Journey To Everest Base Camp And Kala Patar Summit 18,514′

October 21st – November 11th 2007
Kala-Patar

Everest-Map

The Dream of Adventure
Who is a man that doesn’t dream of adventure? My dreams would take me thousands of miles from home and plunge me into complete cultural immersion, culminating with an ascent of Kala Patar and a trek to Everest Base Camp, but not before facing a number of daunting challenges along the way. I would make new friends and meet some of the happiest people on the planet, walking away ever changed by the experience of a lifetime. Let’s begin…
 
January 3rd 2007 – A little Background
The Christmas and New Year holidays have finally wound down and I can begin in earnest to work on my goals of trekking the Himalayas and summiting Kala Patar in October and November of this year (2007). It’s been a dream of mine to summit Mt. Everest since 1979 when I became interested in learning to rappel and technical rock climb. I was a pre-med student at the University of Louisville (4.0 Average) and also working in the Radiology department at Humana Hospital Southwest when I met Bob Hamilton, a police officer, paramedic and volunteer firefighter with the Fairdale Fire Department. Bob would drop by the office and we would often speak of his latest adventures, which led to Bob teaching me to rappel in one of the hose drying towers at the Fairdale Fire Department. (Bob was somewhat of a legend to those of us who knew him well as he was also a paid mercenary who would often take periods of time away from his work to fight in different parts of South America.) I also got with the great folks at Quest Outdoors, a local outfitter and before you knew it I was on my way to learning technical rock climbing at Red River Gorge in Eastern Kentucky. This led to my love for Red River Gorge and my leading small groups though the Gorge in the early eighties. While all of this was going on I began to dream of climbing the seven summits which comprise all of the major summits around the world, which of course included the granddaddy of them all Mt. Everest.
 
Life Gets In The Way
Life has a funny way of pushing dreams and goals aside and that’s exactly what happened to my dreams of summiting Mt. Everest. I discovered that medicine really wasn’t for me and that a career in Information Technology would make me happy and it has. I have two beautiful girls and a wonderful wife who complete me, but while my life goals were ever changing, the desire to climb Mt. Everest had always been ever present in the back of my mind, a dream that kept getting pushed aside for the more important things in life.

Reality Sets In
I realize now that I may never get any closer to my dreams of summiting Mt. Everest, the reality of taking three months off from my current position as Software Delivery Specialist at Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield and coming up with the sixty-thousand dollars to pay for the trip has placed things in perspective for me. It was hard enough asking for a month off and coming up with the more than eight thousand dollars to make this trip. Short of hitting the lottery, this dream will most likely be sidelined for the foreseeable future.

Logistics
I’ll be touring Nepal with a respected outfitter REI (Recreational Equipment Incorporated). I’ve been a member of REI for many years and have purchased considerable hiking and climbing equipment from them. I trust them and have no doubt that I’ve made the best decision possible in choosing the right company to work with. Rusty, an REI Adventure Specialist, has made this trek more than a dozen times and has been an outstanding resource.
 
Traveling Companion
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that I will have a traveling companion on my trek. I had been getting my hair cut when I told Randy, my stand-in hair stylist (Randy’s wife Candy normally cuts my hair), about my trip to Nepal. He expressed such an interest in the trip that I just had to ask him if he would like to go. To my surprise he did and I look forward to having someone along with whom I’m familiar. I expect this will be the trip of a lifetime for both of us. Our wives are already conspiring to see what kind of trouble they can get into while we’re away.

About My Journal
While I attempted to keep a daily journal of my trek once the trip had started, I had to rely on handwritten notes and memory to complete my journal once I returned home. I’ve made every attempt to provide the big picture in this journal. But, how do you capture the experience of a lifetime in words and in photographs? This subject would come up many times among the team during our journey up the mountainous trail to Kala Patar and Everest Base Camp. How could the stories and photographs that we took tell the entire story and capture the grandest of vistas, the Himalayas? Sadly we will ultimately fall short of conveying the whole picture. To capture this glorious experience one must surely travel there to see it themselves.

Departure Day – Sunday October 21st 2007
It’s early Sunday morning and I have all of my bags ready to go, to say I’m apprehensive about the trip would be an understatement. Months have gone into preparing, but because of my overzealous workout routine (walking 80 plus miles in the last couple of weeks) my knee has begun to ache a bit, enough to worry me. For those of you who don’t know, I had right knee surgery just after the first of the year to repair a torn meniscus. The surgery went well enough but I’m still reminded on occasion that I’m not back completely. For all the trouble with my knee I would still consider myself in the best shape that I’ve been in for many years.
 
