Her dark black hair was pulled back in a pony tail yet a few strand fell across her forehead as she looked up. Her four-year old eyes were as black as her hair and so large I could almost see my own reflection in them. I held out the crayons and she took them in her tiny hand.
Soon her big brother and a few other children came to see what she was getting. The oldest was wearing a uniform of sorts and I asked if he was gong to school. He nodded his head and then said "fish" as he looked at the Crayola crayon box. There was small fish on the box. I gave him four packages of pens and he smiled knowingly at the usefulness of the present.
My pace picked up as I walked away. They have so little and yet are so happy.
The trek from Lukla to Namche is always a highlight of any visit to Nepal.
We flew on April Fools day from Kathmandu to Lukla. Rising at 4:00AM, the rolling power blackout was over for the moment so we had lights as we hauled our heavy duffel bags to the hotel lobby. After a quick breakfast and goodbyes to the inn keepers at the Hotel Courtyard, we loaded in the small bus for the short drive to the airport. But even at 5:30AM, the streets were bustling with shopkeepers pulling up their sheet metal awnings thus declaring their shop open for business. I bought a couple of bottles of water and we were on our way.
The pilots navigated the low clouds easily during the 30 minute flight. Soon we were on a sharp glide slope for the aircraft carrier length runway at 9000'. Hundreds of porters stood by the fence hoping for the chance to haul 150lbs of gear on their backs the 10 miles to Namche. All for $20. On the trail, my thoughts went back to the times I had walked this route and the wonderful memories. I was curious how it had changed in the five years since I was last here.
Trekkers and climbers and porters and Sherpa filled the trail along with local kids going to school. It was quite crowded at times. Of course the Zos with the packs, drums and bags on their backs always got the right of way - especially on the long swinging bridges. The flowers were in full bloom as spring was starting in this Himalayan Kingdom. Everyone seemed to have a smile on their face and cooperated easily through the bottlenecks.
We stopped several times at tea houses for a snack or lunch. The service was slow but came with a smile. The first night was spent at the Sunrise Lodge in Phaddang. I was pleasantly surprised that our double room had a bath, toilet and shower. Times had changed!
The Teahouse was full of other teams. Everyone was quite relaxed and excited about moving up valley. I was so glad to see an old friend, Ang Dorge Sherpa who I was with on my previous two Everest climbs. He now lives in Washington State and is married with two children. Yes, times had changed.
We left for Namche the next morning and took our time. Swinging bridges, fresh flowers, blooming trees, the rushing turquoise waters of the Dodi Koshi River. All kept us company as we made our way into the Sagamartha National Park - the home of Mt. Everest. The climb up the infamous Namche Hill was easier than I remembered. Good thing I guess. But it was still hot and we were glad it over as we approached the capital of the SoloKhumbu region - Namche.
It was larger than I remembered. New buildings had been built in this natural amphitheater. But some things were the same. The men chiseling stone blocks out of large rocks. Women washing clothes in the streams. And the ever-present yaks and zos wandering the streets.
But now shops advertised wifi hotspots and climbing gear - real not fake - at US prices. There is even an ATM! But the streets were still lined with tables filled with Buddha’s, shawls, jewelry and other souvenirs for the tourists. And of course the coffee houses and bakeries did a swift business.
We are taking an acclimatization day here today and will leave Friday for Debouche near the Thyangboche Monastery. Thanks to Chuck Norman and his son for the pens and crayons.
Remember Memories are Everything