During the Dashain of 2012, I had a good fortune to leave the humdrum life of Kathmandu for about three weeks. My maternal uncle urged me to go on a trek, to the Khumbu region, with three Japanese guests. Prior to this proposal, I had neither accompanied nor even talked with any foreigner. Since the very idea of traveling with strangers caused huge discomfort I did not feel like going, and I answered him accordingly. But the swear words uncle used afterward, while cursing me, compelled me to give in to his decision. Among the guests were two old men and an old woman, all above sixty years of age, but they looked younger to their age. One of the men had lost his eyesight while working at a gas station long ago. And the unfortunate thing about me was, he was the only one who spoke English. He spoke far better than I did because I was not accustomed to speaking. Regardless, I was content knowing that our Japanese guide, my another uncle, was waiting for us in Lukla Bazaar. The day before our flight, we went sightseeing around the Durbarmarg, Thamel, Swoyambhunath, Boudhanath Stupa, and some more places. The next day, my uncle, who is the managing director of Royal Orchid Treks and Expeditions Pvt. Ltd., dropped us at the Tribhuvan International Airport an hour before the scheduled flight. He bade farewell and left immediately. When we entered the airport, the employees started pestering us for money for unknown reasons and they caused more complications. And the flight was slightly delayed because of unfavorable weather.
Inside the airplane, we were greeted by an air-hostess. When all passengers were seated at their respective seats, she brought a plateful of chocolates and pieces of cotton. It was a forty-five minutes journey through a sea of cloud. However, we still could see the silver mountains in faraway places. The plane flew high, crossing hills after hills and finally we saw our destination right in front of us, through the glass at the cockpit. The English alphabet “L” shaped Lukla airport faces a massive, treacherous cliff in the south and snowy mountains surround from other sides. When we disembarked from the plane, our guide and a Sherpa greeted us and led us to a nearby hotel. On the way to the hotel, I met some of my childhood friends, who were working as porters in that region. After having lunch, we took rest for about an hour before starting the first day of the trek. It was gratifying to get to observe thick Sherpa village where all the houses were either hotels or shops. Those shops would sell things ranging from yak cheese to traditional artifacts and postcards of mountains. The houses were made of stone and mud and almost all had roofs of corrugated zinc sheets. Inside the Bazaar, paths were paved with rough stone slabs. However, when we left Lukla, we went through pebbled streets, mostly plain. Not only tourists but yaks would commute through the same route. The route was considerably clean, except for yak dung at places. We overtook a number of yaks and some overtook us on the way. Yak happens to be the easiest means of transportation up to the Everest Base Camp. Moreover, there were prayer wheels and statues of the Lord Buddha at places. Monasteries and prayer flags were inevitable views on the route. After about four hours’ walk, we reached our destination, Phakding.
Upon the arrival, we booked a hotel and freshened up ourselves. All the furniture was that of pine wood. We climbed a precarious wooden ladder and went upstairs to reach our bedrooms. Those rooms had a fresh smell of pine. Time passed slowly and gradually and the day gradually turned to darkness and the weather got colder and colder. All the houses stood in the form of guest houses and some tents were set up on meadows. In the evening, all guests showed up in the dining hall which had wooden walls and plastic transparent plastic windows. Dinner was served as per the choice of guests. In the middle of the hall, a huge metal firepot was attached to a pillar. When the owner brought some coal and set the fire, we huddled around the fire. Consequently, all guests faded. We all walked to our respective bedrooms. We sent our guests to a room and we slept in another. Along with us was a porter and four of us slept in a single room. It was too cold before the sun sent its rays on the earth. We left bed around seven in the morning and enjoyed sips of a couple of cups of tea. Breakfast also was served along with tea.
