I was surprised how the feeling of tears snuck up on me as we hugged goodbye. I hadn't expected to feel anything but excitement and yet, it was all I could do to choke back the flood of sadness that washed over me. It was sad he couldn't come with me and I was suddenly struck that I would be without him for 3 weeks.
Inside I asked for info at the first class line and I'm pretty sure that I accidentally-on-purpose was whisked through the fast line. Security was equally fast and I as able to grab a wrap and a beer before I took off. I met a guy at the bar who was headed to Ireland with his wife and another couple. We made idle chitchat about any and everything before I decided to check out the boarding situation.
At the gate I started talking to a family who lives close to me, the mom is a runner, and they were headed to India for 2 weeks via the same connection in Doha. Soon, it was time to sit in my window seat, anchored in by a mother/son duo who pretty much slept the entire flight. I tried to limit my liquids, but I had to pee and felt restless after over 10 hours of sitting so I woke them up. Sometimes it sucks to be empathetic. I watched "A Star is Born" and was sadly underwhelmed. Maybe I wasn't in the right mindset?
I slept in one hour increments, but never deep sleep. I felt somewhat rested upon the second nap and decided I must be too excited to sleep.
After sitting on the plane for over 14 hours, I was so relieved to get off and WALK. I made my way through the transfer area and asked where I could do a city tour. Luckily, I walked up within 15 minutes of one departing and we all went through immigration before leaving the airport.
Exiting was like Miami - a smothering, oppressive heat and sticky humidity. We boarded a coach bus and took off towards the city.
If different was what I was searching for, this was it. The very little green was in the palm trees line up in neat formations and everything else in the natural landscape on land was brown. I noticed how clear the ocean looked when we were flying, but I never got close enough to a real beach to see.
We learned about the Qatar national anthem printed on the lamp posts and about the royal family's multiple residences. I thought I heard we were to not take photos of women in burkas and of parliament buildings so I tried to avoid them for fear of becoming a permanent Qatari resident.
We drove to the Pearl, an area with fishing boats and an incredible view of the skyline just at sunset. It was perfect timing. Then we rode to a section where there was a beautiful mosque and a nearby park. The tile reminded me of Morocco.
Back on the bus, we went to a mall area with a gorgeous marina housing yachts. Everything seemed so clean! All the shops were closed and I didn't know if it was because it was 7pm or Ramadan. It seemed odd for a Thursday night, but maybe they are only open certain times.
The souk however, was busy! I was a bit nervous because of my prior experience in Morocco, but I felt more uncaring at this point. Older, a teeny bit wiser, and mostly, more forgiving of myself to fumble through a foreign culture. I got cash at an ATM and bought a sesame roll, a camel figurine for Adam, and a mango smoothie.
It seemed to get warmer with all the bodies and lack of breeze. The smoothie was incredibly refreshing. I felt like I had a good jumping off point for my return in June and was happy I had decided to go play tourist.
Back at the airport, I freshened up a bit and then wandered for way too long. I felt tired and hungry, but didn't know which to tackle first. At last, I found a tray of both fresh and local food and then carried my finds to the B terminal. It was a long affair of eating, sipping coffee, and WiFi.
Once I was saturated, I managed to lay down and catch a cat nap with my legs tossed of the terminal chair, and later, my backpack. A large family awoke me chattering away as they sat nearby and I slowly got ready for the second big flight.
I was seated next to a very sweet guy, a native Nepalese who had been in Spain studying cinematography. I tend to assume all younger people are my age too and then had a realization that he was likely at least ten years my junior. Funny how I still think I'm forever in my twenties.
Our flight was quick by comparison to ATL-DOH, but we did have to circle about 45 minutes before landing. It was great though! I got a fully view of the Himalayas in the backdrop and I dropped my jaw. Holy shit. This was happening. I felt nothing but the extreme gasp of excitement as I do when I go to the AT. It's this weird sense of being in awe and being excited.
Goodness, I was hooked. I want to read this in 3 weeks and hope it was as good as I thought.
