We awoke feeling refreshed and excited on Day 8.
It was the day that we had dreamed of and spent several months preparing for. With frozen hands, we strapped on our boots, repacked our packs and headed from Lobuche (4,900 meters/16,076 feet) to Gorak Shep (5,164 meters/16,942 feet), where we would drop off our bags, have a quick lunch, then continue on to Base Camp (5,380 meters/17,600 feet).
The trek was very quick and fairly painless. Being at such high altitude, the sun kissed our exposed cheeks and noses as we made our way to Gorak Shep, creating a very fashionable tan or burn line around our sunglasses.
After a few short hours of trekking, we reached our guesthouse not too long after our porters had dropped off our packs. Again, we sat down for a team lunch consisting of boiled vegetables and noodles while discussing the rest of the day’s plan. By mid-afternoon, our stomachs were settled, our pockets stored celebratory brewskies and we were ready to continue on making our way up the last bit of elevation gain.
On our way to Base Camp, we crossed glacial springs, climbed over boulders and stayed on the high portion of the trail during yak crossings. My heart was racing as we crept closer and closer. I felt incredibly giddy, yet stoic – impressed by my own physical capabilities and excited to be able to share this moment with my best friend and a few new ones. Even though our bodies were fighting and telling us to retreat, our minds were strong and determined.
We climbed up and down the gravelly, bouldered path, then up one more time before finally being able to see our first glimpse of the amass of prayer flags and yellow domed tents waiting ahead.
After eight days of trekking, 8,611 feet of elevation gain, a few uncomfortable side effects from high altitude, cold shivery nights followed by warm yak dung heated mornings, WE HAD FINALLY MADE IT.
The crown of mountains that surrounded us were unbelievable. Even at such high altitude, the size of the Himalayan panorama was monumental and the mountains hovered over us with such incredible strength and grandiose beauty.
We were frozen in time for a few breathless moments as we admired the peaks, then quickly moved onto the celebration! Dam cracked open the first Everest Beer, then passed a small bottle of whiskey around to Luke, Bibek and anyone from our team who wanted to participate. We each took turns snapping photos, hanging prayer flags and high-fiving each other; excited that we had completed this goal as a team. The trio, Luke, Dam and myself, took a gratuitous jumping picture, then grabbed our packs to head back to Gorak Shep for the night. Though our goal had been marked as complete, we were only halfway done with the trek itself as we still had to make our descent back to Lukla.
The next morning, a 4:00 AM wake-up call was optional for those who wanted to see the sunrise over Mount Everest via Kala Patthar. Dam and I opted out as we were pleased with what we had accomplished and also wanted to sleep in a bit more. We were exhausted and thought best to seize any opportunity we could to be lazy for a morning. After slowly waking up, we positioned ourselves right in front of the yak dung fire to eat breakfast and play cards while we waited for those who went to Kala Patthar.
Hours later and soaking wet, the eight or so teammates who had trekked up to Kala Patthar returned back to our guesthouse. It would end up being a very long day, as we still had to make our way down from 16,942 feet (5,164 meters) to Pheriche, 4,240 meters/13,910 feet. Once everyone had a bite to eat and dried off, we embarked on our descent. The weather had not been as gracious as the days prior. Snow began to fall as we trekked along the same path as two days before, creating poor visibility whilst soaking our jackets. We passed the marker for the Everest Memorial site again, this time being grateful we were decreasing elevation and feeling sorry, yet trying to encourage those who were on their way up through the awful 45 degree switchbacks. In record time, we made it down the mountainside and back to the grassy plateau.
As we walked down into the Khumbu valley, the landscape began to change from bleached white sandy boulders to flat, grassy ravines and beautiful stone homes with grazing bovines. The snow began to fall heavier as we made our way to Pheriche, which was exciting to Luke (Dam’s Bromance from Australia), as he had never seen snowfall in real life before. We tried to convince him to make snow angels in the powdered dust but with no avail.