We checked out at half-past eight for yet another exciting day of the journey. Our next destination was Namche, one of the highly acclaimed places on this trail. We went through village after village before reaching the Dudhkoshi river. This river drains the Mount Everest Massif. Over the river was a short bridge which was too high from the water. It was quite difficult for the blind man to follow us. We had a backpack of around 10 kilograms each and the trekking guide had hung a strap of rope behind his bag for the blind to hold on to. At difficult places, my uncle would carry him on his back. Now, after leaving the river behind there was an uphill ascent. It was the really tiresome ascent to Namche Bazaar which took us around three hours from the river. Namche is a trading hub in Khumbu region where Sherpas from all over Solukhumbu bring dairy items and many other things and put on sale. It was too expensive that when I used the internet for half an hour they charged me one hundred and fifty rupees. I saw sensory electricity for the first time in the hotel we stayed. When you climb the ladder light would switch itself on and when you leave it would go off automatically. In the west of Namche Bazaar is Kongde Ri(6187m.) and in the east is Thamserku(6623m.). Namche itself is at an elevation of 3440 meters from the sea level. In Namche Bazaar we took a day off for acclimatization. For that process, we ascended for around half an hour and reached the Everest View Hotel, which is known to be the hotel at the highest altitude in the world. It was very huge and standard which made us feel as if we were somewhere abroad in a developed country. Everest looks very close from this hotel, but when you walk it takes days to reach there. We had lunch and returned to our hotel in Namche.
On the fourth day, we set off for Deboche. It was a relatively long day of travel. However, the plain route made it easier for us. On the way, we got to observe some rare animals and birds. The most important spot on this route is Tengboche Monastery, known as the largest monastery in the Khumbu region. Just behind the monastery stands the magnificent mount Ama Dablam which beautifies the place even more. After worshipping in the monastery we descended through pine woods for some minutes in order to get to Deboche. It is a small village in a small clearing. There were some ten or more hotels and we chose the one which was nearest to our path. The most remarkably similar thing about hotels in this region is that they have a single big dining hall, with a big firepot in the middle of the hall. The more days we spent together the closer we became. Now, the Japanese started speaking some English words and they taught me Japanese at the same time. In spite of the language barrier, we started conversing with each other as much as possible. They would always walk with us whereas some European guests would go ahead and choose hotels on their own. Our guests distributed chocolates to our crew more than five times a day. I don’t recall the name of the items our guests ate, but we ate rice and lentil soup almost every day.
Like on earlier days, we departed from the hotel after taking tea and breakfast. From Deboche to Dingboche was probably the shortest journey of our trek. We followed the slightly serpentine route upward through forests and barren meadows. When we reached a beautiful village, the guide indicated that we had reached our destination. Again, hotels had roofs of corrugated zinc sheets. We followed our guide to a hotel named ‘Everest.’ The owner of the hotel was a woman of around forty-five. She would nag at the employees all the time, and even the guests were afraid to deal with her. She would respect the tourist guides and good guests but she would not value the porters at all. We had a small tent. So, we decided to set it up beside the hotel. Having finished, we returned to the dining hall, to warm ourselves up beside the fire. And an unprecedented thing happened. It was nail-biting to see a girl whom I had known from my childhood. She was working there as a servant of that nagging, sadistic boss. She was the girl that I always wanted from my childhood. She is a villager of mine. I liked her so much but I always failed to talk to her. I would steal a look of her whenever an opportunity popped up. In order to pull myself together, I would go herding my domestic buffalos and I would take a pen and a copy. I would scribble the best things that crossed my mind for her. Finally, they would turn out to be love letters to which I would read several times for myself and when it was time for me to lead the cattle back to shed, I would tear the letter into shreds and blow them into the air.
I could not muster enough courage to strike off a conversation with her. Before talking I went to the bathroom and wiped drops of tears that came out of the blue. And she eased our conversation by starting first. “How comes? You are here”, she asked. And I asked the same question to her. She claimed that her luck drove her to this place in the Himalaya. Every word she spoke meant a drop of tears in my eyes. I do not know whether it was happiness or heartbreak. When all the guests went off to their respective rooms, we shared very intimate matters. My heart broke into pieces when she declared she was pregnant. “Have you tied the knot of marriage?” I asked. A slight hesitation was visible on her lips. “No. My boss raped me savagely and stole my chastity belt.” A sudden burst of emotions attacked both of us. How would a lover feel when the apple of his eyes gets raped and comes begging for more love? We stayed around the fire till half-past twelve in the morning and slept.