Immigration was a bit crazy, but my plane friend was kind enough to help me - people really are incredible! - and soon I was seeking the One Seed sign. I saw him right away and we waited about 15 minutes for Becky & Miguel. Then we piled in a car and went off through Kathmandu.
I loved it! The motorcycles, the chaos, the color! It was nothing like home. We tore through the streets and after many turns, we were at the New Chen, our hotel. Low tables and beds, fresh fruit, and special sandals for the rooms. Plus, earplugs for the noise.
I got a mango juice in the courtyard and then talked with Becky and Miguel a bit more in the book nook. Then, I needed a nap. Only 3 hours in 30ish hours caught up with me. I took a shower and then turned off all the the lights for a nice, long nap. I goofed and set my alarm wrong so I missed my chance at dinner with new friends.
Instead, I wandered the streets and found an ATM, a restaurant (with beer!), and later a bodego with cookies and more beer. Plus, I found a street vendor selling ice cream sandwiches. I swear I've done nothing but eat and sit! My body will either be happy to move or it will be like, WTF?
I think I'll sleep well on a flat bed and enjoy a few more days of WiFi before really just slipping into a world of adventure. So far, it's been as expected and then some!
I slept for 5 hours and then tossed and turned for another hour before resolving to just accept that I was still adjusting to time zones. The strange thing about traveling 9:45 ahead over 30+ hours is that I was just simply tired. Laying on a horizontal bed in a room by myself with the fan oscillating slowly and the dull buzz of a few beers was plenty to put me to sleep.
At some point in the night, it occurred to me that I had been journaling in books the way I'd been taught - the spine to the left. Writing now flows fastest from the keyboard where I can type and retype any mistakes and delete thoughts. But a journal is easier here mostly because I don't have a keyboard and there is something simple and raw about what I'm doing here.
I couldn't help but think as the superstitious made me feel confident in my choices that I had a made a really good choice. Perhaps because I'm seeking more of myself. Forcing the discomfort (or gleeful comfort?) of traveling solo. Of allowing my whitewashed and boring world become a little more colorful. I could peek back in the files and try to figure out the psychology of why, at 37 years old, I am sitting in a Nepalese hotel at 4:30am writing about nothing and everything in a journal upside down.
Have I wanted to carve myself as different in a sea of careful choices?
The approval of parents and then the approval of friends shaping my outcomes?
I will already know the weird things that will remind me of this trip. Who knew Michelle Obama's dad had MS? Probably a lot of people, but her narration of how she dealt with his diagnosis and as it progressed seemed to mirror what I see. It's become a part of my story. The why-my-husband-isn't-here or why-he-doesn't-run. And it feel now robotic in my response. The more I get asked, the more I feel compelled to keep the facts a minimum.
There are days that I like watching people sort it out in their head - like they are trying to find the right words to give me sympathy or figure out what to say next. I realize this is the same scrunched face that people give when they hear anything outside the "norm". I'm guilty of it too. But maybe I'm a little more desensitized to it?
Our yin and yang is stretched further with each passing year and yet, I like it more. Adam is the safe, the comfortable, the routine, all the things you want when a day is bad or life is hectic. As is my job and the Greenway and most holidays with my family. We need the routine. I can come to Nepal and wander into a bodega buying candy bars and beer without feeling anything other than happiness because I have comfort in my life. I will go home. The unknown feels safe right now because in 3 weeks I'll return and it will feel like just a dream.
I tried to run or at least go for a walk this morning, but the doors were locked and I could not get outside. I was a little bummed because I felt like it might help to shake the travel grogginess and the weather was pleasant. Instead, I waited a bit and then went to the courtyard to wait for life. Luckily, Miguel and Becky were awake and I with them, talking about the day ahead. At some point, I went to my room to gather my stuff and pack and repack again and again.
It was then time for our meeting where we discussed a few details and got our race shirts, bibs, and post-race clothes. We went over the gear list again and then went back to eat breakfast and repack. Breakfast was fruit, an egg, a lentil soup, and fried bread.
