Our last day hiking started like many others – cold, clear and crisp with black tea and porridge.
We were looking forward to getting back to civilisation now and talk turned to what meals people would opt for and future holidays involving sea sand and sangria.
I think it’s been much tougher than anyone on the group expected. At times we were really stretched, mentally and physically. The exercise of waking at altitude in these mountains just takes one’s breath away – literally.
It was Friday – and our last day on the trail. We were demob crazy. So we kept up a fast pace all the way to Phakding and then had lunch further on, where we stopped on the way up.
The assertive crow was keen to get involved but didn’t do at all well as appetites had improved and there was no food to spare and share.
A slog up to Lukla but we were feeling fitter in the thicker air and walking well, even overtaking porters on occasion as they played their sound systems, smoked and took longer breaks – not as dedicated here as those higher up.
We arrived at Lukla and stood and watched planes taking off and landing. It really is an amazingly short runway.
We again had a private bathroom western style toilet although no hot water. We went and had beers instead of showering at the Scottish bar in the town of Lukla that was both larger and more atmospheric than I remember from our first visit.
Mannie and Arvider fell off the wagon spectacularly again today and arrived back late for our final dinner both drunk and not wanting to contribute to the team tips for the porters. They felt they could and should tip directly to the individuals rather than through the group payment.
That went down very badly with the rest of the group and was effectively the final end of any tolerance that the group had for their behaviour. It tainted the evening and I remarked to Hamish that I had been to more lively funerals than this celebration party.
The young porters though soon threw themselves into it after the meal arrived and we were then quickly dancing wildly and getting stuck into the rum again so the evening did become a qualified success – of a sort.
We were on an early flight out – two planes. Of course no one wanted to go on the plane with Mannie and Arvinder but Andy and I think Kieran drew the short straw. Apparently the two could not pay their bar bill when they got up in the morning and had to be subsidised until they got to Kathmandu.
What was odd about their behaviour was how pleasant they were when not under the influence and how much they went out of their way to be part of the group and help to succeed in our collective aims. Then when they went on the booze, they turned into very different people. And became out of control. Sad.
Still despite all that – I had enjoyed the hike enormously – it appeared most of the others had too, although the contrast between the bright faced, optimistic and clean looking groups starting off their hikes and our own tired and worn out and slightly shabby and hairy group was very apparent.
We’d all left something up in those mountains, some energy, some tolerance and some innocence. And some weight. And some wet wipes. But surely life changing experiences are meant that be like this? Well apart from the wet wipes….
And now we had a bucket load of new memories and had made some new friends.
And the next two days in Kathmandu based in the relatively most luxurious Royal Singhi would put some weight back on those bones and spring back in those steps.
We parted company with our three Sherpa guides Nima, Parbhu and Chandra. And our three young porters. And our yak man who had only become apparent in the last few days once we went below the yak line. We slept well having used different muscles to dance with than those tired ones we had walked with.
In the morning, we walked into the airport which was 100 metres from our tea house and milled around uncertainly with a boarding pass that had a large 5 on it and not much other info. So the fifth flight out then. We watched as the first flights came and went, returning from Kathmandu to bring the capacity back to take us out. Our twelve embarked and we were off, stomachs dropping sharply with the small plane as it lurched off the ledge at the beginning of the runway.
Marvelling at the views of the mountains again we sped across the tree lined steep slopes below, casting a small shadow over remote villages where motorised transport has never been seen and apart from expensive helicopters and small planes, everything is carried in.