By the time we reached our guesthouse, we were ready to really celebrate our previous day’s success. The guesthouse was warm, inviting and peaceful as we were the only group staying there that evening. However, after an overabundance of rum, whiskey, wine and all of their beer, we soon transformed the main gathering space from a quiet, museum like feel to a boisterous storytelling, drunk bonding, card game playing and salsa-meets-Nepali music dance party scene. We set our group differences aside for the night and basked in the joy of our accomplishments. Those who had more rum than others spewed later on, unfortunately all over their roommate’s bed and pack, while the rest of us teetered off to bed and hoped for an easy hangover.
You guessed it. The hangover was anything but easy. I was getting used to eating tums with my starchy pancake breakfast, although this time, the nausea was self inflicted and not the result of altitude gain. Again, we packed our bags and set out early, hoping that since we would be descending in elevation, the trek would be a cakewalk.
Unfortunately, I was wrong to assume that the theory I had created would be accurate. Though we technically were descending in elevation, somehow, we were still trekking uphill.
I could hear the proverbial “when I was your age” horror stories my parents had told me about the days when they had to walk uphill both ways to school, in the snow, barefoot, ringing in my ears. Everything we had experienced that day was eerily familiar to what I had heard growing up, except for the fact that I was wearing boots and not barefoot; although still feeling the effects of alcohol from the night prior, I could have easily left the lodge without them. I was dragging: fighting the urge to vomit as we continued upward.
Stopping for a few breaks here and there, we walked through a beautiful pasture with young yak calves grazing beside their protective parents. The pack of dogs we had seen, or thought we had seen earlier (they all look the same, oddly enough), had joined our team to guide us yet again. Sadly, these dogs also enjoyed the site of the young yak calves and attempted to take prey on them, trying to secure a tasty treat. However, having seen our group approaching from afar, the owners of the yak family took sticks to ward the dogs off and save their source of income.
We continued down through the valley on our way to Khumjung (3,790 meters/12,434 feet), where we would triumphantly meet up with the teammate who had to turn back on day seven. Come lunch time, the weather was progressively getting colder as a low, thick blanket of snow clouds hung directly above us. We stopped for a tea and warm-up break next to the Pangding monastery before continuing on down the path. After a quick tour of the monastery, we continued on.
While walking through an open field and having limited visibility due to the snowstorm brewing above us, we were each sort of taking turns leading the group. I was walking in front alongside our guide, Mahendra, after just having crossed a very small and low to the ground footbridge, when a fence comprised of stacked stones began to crumble next to me. Mahendra began to yell at a older man standing next to the rock wall, thinking he was throwing stones at our group. Startled, I jumped, then laughed, unsure as to why I had been so startled by a mere moving rock.
Then, the rest of the earth moved: grassy plateaus turning into rolling hills and trees bending like rubber.
The movement was aggressive and carried on for a few moments. Being from Seattle, where I had become familiar with earthquakes, I didn’t think much about it. We were safe in an open field, so the worst damage we would possibly experience at that time would be the fallen rock from the 3 foot fence standing next to us. A few more seconds went by and all we could hear was the crashing sounds of avalanches and rock slides echoing off the valley walls. With the visibility being so poor, we struggled to see which direction the sound was coming from, so we continued on our path to Khumjung.
None of us had any clue that the earthquake had been as substantial or as devastating as it later turned out to be.
When we walked through the first village, we began to realize the extent of damage caused from the quake. As the snow continued to fall, families attempted to salvage their belongings from their partially collapsed houses, while children and grandmothers sat in the cold. Everything on the trail had become noiseless. We quietly made our way through slightly crumbled villages, hoping that Khumjung was in better shape than what we had witnessed.