Our group then went to visit the Monkey Temple and got stuck in traffic as it was a major Buddhist holiday. But instead of driving up, we got to walk and it felt good to stretch my legs and move a bit. There were thousands of people at the temple. Hand out food and drinks, singing, offering blessings, chanting, and just existing. It was beautiful and crazy. I could have sat for hours just watching.
We got photos atop a shop and then went in for an explanation about the artists. I loved the story of the one I chose and liked the idea of a piece of art to commemorate my trip. We then went to find an ATM and to lunch. I had buff mom and a beer - which I guzzled quickly at the end because we had to go to another shop. The next one had meditation bowls and though I wanted more gifts, I opted to think about it.
Then, it was back to the hotel for our drive to Manthali. A harrowing, white knuckle experience. The hairpin turns with no shoulders on bumpy roads were only worth it because of the beautiful scenery of the valley. It was stunning. Peaks of 4-5,000' jutting above the deep green valleys and dotted with houses. It was certainly off the beaten path. I knew if we flew from Kathmandu to Lukla, we would never see these views. How lucky were we!
After 4-5 hours of driving, we ended up at a hotel with a goat and chickens running in the halls. It is warm and sticky, but charming all at the same time. Nowhere near Western standards, but that's not why I came to Nepal. I don't know what is authentic about it, but it isn't like anything at home so I think it fits the bill.
I slept hard last night. Even with the warm room and hard bed, I was weary from travel and had woken up at 3am that morning. I think I fell asleep around 9:30pm and woke up close to 5am, feeling pretty refreshed. We were not meeting until 7am so I decided to do some light stretching, a little core work, and just move my body after 3 days of travel.
It was still warm in the room and I was nearly naked as I went through the routine. I took a shower (cold) and felt refreshed. Then, I opened the windows and took in the valley while the world awoke.
I read a bit of my book, packed my bag, and then went down for breakfast near 6:30. We had fresh baked bread, toasted, with PB&J, plus boiled eggs and mango juice. And some weak coffee to get us through the morning.
We had a short ride to the airport and I rode in the back of the pickup truck - it was super fun. We had to wait awhile for our plane, but we chatted while we did, and had Sprites, courtesy of Mo. The airplane had about 15 seats and were window & aisle. I was glad our guide told us to sit on the left as we could see the mountains as we got closer. It was a 20 minute flight with lots of little stomach-inducing drops. We circled an extra time due to wind and then suddenly skidded onto the runway. It was awesome!
Once in Lukla, we went to lunch and sat for nearly an hour while they prepared our food. I had a potato and veggie dish and bought a Mars bar for dessert. It was good, but I knew I'd want a snack later. Our guides filled our water and then we started trekking.
It was about 4.5 miles to Phakding and with the stops and photos and just taking it easy, it took us nearly 3 hours. But, better to acclimate slowly and enjoy ourselves than to unnecessarily rush. The valley is incredible. It is lush and green and you can see for huge expanses.
It is incredible how gorgeous this landscape is. The clouds moving over the mountains, the river roaring through the valley, and all the shades of green. I cannot find words for how lucky I feel to be a part of this. I knew it would be special, but I think it has already given me more than I thought it would. Selfish as it may be, doing this alone has been good for me. I feel my choices can be my own - good, bad, or otherwise and while I'm lucky to share it with a group, I ultimately am in charge of my own destiny.
I sip the warm coffee, the strong, bitter taste rushing over my tongue, and waking the core of my body. I want to savor it and slurp it down in its entirety the moment it touches my lips.
We had our hardest hike yesterday from Phakding to Namche. I felt pretty good most of the time and am nowhere near any kind of "training pain". I do feel a bit more tired - like sleepy, but I think that is more jetlag than anything else. We crossed a bunch of bridges yesterday - one of them 150 meters high. Our weather was great and it was actually quite warm.