The next day, I saw her with a Doko, a bamboo basket on her back. Everything was frozen outside and it, definitely, was freezing cold. She wrapped herself in a gown from head to toe and started collecting yak dung. The amount of yak dung around the terraced grounds painted as much happiness on her face. But I could do nothing, except watch her suffer more. Consequently, we had to part our ways which was even more than painful. Due to the presence of the devilish boss woman, we could not even bid farewell. Being back in Kathmandu I wrote this poem about her:
“My Silence Impregnated You”
Too young was I When desire was born for you,
Do you remember the time, That we conversed once in a blue moon?
too much I gossiped your beauty, that too with myself.
Herding Buffaloes was most opportune
Scribbling my heart on white sheets Spelling love you never gained,
But I shredded them blew in the air.
You then disappeared in a flash, lingering,
Nearly getting eliminated from my heart.
Luck, but, brought us closer again,
Misfortune though showed me you,
Whose chastity belt recently has broken.
And I couldn’t share words again,
Nor could I murder my feelings,
You share your bed with a macho man,
And I share mine with solitude,
Wishing that you got all my letters.
Our sixth day’s journey began around eight in the morning. Our destination was Lobuche which is at the altitude of 4910 meters. Due to the previous day’s memories, I cannot recall much about this place. The only thing I recollect is, the village was amidst huge moraines. Khumbu glacier flows below the village. I can summon nothing more.
On the seventh day, our destination was Gorak Shep, the closest village to the Mt. Everest. Upon reaching our destination, I badly suffered a headache. The guide asked me whether I could go to Kalapatthar which is at the height of 5550 meters. Everest Range Viewpoint lies at this place and tourists visit this place in order to see the Mt. Everest at the closest distance. I followed my crew for about half hours but could not make it to the top. The sun on the horizon painted the Everest red. And the place was surrounded by huge moraines from all sides. Gorak Shep is surrounded by Pumo Ri, just behind Kalapatthar, in the north, Mt. Everest, Lhotse and Nuptse in the east and numerous minor mountains in the south and the west. Now, we were in the middle of the Mahalangur Himal range. I could not believe myself that I was facing the Mt. Everest. Sun was just for light, it gave no heat to. Even in the afternoon sun, you are required to wear thick jackets in order to make sure that you do not suffer.
Next morning, a Nepalese brought his pant toward the dining hall. He had hung it from the verandah of the hotel but it was frozen and he brought it near the fire very carefully. All the witnesses laughed at it. If he twisted, his pant would be broken into pieces. Having taken breakfast, we set off for the base camp of the Mt. Everest. We carried some noodles, necessary utensils and a couple of portable, tiny LP gas sets. We had to go through a trail of massive moraine for about one and half hour before reaching the base camp. Once we reached, we took some photos and started cooking. We dug at the heap of snow and boiled it because it was the only source of water. That was the moment when I thought that paradise is nowhere else but on the earth. But the memory of the girl I met in Dingboche still haunted me. We sat on the snow, ate the snow and drank the same snow. In the form of lunch, we had coffee and noodles at the base camp. As far as I can recall we stayed two nights in Gorak Shep. Now, we had to descend back. Every day, the number of both inbound and outbound tourists, porters, and yaks increased. We met numerous domestic and international tourists but interacted with few.
That day, we walked for about six hours and reached Dzonglha. We had planned to cross the Cho La Pass and go to Gokyo. Due to steep ascent through moraines and difficult trail on snow at Cho La Pass, we had to part our ways. Our guide took the blind man to a different place and I and my co-Sherpa guided the other two. In spite of barrier in language, we enjoyed their company to the fullest. We used gestures and some very simple English and Japanese words. At times, I felt like I was herding cattle. I had even more memorable time while walking on snow, about ten kilograms on my back and bare-hand. Cho La is at an altitude of 5330 meters. It was slightly difficult for our guests, so we had to grab them by hand. When we reached the top of the Cho La, they took out some ready-made noodles and we had to boil water for them. We sat on a heap of stone while having noodles and coffee. Prayer flags were tied to stones. The way ahead looked pretty risky. If you watched it down for about a minute, it would cost you puking. However, we had to head down the same route. There was actually no route at all, we had to create routes as per our destination. There were big boulders and the steep descent was full of stones. You never know what will happen to you if you tread a particular stone. Fortunately, we all landed at the base of the mountain safely. It took us for about two hours to get down to Cho La Phedi from the peak.