At the halfway mark, the group stopped to ask a local girl who was coming from Khumjung’s direction if she knew what the condition of the trail ahead of us was and if it was safe to continue on. Like we had heard before, she noted that the trail had sustained substantial damage and had also heard that a house had collapsed on someone in Khumjung. Immediately, one trekker began to hyperventilate and panic, as she was worried that her travel companion waiting in Khumjung might be injured. The group tried to calm her down as Luke and I merely spectated. Realizing that Dam and Bibek were not standing next to us, Mahendra asked if we had known their whereabouts. I figured that Dam must have not heard us stopping as he was far ahead of the group while Luke and I had brought up the rear. I wasn’t worried until we continued on and he was nowhere to be found. We asked anyone we passed along the trail if they had seen two men matching Dam and Bibek’s description, but no one had. I became anxious, but knew he was most likely safe as Bibek knew every trail on the EBC trek and Dam was previously a boy-scout.
The snowfall increased and as it clung to my non-goretex clothes, began to soak through every layer I was wearing. I couldn’t tell if I was sopping wet from sweat, snow or a mixture of both. At some point, I mentioned to Luke, “I think I smell…” with his reply, “you do”. We chuckled for a second until I daringly asked what I smelled like and “dirty wet person” being his answer. Perhaps two weeks of going without a shower was proving to be the wrong choice for this journey. Nonetheless, we carried on, through the thick nimbostratus clouds in hopes of reaching a warm lodge in Khumjung soon.
Towards the end of the trail, Luke took over the pack of one teammate who was looking very worse for wear. The color in his face had disappeared and he was visibly fatigued. Earlier in the trek, he had mentioned he was not feeling well but muscled through. Barely able to continue on, we turned the corner and saw the guesthouse that we would be staying at towards the top of the hill in Khumjung. There had been damage to the trail along the way, yet not as extreme as we had been lead to believe. Damage in Khumjung also seemed minimal, unlike the small village we had passed through earlier in the day. As we reached the top of the hill, a very smiley and enthusiastic Dam greeted us and invited us to sit with his new Australian friends he had made while waiting for us to catch up.
A flood of emotions burst through me like a flash flood. Yes, I was happy to see him too but also incredibly pissed that he had pulled a houdini and disappeared into the fog, only hours after we had experienced an earthquake together. The only thing I could frustratingly squeak out was “don’t even ‘hi baby’ me right now” before my windburn cheeks began to sear with warm, salty tears. He explained that he and Bibek had recognized the deteriorating energy levels in our teammates and thought best to run ahead of the group to Khumjung in order to ensure that there would be a place still standing for us all to stay the night. Along the way, he had trouble keeping up with Bibek who not only was sprinting up the hill, but chain smoking cigarettes while doing so. Once they made it to the top and secured beds for the group, he was invited to relax with a smaller team from Australia and waited for the rest of us to arrive. It made sense after I cooled down, yet warned him that if he were to take off without telling me again, he’d have hell to pay.
Soaking wet, the team huddled around a small stove, hanging our jackets, pants and boots on clotheslines overhead to try and dry as quickly as possible. The teahouse was run by a lovely Nepalese man who had summited Everest multiple times. He wrapped us in plush blankets, served us thermoses of hot tea and tried to get the wifi to work so we could reach out to our loved ones back home to notify them that we were okay. Once the wifi began to work, the nervous and anxious chatter increased within the lodge. A few members in our group began to read the headlines on the news out loud and started panicking, believing that Kathmandu and the rest of the EBC trek was either demolished or unsafe to continue on. Though no one had realized how big of an impact the earthquake was at that time. After experiencing heightened warnings from passing locals, yet seeing first hand that conditions were not as devastating in Khumjung, we knew that the news was most likely doing the same and over exaggerating reality.
About 5 hours after the initial quake, we began discussing as a group what the next course of action would be: unsure whether or not there would be aftershocks or additional landslides in the near future. The teammate who had turned back in Dingboche became very vocal, stating he had received multiple emails from a friend back home who was associated with the Red Cross and instructed us to stay put in Khumjung until the Red Cross could evacuate us via helicopter. Though on face value it sounded like a nice idea, the reality was if we were to stay, we would be the last to be evacuated as we had food, water, shelter and no injuries. From the way the media had depicted the areas around us, it seemed as though there were much more damage to the villages surrounding us than what we had witnessed along the way.