I had a potato dish for lunch and not too long after, an RX bar - I was feeling hungry and the calories perked me up. I'm in one foot in front of the other mode right now so any plans for rations should be tossed. Now I'm thinking I should bring some bars with my race pack - the GU will likely not be enough.
Our group is having fun still and I'm just awash with gratitude. Sitting on a stump outside the Zambala Home with an incredible view of Khumba Yui Lha in the background on a crisp, sunny morning. I just feel content.
The trail has been different than I expected. It's very wide - at least 2 people can pass in all places and it's often the size of a forest service road. It is busy all the time. With trekkers leap frogging all day, mules and yaks carrying fuel and rice, and porters carrying anything you can imagine. The strength of the porters is unreal. They are tiny men with enormous loads and they navigate faster than us with daypacks.
Prayer flags line across the bridges, the valleys, and through all the villages. I'm struck by how civilized it feels. There seems to be very little remoteness so far except for the lack of cars and of course, the elevation. I'm sure it will changes the higher we go, but it still seems odd the amount of creature comforts that exist where we are. Not that I'm complaining - just unexpected.
The trail is very dust - not unlike sand in most places. Sometimes we get a bit of dirt when amongst the pine trees. Lots of stone steps and paths - maybe to help with erosion? Or maybe to instill the sense of civilization? I guess I just assumed it would be dirt double track the whole way through.
5.21.2019 - later
We had our first views of Everest today - entering Sagarmatha National Park and the view was beautiful. We had blue skies with a few clouds in the morning and the weather seemed great for hiking. After photos and a stop at the museum, we made the trek to Hotel Everest View at 3,880 meters. The climb was about 1,000' in a mile and then one of the most picturesque trails led us to the hotel. There were dramatic drop offs at each turn and expanses so unreal that I had to really try to just enjoy the moment.
We had coffee and tea at the hotel and then took a different way back to the hotel at Namche. It was very, very dusty and were exposed to wind and sun nearly the whole time. I was glad I had my Buff to protect my face. When we got back, I was relieved to pull of my dusty pants and socks. I took a pseudo shower as the water is ice cold and I couldn't bear to tuck my head in it. I might treat myself to a hotel shower tonight because it will be a week before I can have one.
It is crazy to think of how much has happened in just a week and I still have 2 more to go.
After the shower, I headed down for lunch and then we all went out to shop a bit before some down time. I feel sleepy because of the sun, but otherwise, I'm happy that I still feel really good otherwise.
I woke up early again today after sleeping fairly well. Becky was sick and ultimately they decided to have her rest another day in Namche with Kale and Miguel. Our group would follow the schedule with Mo, Pam, Sie, and Gelu. One of the GITs stepped in and was our front leader. I definitely missed the extra giggles and fun that Becky and Miguel brought so it was a much more somber day of hiking overall.
We hiked the last section of the marathon route - a gentle grade for about 3 miles and then a hard descent down to the river followed by a tough ascent to Tengboche.
We went to the monastery after a tea/coffee break and walked around briefly before removing our shoes to go inside the main room. As I sat against the wall, all I could think of was how not quiet the quiet was and how much it smelled like dirty socks of trekkers. I was hoping for a bit more of a spiritual feeling, but I suppose you cannot force it.
After the monastery, we went on a short hike to nearly 13,000' for a breathtaking view of Tengboche and the surrounding valley. It was stunning. There was no agenda and I think we were all a bit more relaxed by this point.
The tea house tonight is not our own and the lack of choices is evident. I think it would be loud anyway, but the insulation is non-existent. It is getting less and less Western as we climb and a part of me enjoys this knowing that only a certain kind of person from the West is willing to forgo creature comforts to experience this. And really, this is still far from roughing it. There is electricity, running water, closed rooms, and hot food. But not hot showers, shared bathrooms, and very sparse rooms.
I feel a bit grimy, but I also know that I'll be okay without a shower for a week. I am certain I will be gross a week from now, but that is just part of stepping away from what is "normal" in my life. I have a lot of time to think, reflect, be present, and just be. It will be a memory in just a short time so I'm just trying to capture all that I can with my mind, pen, and camera.
