Sunday, March 30, 2008


I went back and forth on what to title this dispatch, and had to settle on Supermen based on what I saw on the trail today. Porters galore making the slow, hot, dusty trek from Phakding to Namche Bazaar with loads that easily clocked in at 80 to 90 lbs each. This, on a guy that probably weighs in at an equivalent amount. Doc P, a Navy Corpsman and one of our Pacific Northwest climbing team members received the nickname "The Ant" thanks to his ability to carry uber heavy loads with ease. These guys, here on the Everest Base Camp Trail, are easily all "Ants". In order to put this into context, I took a picture this morning of my porter complete with his load, here getting a hand up from another porter:

As bad as I felt, I recognized pretty quickly that these superhumans consider this all to be in a day's work and do the trek to and from on a regular basis. To them, sitting behind a desk staring at a computer screen for hours on end day in and day out makes as much sense to them as their job does to me. Given how quickly they scoot up the trail I'm guessing that at the end of the day, they are just as tired as I am after life in a cubicle, five telcons and fighting rush hour traffic. Perspective, sometimes, is needed with things like this. And yes, I'm still going to take more stuff out of my bag to carry myself before we leave Namche in a few days. Here's what these amazingly tough individuals look like from the trail as we moved higher and higher today, the trail winding along bright blue rivers and through deep green pine forests:

Today's trail involved quite a bit of effort. It's well traveled, but still rocky and you have to watch your step regardless. But the scenery along the way? Breathtaking. We left Phakding at ~7,800' this morning, and pulled in at Namche Bazaar at 11,323'- or so my altimeter says. The trail meanders through woody groves, past little villages that have harnessed the power of a local stream to provide electricity to a cluster of houses, and on to suspension bridges which dangle sometimes hundreds of feet above gorges- both inside and outside of the Sagarmatha National Park.

The entire way, smiling Nepali offer "Nemaste"- even the ones carrying heavy loads. Everyone is just so happy, despite such a simple life. In many ways, it makes me equally happy- it's infectious. The kids run alongside for a few seconds until some worried mother yells something in Nepali and they scoot back into their respective yards. Yaks- or as I learned some hybrid (Yaks can't survive this low.. too hot for them) are even polite as they work their way upward. They can sense when you are pulling alongside and will considerately stop themselves until you have passed before working upwards. It's a hot, dusty day today pulling into Namche Bazaar, but well worth it.

The air is considerably thinner, I'm sweating like crazy, but fortunately Joe's wrong- he has been on this trek twice now and offered up that our goal was over 13,000'. I'm incredibly happy when I see he's wrong. Willie works his now famous Jedi Mind Trick with the Nepali guards who ask us for our permit- "Tuesday".. I don't even know what day it is- the 30th.. what is that? Saturday? Friday? Wednesday? I have no idea but Tuesday seems ok to these guys and Willie again smooths everything over for us. We are in. Then in another change from what I guess I had set as an expectation it's absolutely nothing like what I had envisioned. There's a literal community up here- shops, stores, coffee houses, Internet Cafe's, laundromats.. you can even get a massage here. Not that I'm complaining as I sit here typing this from my bed in a hotel room, which is complete with private shower and toilet (many are community here). Just that I wasn't expecting it. We had a great apple strudel & coffee when we first pulled in as snow flurries blew by outside. Oh, and apparently the Dali Lama is popular here despite a consistent Maoist presence. I just don't get that I guess..

So greetings from lovely Namche Bazaar. Tomorrow is a rest day in order to build up acclimatization en route to Base Camp. The team's doing great, in high spirits and every one's extremely motivated.

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