Mahendra advised that if we continued down to Lukla, we would have a better shot at flying out as we had purchased tickets already, whereas all of the other trekkers in Sagarmatha National Park, who would also be wanting to return to Kathmandu, most likely had not. Both Luke and Dam agreed, trying to persuade the rest of the group to carry on, which raised concerns by some. We determined that we would sleep on the decision and come to a conclusion in the morning, as we still were waiting to see if any additional quakes would follow.
As we got ready for bed that night, those who were staying in the older portion of the lodge camped out on the lawn in the cold, as the rest of us curled up in our twin-sized beds; except for me as I had nervously convinced Dam it would be safer if we both shared a twin bed. About 45 minutes into Dam’s exhausted snores, the bed jolted. It only swayed back and forth for a quick second, but was enough for my eyes to bulge out of my head and anxiously stare at the moonlight curtains until they finally succumbed to sleep. I hardly slept that night, even nestled so close to Dam I might as well have shared a sleeping bag with him.
First thing the next morning, we walked into the living room at the lodge only to hear debates back and forth regarding our day’s journey. Unfortunately, the ill member from the day earlier’s condition was declining and he was in no shape to continue on. Barely able to breathe from a lung infection, he was too weak to leave his room and join the rest of the group in conversation. His friend determined on their behalf that they would be staying put in order to try and organize an evacuation due to medical reasons. The man with the Red Cross buddy and his travel companion had also decided that they would stay put, per “specific instructions”, not before browbeating Dam and Luke for their “foolish” ideas. The rest of us thought best to continue on, so we packed our bags, wished them well and thanked the host for his generous hospitality.
While making our way from Khumjung, we did see damage to multiple structures and portions of the trail, although nothing that would have been life threatening on our descent to Lukla. Around lunchtime, we reached Namche Bazaar, which had become a ghost town. Everyone had retreated to either Lukla in hopes of flying out, or to the wide-open field at the Tenzing-Hillary airport, away from buildings and structures. We heard murmurs from those who were still present that there had been a prediction of another aftershock around noon and we were instructed to be outside during that time. We ate a quick bite of lunch then headed outside right around noon on the dot. We waited for about twenty minutes but nothing happened so we continued down the trail.
As we reached the last Sagarmatha security check-point, Dam and Luke decided to walk a little ways down the trail for some photo ops, standing on a boulder that jutted out from the side of a ravine. After a few minutes, they rejoined the group and right as they returned, the tardy aftershock shook the ground beneath us. A few small rocks slid down the path but the magnitude of the aftershock was not large enough to create substantial damage. We proceeded down the trail with caution, making sure to keep our eyes up as we crept down the path: newly littered with boulders.
Coming from Namche Bazaar, we ended up taking a slight detour as a landslide had taken out the lower portion of the trail connecting us from Namche to Phakding. It was a beautiful reroute as we climbed through the quiet hillside and luscious fields, saying hello to friendly Nepalese families along the way.
Our plan that night was to stay in Monjo, with the only problem being that by the time we reached Monjo, all guesthouses and restaurants were vacant. We felt as if we were the only trekkers on the path, especially once we reached lower altitude. Our guide, determined to find a safe place for the group to stay, encouraged us to continue on a little while longer, as he knew of a friendly lodge owner a closer to Lukla.
When we arrived, the woman graciously took us in and assigned us to some very comfortable rooms. Despite the eery feeling in the air, that night was one of the best times we had together on the trek. Uncontrollable muffled giggles filled the air; trying to be quiet to not wake the rest of the group. Though there was no electricity, we set up a competitive card game by the light of our headlamps and drank beer while sharing jokes and stories to keep the mood light. We tossed bugs back and forth, took turns locking Dam then myself in the bathroom (the lock was on the outside…) and crammed dried mango in our mouths before finally settling down for the night. Moments after Dam drifted peacefully into dreamland, our bed jolted again; feeling as though we had a washer on spin cycle beneath us. Like the previous aftershock, it only lasted a few seconds but was enough for me to plead with him to scoot over and make room for me in that twin-sized bed. I had become a “nervous squirrel”, as Dam later described me: wide-eyed, heart racing and sweaty palmed.