I write about not having a shower for a week and then our accommodations tonight actually have hot showers. The room is cold and the water not burning hot, but it was still probably one of the best showers ever. I have been without a hot one since Saturday and took a cold one Sunday. Needless to say, it felt amazing. Now I'm all snuggle up in my sleeping bag in the late afternoon, away from it all.
Garmin says we are at 14,233' - higher than I've been before. I've had a bit of a headache since last night that gets better with food, water, and Excedrin. Otherwise, I think I feel pretty good. We hiked from Tengboche to Dengboche today and it was pretty easygoing compared to the past 2 days. Mo and I were comparing notes and I think we are eager to push it and it is so hard to go so slow and stop so much. I'm sure it will help us to acclimate better though and frankly, it's not like I have a different choice.
We spent the morning hiking next to the river and rhododendron trees with views of Everest as we hiked out. After lunch, we started to climb away from the tree line and the landscape changes again. A dog followed us the last kilometer to town - and as we made the final steps in Dengboche, I was feeling happy, happy again.
We had an acclimatization day today in Dengboche - the last one before we reach EBC. I woke up this morning with a raging headache, but I drank a bottle of water, took 2 Excedrin and felt much better. I had a bigger breakfast and our hike today was really easy. About 3 miles total and about 500' of climb. We got some really great pictures at the turnaround point and it was nice to just relax a bit.
While we were having lunch, Kale, Becky, and Miguel made it to Dengboche and I ran down the hill to greet them. We all caught up for a bit in the dining hall and then I went with them on a short hike to get a bit more altitude. It was definitely good to be giggling and hiking again. I had so much fun that it didn't even seem tough.
After that, I tried to get my phone charged while I got coffee and cake, but I didn't stay long enough to get more than 10%. I'm thinking I'll see how long my solar charger does tomorrow and then I'll pay for a full charge if needed. I want my phone for photos so it'll be worth the $5-$10 if the solar one sucks.
Today we went from Dengboche to Lobuche. It was around 4 miles and had some steady climbs. Our group is experiencing some ill effects of altitude and today took longer than expected. Our lunch was delayed and then the rest of our meals have been off today.
I am trying not to be overly confident in the way I feel - the headache is a bit of a concern, but I feel pretty good otherwise. I am eating until I'm full and hoping it staves off any feeling of bonk. It has been tough to go for such a long, slow time. My face is sun- and wind-burnt and my body feels better when I can actually cruise a bit on the flats and downs.
I keep thinking I know I should take it slow. It is just really hard for me to chill the fuck out. The views continue to be amazing. We are definitely in the land of no growth. Everything is rocky and sandy and rough. I don't even remember what I thought it would look like, but it was definitely not this.
I still feel so lucky to be physically and financially able to do this. It is almost overwhelming sometimes the amount of gratitude I feel. The people, the scenery, the whole journey, it really just seems strange that I'm a part of it.
It is such a strange mix of trekkers, sherpas, porters, and townspeople. There is advice flying everywhere and talk about adventures. All kinds of languages, all kinds of people from all over the world. Many are under 40, but there are many over as well.
The cabins are rustic, but I think I pictured more shared bunk cabins and less private rooms. Not that I'm complaining, I just expected a lot of the last sections to be filled with sharing and not just base camp. I am sleeping better with each night and have managed to get nearly 8 hours even with the increase in altitude.
I got my ass handed to me today. I felt good this morning and the hike went pretty well. I got in about an hour ahead but was feeling kind of blah at lunch. The food made me feel better and then we went to hike Kala Patther which was tough as shit.
1,500' of climbing in about 1.25 miles. It was insane. Of course I'm glad I did it, but fuck, it killed me. I have felt like garbage since. Nauseous, not hungry, and headache that won't go away. I'll be so glad to finally not have my head throb in a few days.
