By: Konstantina Sakellariou
The Everest Base Camp (EBC) trail is heavily charged emotionally. Every step is a legend; every nook is history. It is not just a breathtakingly beautiful path, nor a mere altitude trek – much easier of course than the actual climb on the Everest peak. This path represents a journey through time and space. The energy is still strong from the voyage of the floating piece of land which, once upon a time, unsoldered from the south and sailed towards the north. Uniting with Eurasia with such force and in such a tight embrace that not only it created the tallest mountain in the world, and the huge mountain line of the Himalayas, but it also keeps on pushing and penetrating – a constant Linga in the Yoni of the Earth – causing the peak to grow higher every year.
Along the path, the traveler grasps in his hands the thread of the Dudh-Kosi River following its guidance like a liquid Ariadne’s device, connecting with the ghosts of the dead mountaineers who reside on the mountain, and the angels who sing on its triangular peak. Regardless of the final altitude reached, no peregrinator can escape from the influence of the fluid ethereal co-travelers, who had once walked on the same paths venturing to step on the top of the world in order to conquer the inhospitable heights and spread their fingers high to touch the sky, and who have been, ever since, dwelling there in a timeless eternity. That’s why one can never be the same after having set foot on this trail.
We arrived at Kathmandu’s local airport early in the morning, eyelids drooping, backpacks on our shoulders, in order to fly to Lukla, the starting point of the EBC trail. The rest of our bags were carefully packed in order to not exceed the 15 kg limit, since the size of the plane could not allow for exceptions. We were told that the weather forecast was good so we flew off with no delay, though, given the unpredictability of the mountain meteorological conditions, delays in these flights are almost the norm.
The small, fixed-wing Twin Otter plane had two single-seat lines; our feet barely could fit in the available space and the noise was so loud that we were given cotton buds for our ears. Through the porthole windows and the windshield that was observable through the open door of the cockpit, we watched the kitsch-colored buildings of Kathmandu falling away and the white round stupa of Boudhanath standing proudly. We slalomed among green hills with carved rice-terraces that seemed like a new version of a stairway to heaven, we approached the higher and less hospitable peaks of the Himalayas, and we finally prepared, after an about half an hour flight, to land on what is considered to be the most dangerous airport in the world. Given its 500 m runway and the 12% gradient, pilots are specially trained in order to be able to land at the Tenzing-Hillary airport. We learned that the airway was originally flattened (before tarmac was applied) by rolling logs and having the Sherpas dance in lines for three days, stepping their feet fiercely on the ground. History grabbed us with the keenness of a tour guide looking for customers and welcomed us with a heartfelt Namaste from the very landing point.
Lukla, at an altitude of almost 3,000 m, was a cute small town with teahouses and lodges on either side of the short main road. It would be the starting and ending point of our trek, the beginning and the completion, birth and death alike, like it always seems to be the case in life. After a quick breakfast, we set off, eager to explore the trail, already feeling though an initial slight struggle while breathing.
In the beginning, the path was going up and down in a usual “Sherpa flat”, meaning that we did not really gain any altitude but we still had occasional short but steep ascents and descents. The trail was as picturesque as one can imagine – or one can just sneak a peek from the thousands of paintings decorating the touristic art galleries in the backstreets of Thamel. It was snaking through the villages, quite well preserved and unexpectedly clean. Teahouses and lodges rested on either side of the path, bearing not-so-inspired variations of Everest-connected names. Despite their moderate construction, they were standing proudly, having acquired something of the magic of their name, the way names always appear to affect our world.
The route was shared with local men and women who were dressed in traditional Sherpa clothes and were carrying large loads on their back, and with mules and dzokpos (and, later, yaks), all of whom were always given the right to way while we had to urgently squeeze at a nook. We respectfully passed by several Mani stones, keeping them always on our right – as tradition indicates – occasionally touching with our fingertips the Tibetan Buddhist payers that have been carved on the rocks. We stood next to fluttering prayer flags, many of which were slightly discolored due to the weather, but their prayers were perpetually traveling with the wind, reaching each doleful heart. We turned the prayer wheels “to purify our soul”, because, after all, this purification is the only reason to go up a mountain, submitting our bodies and our minds to an ordeal of which we often questioned the necessity. The trail was complemented by rich forest areas, smoky peaks, several crossings over the traditional suspension bridges of Nepal, ongoing elaborate arias sung by the river, and the sounds of melodic little bells which were tied around the necks of the animals to announce their approaching passage – a weird combination of angelic bells and devilish horns.
Excerpt from “The Unusual Journeys of a Girl Like Any Other” Available as E-book on Kindle (getbook.at/TheUnusualJourneysofaGirlLikeAnyOther)
Konstantina Sakellariou, Author www.myunusualjourneys.com
Chief Initiator – Transformational Journeys, Rahhalah Explorers www.rahhalah.com/transformational-journeys/
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