Beginning at dawn, we could hear sounds of helicopters making their way towards base camp as we ate our breakfast and prepared for the last leg of the trip. We continued our descent to Lukla, excited to be completed with the trek and ready to see how the conditions were at the airport.
As we walked through the semi-bustling streets of Lukla, we realized there had not been as much structural damage here as we had witnessed at higher altitude. Our guide secured us an incredibly comfortable guestroom at the lodge right next to the airport where we had held our orientation on day one. Dam, Luke and Mark went along with Bibek, our co-guide, to meet his family and check if there was damage to his house. I opted to stay behind to reach out to family and have a beer.
Being so close to the airport, I watched helicopter after helicopter touch down, unload large rectangular bags, then depart; heading back up towards base camp. I didn’t think much of the luggage until someone from our group callously pointed out that the special cargo they were carrying were trekkers who had not been as lucky as us: being caught in the avalanche at base camp, which had been triggered by the earthquake. My heart sank deep into my stomach and I quietly sipped my beer; waiting for Dam to get back so we could move onto harder beverages. Shortly after, Luke, Mark and Dam returned, thankfully with a fifth of vodka, which we mixed into drinks and set ourselves apart from the rest of the group for yet another game of cards.
We arose extremely early in order to be the first group in the airport; yet, by the time we arrived, we were not alone. The airport was packed with trekkers and locals all wanting to leave. Though we had tickets to fly out that day, rumor was that there would not be any flights in or out. We sat all day waiting; playing cards, taking naps and watching the news, hoping a plane would touch down soon. We had a front row to see helicopter after helicopter zoom back and forth but no airplanes were in sight.
After an hour or so into our waiting, we heard a familiar voice enter the airport. The teammate who had become ill in Khumjung and his buddy, slowly made their way through the crowd towards our group. We were shocked, as it was rumored days earlier they had been successfully airlifted out of Khumjung and had reached Kathmandu where they would be seeking medical attention. Unfortunately, the helicopter had only brought them as far as Lukla and they had been waiting for a flight out for three days. Our sick friend was looking worse for wear: incredibly gaunt, weary and hardly able to keep himself upright. Still in good spirits though, we were able to make him a comfortable spot on the floor as our co-guide and his brother ran to find a local doctor at the hospital near by.
Mid-way through the day, we heard a deep whomp-whomp-whomp from above only to see the Indian Air Force touch down on the tarmac. The soldiers quickly unloaded large canvas tents and bottled water then closed their doors and prepared to take off. Those who were holding an Indian passport rushed the tarmac; banging on the windows in hopes the pilot would allow them to ride along back home. The men in uniform pushed them away, instructing them to stand back as the blades increased with velocity. Finally, after much persuasion, they allowed about half of the group onto the helicopter, shut the doors and made their descent down the valley. The air got quiet and again, we waited. By 4:00 PM, we realized the window for flight opportunities had passed and we would be in Lukla for another night.
We seized all opportunities that night. After quickly getting situated back at the lodge we had previously stayed at, we made our way to the bar. Next door to the “Yak Donalds” (no joke), there was a small, underground Scottish bar that had a few pool tables, disco dance floor and a killer buy 1 get 2 drinks free special. Who can say no to that?! The four of us: Luke, Mark, Dam and I, sat on the tattered leather couches and sipped our triple fisting brews.
After one round, we went back to the lodge to join the group for the last team dinner and say our goodbyes to our porters. They had been amazing throughout the entire trek; some of them carrying upwards of 4 packs each, so all we would have to carry were our small day packs. Standing at least 3 inches shorter than I, they were BEASTS made of pure muscle and zero fat. We had really formed a kinship with them throughout the weeks leading up. We were so grateful to them for not only lugging our belongings round trip about 75+ miles, but really ensuring our safety throughout some tense moments on the mountain. We bought them a few rounds of beers and shots before saying our goodbyes.