I have my girls with me this weekend and they’re going with me to the airport to see me off. It will be sad to say goodbye knowing that it will be three weeks before seeing them again. I’ve purchased a copy of Bob Seger’s song “I Think I’m Going To Kathmandu” and I’ve secretly set it up to play when we head out this morning. When I played it pulling out of the driveway, everyone erupted with laughter and it helped to lighten the mood and ease my departure a bit.
 
I was surprised at the airport with a bag that Leslie and the kids had put together for me which contained some snacks, a couple of books and a card to be opened whenever I got lonely for home. Time quickly passed and eventually I had to leave for the homeland security area. We were all sad to say goodbye and Sam was noticeably upset. When I had a few minutes after clearing security I made a phone call to Leslie and discovered that they were having breakfast and that Sam had been crying the whole time. I was able to talk to her and I think that helped.
 
Thanks to the new homeland security regulations, I’ll be at the airport a couple of hours earlier than necessary to board the plane. Louisville International is not one of those airports that you have to worry about getting through quick enough. Even though it’s called an international airport, it’s simply because UPS, one of the area’s largest employers, has its hub located here and flies internationally. So, just to be safe I’ll end up sitting for a couple of hours.
 
The flight into Cincinnati was quick and uneventful. We did however encounter some turbulence flying into Los Angeles. Along the flight path I did see the Hoover Dam just outside of Las Vegas. It looks so small from thirty thousand feet. I could also see the plumes of smoke from a huge fire they had in the Los Angeles area when we flew in.
 
When I arrived in Los Angeles, I soon discovered that I had to exit the Domestic Terminal to enter the International Terminal and because I had so much time on my hands I thought I would rent a limousine and have it take me to the Santa Monica Pier where I had taken my first steps as an infant. Why not, I thought? It was within a quick thirty minute drive from the terminal so I felt I had plenty of time.
 
(4:40PM PST) When I exited the terminal to look for the limos a young lady walked up to me and asked me for a donation in support of some community charity (I gave her five dollars) and because she appeared to have an official badge allowing her to be there, I also asked her if she knew where I could find a limo for the ride into Santa Monica, one where the driver wouldn’t mind waiting for me while I took a walk along the beach and visited the Pier. She pointed to a man who waved back at us standing just at the curbside and whispered that he would be glad to take me but that he didn’t have an official license to transport people. She said it would be cheaper. Although my initial reaction gave me reason to walk toward the man holding the door open for me to the limo, it was the look he gave the lady who I had just talked to that gave me reason for concern. An almost sinister look as if to say “we have another one” and in that instant my gut feeling turned me away in search of another means of getting there. I gave the man a wave and said no thanks and headed off in search of another limo. I found a board just inside the terminal with the names of some companies offering conveyance and just as I was about to pick up the phone and schedule my limo I felt the touch of someone’s hand on my shoulder. It was the driver I had just politely told no. He wanted to know why I had turned him down and to offer his services again. This time a bit more stern I told him to go away and he left. I can’t help but wonder if I would have made it to the Pier that evening or been driven to some warehouse location and fleeced or worse. In either case, my desire to continue to the Pier was fading and I found myself upstairs at the International Terminal with time on my hands.
 
I spent some time looking for the Thai Air Terminal only to discover that many of the airlines share terminal space and because my flight was a few hours away, they were not yet present. I did however determine which terminal they would be at once they did arrive and I set about to kill some time.
 
My first call was to home where I talked with Leslie and the girls. I also talked to Dad a bit. I grabbed a bite to eat at McDonalds and found an Internet chair which allowed me to chat with Stephanie at home using Yahoo Instant Messenger.
 
It’s 7:30pm and the Thai Air Terminal is opening. I quickly grabbed my bag and got into a long line which did seem to move rather quickly. It was then that I met a very nice older lady named Jan. Jan and I would become good friends in the evening to come.
 
Monday – Tuesday October 22nd-23rd 2007
 
Somewhere in time, between flights and while standing in the Thai airline line this evening around 7:30pm PST (Still in LAX INT) I met up with this very nice lady named Jan. Jan is a wonderful lady with grey hair, children and a real zest for life. I would place her in her 60s and she’s also on her way to Kathmandu but will be taking an easier route than our group and I think will be there for fewer days overall. As mentioned, Jan has children and we spent the evening trying to keep each other awake in the terminal by learning as much about each other and our families as possible. The planes are so big here, one’s tail just passed the window of the second floor terminal where we are sitting and it looked like the tail of a shark. We’re getting silly now as we’re obviously both very tired.
 
Jan’s sitting just a few rows behind me on the long flight from Los Angeles to Kathmandu and if the flight hadn’t been so long (17 hours) and I hadn’t had an empty seat next to me, I would have wanted her company. As it is now, I have an empty seat next to me to lie down in as I try to get to sleep this evening. I’ve got Tylenol PM with me and will be taking that shortly to see if I can get some rest.
 