Having reached there, I wanted to take a bath, or at least wash my hair, but I never did that throughout our trekking duration. We checked in a particular hotel, of which I forgot the name. We mostly sat around the fireplace, and the Japanese couple would teach us their language, making the most of the time. In a shelf one of the corners, there were numerous foreign books. According to an employee of the hotel, they were gifted by the foreign guests. But I could do nothing about that except looking at it in jealousy.
On the 11th day of our trek, we were destined to reach Gokyo. That day, we had a very easy time, for it took us only two and a half hours to reach our destination. Huge moraines were inevitable parts of our journey. At some places, it was almost impossible to pass without each others’ support. The route was mostly plain, except some minor ascents and descents. Altogether, there are four major lakes in the Gokyo area. You may call Gokyo a small valley because it is surrounded by mountains from all sides. We checked in a hotel which was already overflowing with guests. We hardly found rooms for guests and we managed to sleep on the floor. There are a handful of hotels and all of them are close to each other and all are beside the bewitching Gokyo lake, which is known as Dudh Pokhari. After an hour of rest, we went to observe the lake. To make a round of it, we had to invest one hour of time. Our next plan was to go to Gokyo Ri and observe the excellent view of the Mt. Everest and many other mountains. Accidentally, our lady guest had left her stick somewhere while doing a round of the lake. If heaven was real, I thought Gokyo was more beautiful than it. In order to get the stick, I had to stay back and go around the lake once again. My colleague led them to the peak. I could not make it to the top of both Kalapatthar in Gorak Shep and Gokyo Ri in Gokyo. But I made no grudges because it was more than enough for me to fill my heart with happiness. Fortunately, I found the stick and came straight to the hotel. People could be seen going up and coming back just below the peak. I had a long wait before they finally showed up. According to our schedule, we were supposed to spend at least two nights at Gokyo, but we had nowhere else to go and the place itself was too expensive. So, we left Gokyo the next morning.
I don’t know why but I forgot the memories of reaching Khumjung. I forgot how many days it took us to reach. But at a particular village, we celebrated Deusi with local people (We had left Kathmandu during Dashain and now it was already Tihar) and it was grand, though we couldn’t sleep well. Khumjung is probably the thickest Sherpa village in this trail. We met our guide and the blind guest there. They had known numerous people in this village, so we had no effort finding a hotel. The hotel gave us snacks and tea for free of cost and provided above satisfactory accommodation. The next day, we observed the Khumjung School which was established by Sir Edmund Hillary and it was named after him as Hillary School. Moreover, we went to Khumjung Hospital which to was named after Hillary as Khunde Hillary Hospital and Khumjung Gompa. I was thoroughly jealous of the Khumjung-dwellers. After exploring Khumjung for a couple of hours, we headed back to Namche Bazaar.
We stayed at the same hotel where we had stayed earlier. Our guests bought some clothes that are typically worn in the Himalaya. The weight of our backpack gradually decreased and it was only about 8 kilograms at the end of our trek. Through the same route, we came down to Phakding and then to Lukla. We stayed there a night. The hotel owner arranged air-tickets for us. But I had to board a different plane whereas the guide and guests went ahead. They left some luggage for me to bring it to Kathmandu. Finally, I found myself in an airplane after nineteen days of wonderful trekking.
A layer of my skin was gone and I was pitch-black, but I focused more on the beautiful memories. And within a week, I was the same man. I was more than happy to get such a rare opportunity to travel with such wonderful guests. The blind man promised me a lot, but the two others did not. However, they always cared for me. After five years, they came to Nepal for their fourth time and invited me to a hotel around Boudha. The old man produced three thousand rupees from his purse and handed
woman gave me some other materials like pens and socks. I was ecstatic not because they gave me money but because I had won their heart. From my friendship with them I learned that the better you treat people, the better you will be treated. I had gone on treks to other places with other guests too but none of them was as memorable as this one. We are far away to each other, but we are deeply connected to each other.