I am still happy I came, but I think I underestimated the trekking though. But tomorrow we go to Base Camp and in 2 days, we make our way back to Namche. Soon this will all be just a memory.
I made it Base Camp.
Garmin says we are resting at 17,475' and after many days of a decent RHR, it seems to be through the roof. I am hoping that by descending Wednesday, I'll feel better overall - not just the satisfaction of finishing, but also physically more back to normal.
It is such a cool and weird experience to be in a tent atop the world with a bunch of people sharing a meal. It is certainly one of the most memorable experiences I've had.
Base camp case tough. I had raging headache for most of it and it got worse at night.
We had a mock start Tuesday and then Becky came around noon. We spent most of the afternoon in the dining tent, passing the time drinking boiled water and conversing with other runners. We had our second dinner and briefing and then hit the tent to try to rest.
It was warmer the second night which is weird because it snowed in the afternoon. But my throat was really, really dry and the toilets were both disgusting and difficult to get to. It felt okay on race morning to cover the distance, but I had been sleeping so poorly and not running that I knew I was in no way competing. My outside goal was something in the 7 hour range, but I wasn't sure how I'd feel. I decided to put myself mid-pack and not push the pace early. Unfortunately, I got stuck behind a lot of walkers and hikers and even on the flats and easy downs, I was not able to run.
I came down the mountain and passed a bunch of runners in the mile into Dengboche. The Bibre loop was tough and seemed to stretch on forever. I finally reach the turnaround and was able to get my green wristband. Coming back, I got behind 2 German runners and followed them out of town. I saw Becky starting the her Bibre loop and gave her a huge hug. She was in good spirits and I was so happy she was feeling good. Just outside the loop who was getting hydrated at the aid station.
The section from Dengboche to Tengboche seemed to stretch forever. I ran behind a few different guys at various points and a couple. Most of them I'd stay behind them awhile and then pass them when I finally felt strong enough to do so. I felt like I was fading as I came down to the river, but I found a pack of Skittles I stashed and as I powered up the hill, I felt the effects of the sugar helping.
I checked into the aid station at Tengboche and then hopped down the hill to the river. I was in good spirits again and saw a guy who had been hanging out in our dining tent the day before. I ran with him for a few minutes and then decided to keep pushing to the river. At the river, one of our guides-in-training, Pemba, was waiting to finish the race with me.
I was feeling beat at the climb, but pushed as much as I could, knowing I that I only had a few more miles to go. I thought it was much flatter towards Namche, but there was still a bit of climbing. However, I don't think I got passed in the entire second half (or more) so I felt pretty happy with my effort.
I crossed the finish line in 8:25 and was still smiling. After getting a cup of juice, my medal, my certificate, we got some food and then promptly left after sand blew all over it.
Kale & Miguel walked me to the hotel and I caught up with Miguel for a few minutes. Once settled, I headed to my room for a very welcome hot shower. I came back to the dining room and hung out with Pam until I was so exhausted I wanted to go lie down. Around 8:00 p.m., we all met in the dining room to eat and talk about our races.
The next day, I went with the group to shop, drink, and have a fun rest day in Namche.
Not in journal: the first beer was at lunch followed by drinks at a pub with popcorn, a stop at the Irish bar for the first round of Irish car bombs, dinner with Jameson & apple cider, a return to the Irish bar for a final round, and an escort back to the hotel before 10:00 p.m. There was a bandanna purchased and tacked up to the bar wall, plenty of crazy dancing, and all the laughing.
Today, we shook off the drinks at breakfast and then started our hike to Phakding. It was a nice morning with lots of downhill and I was not feeling any pain or soreness from the marathon. We had an early lunch and finally got on our way to make the final 4.5 miles.
About halfway through our hike, the skies opened up and we got drenched. It was warmer near Phakding and I just shrugged as our clothes became plastered to our bodies. It was sweat relief when we finally reached our tea house and could finally get warm and dry.
