Everest trekking 2018

Last year my trek to base camp from Tibet was part driving and part trekking due to the Chinese restrictions but it was still bloody hard and the altitude sickness on the final leg nearly defeated me. I really thought, after stringing my prayer flags on a pole to flap blessings to the Gods and placing ladybugs in honour of my Beautiful Girl and Kyle, that I could well die right there in the shadow of the the highest mountain in the world. The hike is tough but the rewards immense.

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by Kimm Fearnley
Bournemouth, Bournemouth, United Kingdom,
Created on 1 May 2018

Last year my trek to base camp from Tibet was part driving and part trekking due to the Chinese restrictions but it was still bloody hard and the altitude sickness on the final leg nearly defeated me. I really thought, after stringing my prayer flags on a pole to flap blessings to the Gods and placing ladybugs in honour of my Beautiful Girl and Kyle, that I could well die right there in the shadow of the the highest mountain in the world. The hike is tough but the rewards immense. 

So why the hell am I here again..On a tougher, 14 day trek? All walking - not a support vehicle or a donkey in sight!

It really isn’t for the faint-hearted.

The hike is tough but the rewards immense. 

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Tue, 05/01/2018
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GOODBYE KATHMANDU, HELLO DELHI

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GOODBYE KATHMANDU, HELLO DELHI .  .

 

As your ramshackle city becomes an ever-decreasing dot from my seat in the aircraft that is carrying me to the sophisticated heat-scorched streets of Delhi, I find it hard to know how to say goodbye to you Kathmandu . 

 

There is an indelible stain on my heart that inked its place deep inside me last year when I first stepped foot on your beautiful, filthy, chaotic, maddening and joyful land and it has spread its pattern further the more we got to know each other. It sometimes feels like a drunkenly chosen tattoo - regretted through more sober eyes but at others a beautiful branding, an announcement of my commitment and adoration of you. 

 

Like a lover there have been times when I can not get enough of you and I greedily gulp down your dust and mayhem knowing it is bad for me but wanting it anyway, only to forcibly reject you moments later when I can’t take anymore, when you disappoint me and I am left limping home like one of the many dogs that roam wild across your city. 

 

Yes Nepal you are a country of so many juxtapositions, contradictions and contrasts that it is hard to know how I truly feel. You are the freshest air I ever breathed as I immersed myself in the silence of your magnificent Himalayas on my trek to the worlds highest mountain and you are the filthiest my poor lungs suffered on the streets on your capital. 

 

Rivers of breathtaking turquoise, thunder through mountain passes carrying water so pure that just standing close feels healing, quenching and reviving yet your holy, temple-lined, sewage-filled Bagmati River spewing through the centre of Kathmandu is so vile, the stench is a violent assault that leaves me choking. 

I stare in horror at what you have done to this valuable resource and it’s hard to imagine any worse abuse but then I see how carefully you sweep your streets with your makeshift brushes, how you expertly swerve around cows basking on your traffic-gorged streets, I notice the bowls of water and scraps of food even the poorest of you leave out for the wild dogs and your huge hearts make me want to weep - for you, for me - for my judgement. 

For my own inadequacies 

 

You are unimaginable poverty and despair and smiling, unstinting hopefulness - no matter how many times your buildings fall down you are ready to rebuild them, brick by brick. Smiling and offering gratitude to Ganesh for the abundance he bestows upon you while ignoring the wrecking spree of Shiva who has clearly visited in a rage - more than once. 

 

There is generosity, charity, overflowing kindness, beauty and love that is ingrained in your smiling faces but close by there are opportunists, mountainside millionaires selling unusable internet to gullible trekkers for $10 for five minutes and unscrupulous, lawless taxi-drivers who even rob their own and the sense that my western wallet is a magnet to some. 

 

The kindness you showed me when I faced death moments from Basecamp was shattered only days later with the suspicion the “hospital” I was taken to was likely just an office with a couple of dirty beds owned by the rescue helicopter company.

You leave me feeling foolish that I trusted you when I watched your staff clean my room with a dirty cloth, wiping floor then tables with the same; how your “nurse” in a shabby fake North Face jacket took my blood without washing her hands and how you ushered me upstairs to an office where you thrust the phone in my hand urging me to tell the insurers “ No fraudsters here but ma’am you must telling them only you was on helicopter”. 

I wasn’t asked but had I been then the truth was there were at least six of us and a hell of a lot of cargo. 

 

There is big money to be made from the insurance policies of unsuspecting adventurers. 

