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.
On our first night we were treated to a Nepalese feast, many small dishes served in beautiful brass bowls around. Thali of rice and dhal. Delicious!
While we ate, skilled musicians and dancers shared a wide range of traditional songs and dances from across Nepal, from the lowlands of the Terai to the middle hills and valleys, and the high mountains near Tibet.
Yesterday we had a fascinating but very intense day, shown around Kathmandu’s cultural sites by the deeply knowledgeable Narayan.
We began at Durbar Square, with a history of the warring kingdoms that built Kathmandu, Patan and Bhaktapur, the three towns now spread across the valley floor. The square is circled in fine old buildings with exquisite dark wood carved facades and window shutters, shrines to all the major Hindu gods scattered across the busy marketplace – to Shiva, Vishnu, Parvati, Durga…
The museum was full of faded glory and elegance, images of King Tribhuvan as a baby, boy and young man hunting rhino and tiger in royal parks, through to his fatal trip to Switzerland and the dark wooden coffin that brought him home.
We climbed narrow staircases to the very top of the nine storey palace, rewarded with fabulous views from shuttered windows right out across the city, the golden spire of Swayambhunath visible on a far hill.
Our trek is honoured by the company of Temba Tsheri Sherpa, who grew up in Singati village, downstream of one of the most dangerous glacial lakes in the Himalayas, Tsho Rolpa. Aged 16, in 2001 he became the youngest person to summit Everest, from North Ridge.
Temba still works in trekking and mountaineering, but now also talks to audiences around the world about the challenges for Himalayan people in the face of climate change. He and others from the Himalayan Climate Initiative will be sharing their insights into glacial retreat. Temba told me that to those living in the lower altitudes, the impacts of climate change are slow and incremental, but for those who visit the high mountain passes, the rapid retreat of the glaciers has been rapid and visible.
We have a great challenge and a great privilege ahead of us.
Philippa has joined a group – somewhat younger than herself – trekking in Nepal for twelve days, followed by five days volunteering with the Himalayan Climate Initiative (HCI) in the Kathmandu Valley.