Lift off

Flights to Lukla had not been going for about six days now, due to the weather, so I wasn’t sure how things would go for our scheduled flight at 6am this morning. But the skies cleared in Lukla and before I knew it we were onthe small plane and taking off. Half an hour later we landed in Lukla without any fuss.

In Lukla my guide Ram was reunited with his brother Prabhu, who will work as porter. After breakfast at The Nest, we set out for Phakding, a three-hour walk away. Walking through Lukla it appeared more polished than 12 years ago, but it still has that “here commences the adventure” feel.

We walked along the trail with the Dudh Kosi, the milk river thundering below. It was warming up quickly and I was glad to have chosen a loose shirt for the first day. It only got warmer as we descended, ascended and descended until we got to the lodge in Phakding. Stage 1 completed. Now a whole afternoon for reading, photography and resting. Bliss.

Small road, big problems

That is how Harka, who drove me from Hetauda back to Kathmandu described the road we were on. It was a succinct and fitting description.

When I first started looking into how to get from Kathmandu to Hetauda and back to visit my sponsor child and the community, the Dakshinkhali Road came up and came accompanied with pictures that made me say “Hell no!”. Considering the alternatives and bearing in mind the advice from the locals that became “Hell yes!”.

Fortunately I’m not that jumpy at crazy traffic anymore after living in Brazil for four years and I had great faith in the drivers both ways. But the journey was interesting and in particular the way back amply demonstrated what could go wrong on a road like that.

Most of the time the road is single lane, it has many hairpin bends and traverses steep terrain with gasp inducing drops. Part of it was also badly affected by landslides during the recent flooding event. Throw in a few big buses and trucks and some mud for good measure and you have a neat scenario. Did I mention cows?

But the scenery was glorious and the trip was totally worth it and it was terrific to see my sponsor child and her family, the community and all the good work that Plan is doing there. It’s very impressive and inspiring and is the perfect start to my trip.

Tomorrow, if all goes well, I fly to Lukla to commence the trek. But this afternoon the rains have returned, so I’m not too sure what that will do to the flights to Lukla. The weather has not been good there. I have just ducked back to the hotel after lunch. Better to spend this time organizing my bag than getting wet out there.

T minus five

Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbH
A film (!) capture from 2005 of the awesome view from Gokyo Ri

Five days, that is, before I get on a big jet plane to fly to Kathmandu. I can’t help but hear that Bob Seger song in my head:

“I think I’m going to Katmandu
That’s really, really where I’m going to
If I ever get out of here
That’s what I’m gonna do…”

Today was spent on organising myself and getting packed. Of course being the OCD-type, I’ve been organised for about six weeks now, but there is always more to do. Lenses to clean, batteries to charge, decision on whether to take this or that jacket after all, do I really need that lens too, what to wear on the days in Kathmandu before and after the trek, stowing the clip-on koalas and pencils for the children I will be meeting.

I”m excited and apprehensive at the same time. Excited to be going back after 10 years. Apprehensive at what I will find after the earthquake, the floods, globalisation. Someone told me the other day that Nepal has a vibrant startup scene. I don’t know why that surprised me, but I’m looking forward to seeing that. Then there is the question mark of how I will cope with altitude this time around and how my body and knees will hold up generally being 10 years older. Only one way to find out: go and do it (and keep the ibuprofen and the Diamox near).

And then there is photography to be done. Creativity is calling and I hope that yesterday’s visit to the Hokusai exhibition can serve as an inspiration. Maybe I should aim for 12 views of Everest, 10 waterfalls and 8 suspension bridges to bring back from the trek. And that’s just the landscape stuff. Then there are the people and the religions. Never short on objectives or challenges. How to cram it all into three weeks is the biggest challenge of them all.

It would appear that most teahouses are now connected to wifi. All things working well, I will post live updates from the trek. To be continued…