Next stop, the Kumbu

By | April 18, 2010

28minutes into the flight the engines slow down and our bellys are in our chest. We have begun our decent to the Lukla airport.

I’m in the front passenger seat, camera at the ready. We can see the run way, or what they use as a run way. It’s 500 yards, max. With my video camera rolling, the plane dips and heads directly towards the side of a mountain. The engines roar and the flaps are set to full, we are now in the approach phase.

The twin otter, with a full load, is ready for landing. I can’t speak for everyone on the plane, but I am nervous. The camera keeps rolling. 10 yards before we touch down and it gets louder then ever. The pilot begins to flare, the screech of the wheels on touchdown is louder then the screaming engine and we are safe on the ground, for now.

Hard break, engines cut, we approach a stone rockface no more than 200 yards away at this point. If it wasn’t for gravity, we might not have made it.

We leave the plane and head to an outside area to wait for our bags. It looks like a refugee camp, with about 200 locals pressed up against the fence. They come every morning, from the entire valley, looking for work. Men, and women, from ages 17-30, ready to carry upwards of 170lbs on their back for hours at a time.

We have our arrangements taken care of, we pickup our day packs and head to a local tea house 300 feet from the airport for breakfast.

We check the Canucks game on the Internet while having breakfast. The blowing of a 2 goal lead in typical fashion by the end of the second period did not sit well with the group from Vancouver (8 of us). I have scrambled eggs and toast with a coffee. A good way to start the day.

As we walk down the stone walk way, I stumble upon a starbucks. God, these guys are everywhere. No city left untouched by the starbucks empire. I’m not going to lie, they made a mean vanilla latte.

We have a 2 hour walk ahead of us with the most epic of backdrops you can find on earth. Skyscrapers of mountains with caps of snow and a halo of clouds cover each one. Air so crisp you wish it could be bottled and savoured for ever.

Up and down a rocky terrain and we find ourselves in the village Ghat at the International Khumbu Cafe and Guest House. Our groups Sherpa leader Kami and his family own the lodge we use tonight for our stay. With a great lunch of soup and pasta, we took a small hike down to the river running through the valley then back to the tea house for a cribbage tournament while we wait for dinner.

The group is bonding very well. Jokes, banter, stories… We may have been strangers 4 days ago, but the friendship grows with each passing day.

I will leave you with 2 pictures of today. As we arrived at the tea house our host Kami was running ensuring we had all of our creature comforts, he tossed on a hat previously given to him by a fellow trekker.

Ever seen a Sherpa Cowboy?

The next is very touching. Pasang Yuengji (pronounced angie), Kamis wife, gave birth to a baby girl 2 months ago. They carry her around in a wooden box with a strap that is wrapped around there forehead. The entire Sherpa culture uses very few backpacks, everything they carry is done by a strap around their forehead. 5minutes after he put down the cowboy hat, he came back with his baby daughter in his back.

<image is missing>