The Thai plane is the largest and nicest I’ve ever seen and the Thai people perhaps the friendliest I’ve ever encountered. There are GPS units on the back of each seat offering not only navigation and flight status but also great music and the latest movies. The meals look and taste great but I’m careful to eat only that which is hot. It’s late now and I can see the lights of Singapore and Hong Kong off in the distant darkness somewhere over the South Pacific. I can see countless shooting stars through my airline window, the first around 6:47am PST.
 
As night turns into day, I realize that I’ve rested somewhat well but my body clock is way off now.
 
We’ll be landing in Thailand soon and we’re being asked to complete immigration forms. As I’m considered a transient I won’t have to complete this form, only those remaining in Thailand will have to do so.
 
The flight into Thailand was about as smooth a flight as any I have ever been on and the airport very clean and nice. I’ll be here for only a few hours before flying on to Kathmandu this afternoon. I’ll also meet up with the rest of our group and Randy, who’s been here overnight.
 
After landing I was a bit surprised but happy to see Jan again and we spent time trying to figure out how to call home on the Thailand pay phones and where to locate the nearest cola, juice and restroom facilities.
 
I’m sitting with Jan waiting for Randy. I’m a bit concerned as we’re nearing our departure time and Randy still hasn’t shown up. He had said he would be meeting up with me fairly early at the airport. I would later learn that he was looking for me in an entirely different location. When Randy does show up I say a quick goodbye to my friend Jan and we both go to meet up with the REI Group that I’ve noticed has started to congregate nearby. To this day, I’m sorry I didn’t spend more time telling Jan goodbye, her company was pleasant and it was nice having someone to talk to while passing the time away.
 
One of my only true fears about taking this trip was the loss of my luggage. I reasoned that I could overcome just about anything but the loss of my luggage. After all, it had taken me nearly a year to assemble the necessary equipment to complete the gear list required for the trip. How could I possibly recover from lost luggage in a foreign land if that should occur?
 
As our plane sped towards Kathmandu one could see the Himalayas coming into view. With every minute that passed more and more of the skyline became clearer and although I’m not completely certain, I do believe I caught a glimpse of Everest on the way in. We landed at the Kathmandu airport among billowing pillow clouds without fanfare and were quickly whisked into the terminal where we were to complete immigration papers and obtain our visas.
 
Randy and I split up as I thought I had found a line moving much quicker, Randy on the other hand wasn’t convinced so he stayed where he was. I made it through the visa line considerably quicker than Randy and decided to head down and locate my baggage thinking I would see Randy again before we headed out to our transport for the hotel. Our group had been told to assemble at the glass doors and then all walk out together but this didn’t happen.
 
A funny thing happened while I was looking for my luggage. A man walked up to me and asked me if I was Scott Goldbach. While I’m somewhat famous for the “IT” work I’ve done for such companies as TRW, Ford Motor Company and Blue Cross and Blue Shield over the years, such news surely hadn’t made it to the other side of the world and surely he wasn’t asking for my autograph. So I told him that I was and then asked him why he had asked. Well he said, it seems that your luggage is lost. My heart sank, how could this be? Talk about customer service, I had never experienced lost luggage before but wasn’t I suppose to be the one telling them my luggage seemed to be lost? In either case, I felt somewhat optimistic that if they already knew my luggage was lost, just perhaps they knew where it was. As it turned out they only had reports of one bag being lost and I had carried with me two. They were not aware of the second bag.
 
The luggage area was a site to behold, with luggage strewn about and stacked on top of each other, one couldn’t help but wonder how any baggage was ever found here, but gradually as I continued to look through the mounds of luggage I came to the realization that my luggage, the one thing I feared the most, had been lost.
 
I asked the man what I should do at this point and he gave me some forms to fill out which basically required me to tell them where I was staying and also provide them with my baggage claim checks, which I had a terrible time locating. I’m sure Randy looked for me while locating his own luggage but I had lost the ability to look for him while completing the required lost luggage forms and we would ultimately end up meeting again in the expedition outfitters van just outside the terminal.
 
When I finally did get everything in order I had to make my way through customs, which ended up being nothing. The post where customs was located had been vacated and I was able to pass right through and towards the glass doors where our team was to meet. I’ve given this some thought and it is possible that customs comes and goes with the influx of departing and arriving flights. I had been held up for some time working with my luggage and I suppose it’s possible that someone had been manning the customs area prior to my getting there. With everyone gone I headed out into what could only be considered chaos, with what seemed like hundreds of people holding up signs and shouting, vying for your attention to be the lucky one chosen to carry you and your luggage off to destinations yet undetermined. A bit overwhelmed I stepped back into the protected area of the glass enclosure to collect myself and then headed back out into the fury of those looking for work. As luck would have it and just as I was about to give up and head back in to make some phone calls I saw a young man with an REI sign off in the distance. When I approached him a couple of other men walked up to me and asked me who I was and I was saved. They threw a lay of rhododendrons over my neck and escorted me to our team who were waiting for me at our van.
 