Not in journal: the rain was also accompanied by huge claps of thunder and lightening. A suspension bridge is located about half a mile from Phakding and we had to cross it while it shook wildly over a raging river in a thunderstorm.
The rooms smells like whiskey and damp linens. I pick up a jar with air freshener beads and the smell of fresh cotton permeates my nostrils just briefly. I think of the stories that inhabit this space. I feel both happy to return to civilization and sad that this monumental trip is ending.
Lucky for all the things I can experience and sad for the things I cannot change. I know it will move me in ways that I cannot understand now. It's funny how I miss it without even being gone from it.
I hate that I feel a little under the weather right now, like my body is betraying me. I suppose I should be happy that it came now, like the rain, at the end of the adventure. It seems strange to want to live in this in between world of hiking each day, but yet also in the one at home. I miss my husband, my dogs, a clean bed, runs at low altitude, and actually, strength training.
Today we trekked less than 5 miles and spent the afternoon drinking beer and passing time. The group has faded into family now - filling the air with silence at times, comforted just by each other's presence. The ribbing is a little more sarcastic and the unfolding of our stories a little bit more by the day.
My heart rate is mostly back to normal and I long for the morning I wake up feeling 100% again. Between the jet lag, altitude and cold, it seems like it's been too long since I've had a good night's rest. I am sleeping okay, but not great and it seems strange to wake up easily before 6, or even 5, every day.
Tomorrow we fly back from Lukla and take the van to Kathmandu. Hopefully the weather cooperates and we have an uneventful trip back - save for the group silliness of course.
We are back in warm, muggy, busy, noisy Kathmandu. Such a change from the last 2 weeks. There is hot water for showers, fruit, city noises like motors, and everything is a contrast to the trek. I've spent half the day blowing my nose - a cold or sinus infection clogging up my face. And while I want to enjoy these last few days of life on vacation, I feel run down by my green snot.
This room has incredibly low ceilings and the street noise of motors, talking, dogs barking, and construction fill the background. It's so weird from the absolute dead silence of the highest elevation of the trek. Where no noise existed in the night - no electric hums, no animals, and complete stillness.
I now am remembering how windy it was in my tent the first afternoon at EBC. I stuffed chapati with cheese in my mouth hoping the fuel would make me feel less gutted. All I wanted to do was rest and it seemed impossible to get from the food tent to my own, let alone spread out my sleeping back. I hoped that our 3rd tentmate didn't show as I was too exhausted for niceties, even if she was the perfect roommate.
I check my text messages back at the hotel for something from Adam - this trip wouldn't feel as special without his ability to make me feel comfortable coming home. Tonight I felt more reflective in ways that I've just had glimpses of. The last supper kind of has that effect.
The low ceilings of this massive space with medieval type doors and windows and carved out walls for Buddhist shrines is so vastly different than home and so perfectly what I was seeking. It was hard and uncomfortable, and yet it was beautiful and perfect.
The trek so different than Kathmandu and the only thing I can think of is how I can do it again. Funny how a few days removed of the headache, the shallow breaths, and the tougher moments are out-shadowed by the ones that were absolutely perfect. A perfectly imperfect group of people, amazing weather, and stories that I feel like I will tell forever.
There were kittens, jump shots, rolling, hot orange/mango, all the tea, the special coffee, the cookie dough breakfast, the little girl with the Lifesaver, the belt exchange, the perfect seat for WiFi, the poop tent, the poop rock, getting my ass kicked by mall boy, getting brought in by Pemba, stealing phones for selfies, posing at the Everest View Hotel, the goat (Chico) hotel, the dog named Chocolate, attack of the propane tank by the yak, saying Jesus Christ with the chicken, all the extra acclimation hikes, all the can of Pringles, so much dal bhat, the sketchy van ride, the avocado (mango) tree, Western or squatter?, an attached bathroom, an attached shower, chicken flakes, laughter-induced avalanches.
I'm sure there are more and they will trickle out with photos and others' memories.
The last day of the group was tough. When you experience highs, lows, and everything in between with a group in a very physical way, it can be hard to say goodbye.