Shortly after wrapping up our dinner, Dam snuck off with Bibek to an underground Nepalese party where they downed homemade rice whiskey, while Luke and I made our way back to the Scottish bar in hopes of finding my boarding pass I had drunkenly forgotten on the table. As we suspected, the boarding pass was gone but it was okay since we would be getting new ones in the morning. Again, seizing the opportunity, we decided to indulge in a few more cocktails since we had come “this far”.
We… well, I… stumbled our way back to the lodge to meet up with Dam whose state was also a product of a good time. Soon after dragging our sorry asses up three flights of stairs, we all drifted off into a peaceful, room spinning type sleep.
When our alarm went off in the morning, I was definitely still drunk. Stumbling into the bathroom, I was determined to take my first shower in three weeks as my own stench of alcohol plus sweat was making me queasy. Expecting to bathe in the tundra, I was ecstatically surprised when tropical feeling water came through the faucet. After a quick two minutes, I was a thousand times better off than I had been moments ago.
We met up with the rest of our group, ate porridge and toast, then carried our packs back to the airport for an expected full day of waiting.
A few hours into waiting, our ill teammate joined us, looking much better than the day prior, though still not 100%. He was on fluids and medicine for his lung infection and had noticeably more energy and color to his skin. Again, we watched the pattern of helicopters land, unload, then take off until we heard a different pitch in the air. Within minutes, one plane landed and our group was immediately ushered onto the tarmac, bags being thrown in a hurry into the plane so we could quickly depart. Just like that, we were in the air on our way back to Kathmandu – the entire group except for the two who had opted to stay in Khumjung. We later were told that if our sick teammate had been airlifted directly to Kathmandu and was not with us at the moment we flew out of Lukla, we would have had to wait as they were only transporting the ill and injured back during the first flights. Mahendra must have pulled some major strings with the owner of the airport to ensure that we would all be on the very first plane out of Lukla.
Within an hour and a half, we were back in Kathmandu. There was some noticeable damage to the airport, however I felt as though it was not as bad as we had heard via BBC, CNN or from our families and friends back home. Driving through Kathmandu, we saw a lot of structural damage but I believe most of the horror stories that were being aired were coming from more rural areas, which we had not been exposed to.
Once we made it back to the Eco Resort in Thamel, after cleaning up and touching base again with our loved ones, it would be a continued waiting game to see whether or not our flights in the coming days would be delayed or on time. We spent the next two days playing cards, drinking beer and making friends with the hotel staff as we were the only guests staying. There were a few small aftershocks from time to time, but the hotel was sturdy and had not shown any signs of structural damage.
Two days into limbo, Dam and I had finished hand washing a load of laundry in a bucket of hot water that hotel staff prepared for us as we heard two familiar voices. The trekkers we had left in Khumjung had finally made it down to Kathmandu, although from the sounds of it were not happy nor did they trust the structure of the hotel therefore pushing to stay at the tour director’s home. We cringed; their voices screeching like nails on a chalkboard. Things had not ended so well the last time we had seen them and they had been difficult throughout the duration of the trek, so when they opted to stay behind, we weren’t totally bummed. Being that the hotel was so empty, it was unavoidable seeing them, so we made our way down to inquire how they were able to get back to Thamel so quickly.
Like we had suspected, the Red Cross never came for them. During the second aftershock, the epicenter was much closer to Khumjung and the lodge we had stayed at previously suffered some serious structural damage, so they were forced to take the same trek to Lukla as we had completed days prior. They too, waited at the airport for a flight out, which took multiple days. They were agitated and weary, seeming ready to go back home to the UK.
Once they left for the tour director’s house, Mark, Luke, Dam and I continued our on-going gin rummy game while sipping on Everest beer and snacking on chicken momos. Later that evening, the three of us went into Thamel for dinner. Luke had a hankering for Mexican food so we went on the hunt and surprisingly enough, found a great spot that not only had Mexican food, they were also running a special: buy two drinks, get one free!