When the green-light call came there were high fives and handshakes and the helicopter manager materialised from an office in the “hospital” to offer his sincerest congratulations that “insurance claim paid in full”. 

Shaking my hand vigorously - beaming from ear to ear as he shouted to the security guard at the gate that I am free to go. 

 

I sigh and in my vulnerability I yearn for the next plane home but then I try to put myself in your shoes and I forgive you and on the journey home I am in love once more. 

 

A couple of days later I find myself in a real hospital with wonderful, professional and caring staff who wiggle their heads and sigh when I present cough medicine I have been “prescribed” for the blood I was bringing up and like a cheated lover my heart hurts all over again. 

 

Your streets are mostly pot-holed and dusty but when it rains the dustbowl that is Kathmandu quickly becomes a muddy swamp, 

So many times I have been caught in your rivers of mud in the side-streets of tourist trap Thamel where shopkeepers openly sell North “Fake” and other desirable copied western brands and where bartering starts by slashing the asking price by 70 percent but here too I made another friend. 

 

The wonderful Nassy, The Tailor Of Kathmandu. 

He was delighted to see me a year on from my last visit when I first stumbled into his shop seeking refuge from the souvenir traders and this time I spent many hours kneeling on his floor drinking sweet tea and rummaging through the exquisite, bejewelled sari fabrics, silks and scarves. 

A beautiful balm, a lover’s haven among the tat, the ruins and the deception. 

My suitcase is stuffed with well-priced, beautiful quality fabrics sitting with my trekking boots, dust-encrusted clothing and a beautiful handmade singing bowl. 

Treasures among the rubble and rubbish. 

 

Then there are the nights. The long, restorative ones in the days following my rescue and the more familiar, restless ones where I lay in the sanctuary of my, aptly named Guesthouse Amore, listening to your sleeping heartbeat. It’s lights out at 10pm when a human silence unheard of in any other capital city descends and it is the turn of the dogs to roam free, to howl and to bark. 

I feel so safe here despite being the only person in the Guesthouse.

 

No one wants to steal from you - not unless they are bartering! There is no market for stolen expensive phones and when you are in a place where Karma is truly feared you can pretty much wander anywhere at ease. 

It is desire that sows the seeds of greed.

 

I have friends I call family here in Nepal. Beautiful, loving, selfless souls who dedicate their lives to helping orphans and disadvantaged Nepali children and whom I feel I have known all my life through my sponsorship of their work. 

 

Through them I have seen how rich you truly are Nepal. 

You are sandwiched, strategically between two mighty nations of India and China - both trying to buy you with the promise of roads, dams, infrastructure and trains but rarely delivering. 

 

Your riches do not come from things - there is very little to buy here where every single thing in every shop has to be dusted down before sale, cauliflowers blackened with traffic pollution and shack-like stores festooned with garlands of air-filled crisps, peanuts and snacks in dirty, foil packets.

Melted, unappealing dusty bars of chocolate sit on shelves with incense, rusty tins of fruit and cigarettes with shocking pictures of disease. 

Every shop selling the same limited stock. 

I haven’t seen many people smoke - or drink alcohol. 

 

Life revolves around family and ritual with an overwhelming sense of gratitude that is hard for we spoiled westerners to fathom but sitting in a Nepali kitchen watching a delectable feast emerge from a few handfuls of chickpeas or lentils, a pan of potatoes, a little flour and rice is a joy to behold. 

The spice tin sprinkles magic and medicine and over a single gas ring these humble ingredients produce food fit for kings. 

There is no gas piped into homes, power cuts every few hours and few luxuries and I think I have only had a couple of warm showers during my whole stay but being together chatting, sharing food and watching the sunset over the murky horizon is all we need. 

 

I will miss you so much Nepal, I will miss you Kathmandu and tonight before I left, I crept out on to the roof with the Ganesh given to me by Pramila and chanted a prayer of gratitude for all you have taught me about myself. 

 

I am a better person for knowing you.  .  .

 

Here on the plane heading for India my heart is swelled with love, my eyes pricked with emotion at our farewell then my mind wanders to the crowd that gathered around the check-in desk at the airport and how the ringleader with great glee announced my bag was overweight. 

“But ma’am for $50 I can personally make this no problem and give you good seat on the plane” 

His baggage handler friends wiggled their heads in unison as I fished a $50 bill from my pocket. .  . 

 

Namaste my lover, 

Namaste.

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Pete Lawrence

Love your writing, @Kimm Fearnley - thanks for sharing such personal travel experiences on Campfire. That pool location is amazing! x