Because it as much the people as it is the experience. I'll hold so many of these moments so tightly for a long, long time. The smells, the tastes, feeling uncomfortably warm and shivering cold. I tried as much as possible to be in the moment, to laugh at the things that were unexpected, to face the unknown with fearlessness and soak it all in.
Maybe I pushed a little too hard, spent too much money, or stood a little too close to the edge. But I think that's were I've found the reward is that much sweeter.
The flood of memories comes pouring back and it is always with people - always with the unexpected.
I had breakfast with the group yesterday morning and then said my goodbyes to Becky, Miguel, and Mo as they had the first flights. I tried to repack my bags and was grateful for the extra marathon bag as I had way too much for my backpacks.
Then, Pam, Sie, & I went to find a dress similar to the one I bought the night before for Pam a few blocks from our hotel. We all seemed a little done with the shopping and exploring and wound up drinking iced coffees at a coffee shop and then shared a final lunch back at the hotel.
Kale came right as I was finishing so I tried to pay, but Pam got me again (they bought my coffee too!) one final time. We loaded the car and then it was off to the airport. Kale escorted me inside - well, right up to where he could go and then I stood in an obscenely long line for baggage drop and security #1. Then, it was time to go through customs and another security check. I realized the gates were only "open" when it was time to board so I seated myself in general population and enjoyed a bit of "alone" WiFi before it was time for 5 hours of a plane ride.
Somehow Paul spotted me and we talked for a bit until I needed to go stand in the disorganized chaos. I was seated next to a very sweet man, living in Boston, but a native Nepali who was visiting his family. I finished some Friends episodes and even though I got moved to a middle seat, it was okay because my seatmates were cool. Plus, after all the my discomfort over the past few weeks, a few hours in economy class suddenly didn't feel so bad.
In Doha, I must have walked a mile in the wrong direction before finally getting to the right place to exist. I wan't sure if I had enough Riyals for a taxi so the first driver who approached me, I asked if he would accept USD. He took me across the street to a very clean and well-lit parking garage and we got in his car. I was thinking of how it was potentially a bad idea, but trusted my gut that everything would be okay.
As we traveled through the city (insert first song playing on his radio was Barbie Girl), people were flooding the streets, the sidewalks, and boats in the harbor were lit up. The driver explained that Ramadan just finished. Though it took a bit longer to the hotel, it was really cool to see.
Luckily, the driver didn't murder me and dropped me at the front door of the Marriott.
I went through a security check (?!) and then was greeted to an amazing night. Hot towel, water bottle, and a free upgrade. I stood in the elevator for about 90 seconds before I realized I needed to scan my card to get to my floor. My corner room on the 32nd floor had the most amazing views. It was also entirely too nice and beautiful for the 8 hours I'd be there, but I used it as much as possible.
I ate a ridiculous dinner in the NY Steak House. 2 Leffe blondes, a salmon amuse bouche, a loaf of bread to serve 6 (I had just a piece), a giant wedge salad with caramelized onions and avocado, lamp chops (with my choice of 1 of 10 steak knives) and a selection of chocolates for desserts. It was rich and over-the-top, but so good after a few weeks of dal bhat and porridge
I think proceeded to take a very long, hot shower, lounge in a fluffy robe with slippers and then fall into bed using all 4 pillows.
The airport was the opposite of what it had been the night before and I panicked a bit before I realized it wasn't for where I was going. After getting through security again, I grabbed fruit, coffee, and a blueberry muffin. Realizing I had one Qatari souvenir, I headed to the duty free shop to pick up a few more things.
It seems so strange I'll be in my own bed tonight. I"m both sad and excited. It was such a journey, but it will feel so good to be home.
Full list of my gear DOs and DON'Ts here: https://quadracool.blogspot.com/2019/06/qcs-gear-dos-and-donts-for-himalayan.html
GPS for hikes (May 19th, 2019 - June 1st, 2019): https://www.strava.com/athletes/7667685