We were ready for a Latin-flavored feast! The menu made our mouths water. Lime spiced guacamole, plantain chips, seasoned black beans and el pastor tacos. We couldn’t wait. We ordered a few beverages then began requesting our main course but were quickly stopped and informed that they had a special menu that they would only be serving that evening – due to the earthquake. Tonight’s dinner featured… curry kabobs. After eating a lot of curry throughout the previous three weeks, we chuckled but still dove right in and we were glad we did, as they were the best kabobs I had ever eaten.
With full bellies, we waddled back to the hotel, played another round of cards and retired for the evening. Luke would be flying out early the next day and we would be soon to follow.
As we said our goodbyes: me – sad to be losing a friend and Dam, depressed to say goodbye to a beautifully blossomed Bromance, we exchanged our leftover passport photos and headed back to our room. Vacation was suddenly feeling very final and neither one of us were ready to go back to our mundane lives that waited for us in Seattle. We could feel the necktie tighten into a noose as the minutes crept closer. After forming the warm friendships and bonds we had the past three weeks, how could we just jump back into cold corporate America and also be flooded with a thousand questions from eager friends and family, wondering what our experience was like and “how crazy was the earthquake”. We weren’t ready in the slightest, so we spent the rest of the day, our last day in Kathmandu, pouting and moping around.
When we awoke on May 2nd, we reluctantly packed our bags and readied ourselves for our trip home. Walking through Thamel one last time felt so familiar to us, as we recognized and were recognized by the friends we had made on our very first day in Nepal. We said our goodbyes and wished them well, promising to visit again one day.
Our flight did not leave until late in the evening, although we were instructed to arrive to the airport four hours early, as they were overselling flights for those who had been waiting to depart the country. The day drug on and we found it hard to enjoy our last moments. We played one more game of cards, drank one last Everest beer as we chatted for the last time to our hotel friends.
When our taxi arrived, our friend, Ram, who had entertained us and waited on us the days prior, greeted us with hugs and beautiful orange silk prayer scarves: signifying safe travels. Dam and I waited until we were in the taxi before allowing the finality of the trip to hit us; tears staining our cheeks as we said our final goodbyes to such an incredible country.
Arriving at the airport, the thick feeling of reluctance coated our stomachs. By just looking at each other, we knew we were feeling the same way. We outstretched our hands and made a pact that if our flight was delayed at all, even by one minute, we would quit our jobs via email and stay in Nepal. We’d figure something out for work, or volunteer and help those who had helped us so selflessly, rebuild their lives. For the next four hours, we stared intently at the readerboard, waiting for any sign of delay. It wasn’t our time though. We weren’t supposed to stay. We were meant to go back to America for reasons we did not know. Our plane arrived, early nonetheless, and with tears in our eyes, we said our final goodbyes and boarded for a 36 hour trip back to Seattle.
From the minute we touched down in Seattle, the post vacation blues kicked in. We jumped right back into our old routine almost immediately, not giving much time to process or decompress from the amazing experience we had.
Ten days after leaving Nepal, our friends reached out to us, informing us that another earthquake with large magnitude had hit, this time closer to Namche Bazaar. Their houses had endured extreme damage and with trekking season cut prematurely, it would be very difficult for them to afford the materials in order to fix. With monsoon season quickly approaching, we were feeling like our return had made a bit more sense now. By coming back to America, we were in a place where we could put our best effort into fundraising via friends and family to try and help lighten their load. In doing so, the efforts put forth were prosperous and were able to send enough for food, tarps and a small amount of materials for the rebuild. Though it was a small drop in the bucket in comparison to what they truly needed, we were happy to have the opportunity to reciprocate the help they had shown us weeks prior.
Our time in Nepal was incredibly special. Although our trip had only lasted a total of three weeks, the relationships that we built, the challenges that we faced and the amazing nature that we were able to experience invigorated us to choose working towards a new style of life. No longer do we feel the need to fill our home with material possessions as a byproduct or representation of our hard work. We want more out of life. We want to live our lives past the confines of a cubicle. We are ready to see the world from a new perspective and not a one-week vacation.
We are ready to be free.