” to help us acclimatize to the altitude, it involved a three hour walk to a tea house on the hillside far above the township. We had our heads in the clouds, so could see none of the magnificent peaks surrounding us, but the diversity of flowers was more than enough compensation. Our resident botanist Louis has identified 3 species of blue gentians, many daisies and edelweiss.
Early morning rain soon cleared to a cool cloudy day. We set off early, with the sound of the rushing Dudh Kosi river beside us, fresh from the Khumbu glacier. Vistas of river, trees, stone walls, neat fields of cabbages and corn, sal trees, bamboo, wild ginger, wild raspberries and strawberries, fields of corn five feet high, pines, epiphytes, ferns, mosses: just stunning.
The gods were smiling on us today.
We feasted in the hallowed Rum Doodle last night, surrounded with paper Yeti footprints inscribed by all those who’ve climbed to Everest Base Camp before us. It’s a bar frequented by Himalayan climbers since the 19850s. Our table sat below faded photographs and signatures of mountaineering greats like Chris Bonington and Edmund Hillary.
After 6 or 7 hours in the airport, we had an unexpected rest day, as our flight to Lukla was cancelled due to bad weather. It was interesting to hear flights called for Birgunj on the Indian border, Pokhara below the Annapurna Range, and a mysterious call to “Mountain”, which turned out to be joy rides around Everest in a light plane…
Have you ever stood under a coconut palm for shelter during a rainstorm? Hmmm. Not such a good idea. For a start, a coconut palm isn’t much of an umbrella. But the big issue is falling coconuts. A typical coconut weighs in at about 2k, and falling 25m from near the top of the palm turns it into a deadly projectile. If you value your brain, get out from under that coconut palm in a hurry. And listen to the thuds from a safe distance as the coconuts hit the ground.
Up at 4am, bumping across town in the dark to find the airport still shut. Dawn as we made our way inside, through a creaking security system. Many helpful hands relayi our vast pile of luggage into the main hall.
Our overnight challenge was reducing our weight to 10kg per person, with 5kg allowed for hand luggage. Tara Air changed its restrictions, after several unfortunate crashes in and out of Lukla.
I’ve sadly abandoned half my dried fruit and nuts, struggling to save kilos, but kept ten precious beanies and jumpers.
Bangkok Airport, 9.30am Tuesday 3rd September.
The adventure has begun with the thrill of my enormous waterproof duffel bag vanishing down the conveyor belt. Thai Airways kindly allow travellers an extra 10kg for charity, enabling me to bring 50 beanies and baby jumpers – lovingly hand-knitted by a friend in Adelaide for cold Nepali orphans.
A sustainable future remains within our grasp but – thanks to the way human brains work – only governments can implement many of the necessary strategies. Our political leaders have a unique responsibility.
Consensus politics and compromise may well be the only way that we can deal with existential threats such as climate change, food and water scarcity, and the social disruption that would inevitably follow. If the current election campaign is anything to go by, these concepts do not come easily to Australia’s political leaders. But perhaps that will change.