The trip to our hotel was nothing like I had pictured it to be. Kathmandu was much more crowded than I had expected and you’d see the occasional monkey and cow on the streets along with people burning garbage and the military carrying arms. What’s this, we’re driving on the other side of the road? I suppose if I had thought about it I would have realized it but it did catch me a bit off guard. We quickly made our way to the sanctuary of our hotel where armed guards stood outside its steel blockade type gate. I didn’t see this in the hotel brochure, but then again the mention of armed guards probably doesn’t do a thing for business.

Hotel-Katmandu-Napal

Once inside we were briefed on the morning’s activities and given room keys. The rooms were nice enough and for a fourth world country they would have been considered palaces. Randy and I would settle in and then head out into town this evening on our own to explore and to have dinner.

Wednesday Oct 22nd About 1AM Kathmandu Time
 
Where to start? I’m sitting in a bathroom with one of three lights that actually work in our hotel room, Randy lies asleep in the other room. Our room is large enough but one gets the feeling of watching a late night black and white movie with the sound of the city permeating the room like there is no sound barrier. In the not so far distance you can hear a dog barking and there are sounds of car horns and the drone of a beat to some music of which I can only hear the base.
 
There’s a smell here in Kathmandu that permeates everything. It gets in your nose and stays there. Kathmandu is a dirty city. Still it has a charm about it like I’ve not known before.
 
My luggage is lost, both bags. I’ve been assured that it will be found. A lady here from Seattle will be going over with one of our Sherpa guides later this morning to see if she can find her own bag (She’s leaving on another trek in a few days) and will try to locate my bags. She has graciously agreed to look for them so that I don’t miss out on our tour of the city today. I’m hopeful they will locate my bags. I stink and I’m in serious need of a bath. I fear I will be thrown off the plane if I don’t have any clean clothes to change into, that’s if I have to fly home and abandon my trek. Also, my dream of getting to base camp will be lost.
 
Randy and I walked the city streets last night. It seems safe enough but for the cars and motor bikes that careen down the tiny narrow streets holding as many as four passengers, with horns a blaring. Humm, the lights just flickered, we’re subject to brown outs here and we’ve been advised to stay out of the elevator (Capacity 4) because of this, by the Sherpa Staff. I’ve managed to talk Randy into using it a couple of times, a kind of Kathmandu Russian Roulette if you will.
 
There are street vendors everywhere here and for that matter there are also cows and monkeys roaming the streets. One of the street vendors latched onto Randy last night and wouldn’t give up. He seemed to follow us everywhere we went. I suppose Randy was just trying to be nice and express some interest in a beaded necklace the man was peddling.
 
“Hey! Where’s that restaurant we’ve been looking for?” I asked Randy, as we had been looking now for about an hour and we still hadn’t run across it. We headed back to the hotel to ask for directions and to our surprise our bell boy followed us out into the city and spent another thirty minutes or so helping us to locate it. I gave him five US dollars for his willingness to help the Westerners.
 
After an unsatisfying dinner which tasted more like an old tennis shoe than a steak, we headed back out into the street only to find Randy’s street vendor friend waiting on us. I’m not sure if Randy really wanted the necklace or if he felt the man deserved the sell for his tenaciousness, but Randy did eventually purchased the necklace.
 
When we got to the room last night Randy and I were both worn out and went straight to sleep. I think I actually fell asleep with my arm holding up my head watching the TV and when I woke up, to ultimately write in my journal, my arm had fallen dead asleep. I think it took nearly ten minutes for life to come back to it. I sure hope they find my luggage.
 
I could swear that I hear the sound of an extension ladder being moved about the sides of the hotel. We are on the 4th floor. God help anyone who tries to enter our room. Guess it’s time to head back to bed.
 
Morning Comes To Kathmandu
 
I miss you
Email Sent Tue 10/23/2007 10:53 PM USA EST
 
Hi honey, me coming to you live from Kathmandu Nepal – 8:34am our time:
 
They told me you emailed Rusty, they got the email and they’re working feverishly to try to find my bags. Thank for having my back. I just IM’d Steph, she’s doing well and we had a great chat. I think she was happy to hear from me. I stumbled upon a Cyber Cafe here at the hotel and its only 8:34AM Wed morning here. 10:49pm Tues evening your time. After our tour today I’ll try to catch you at work but I’m not sure what time that will be honey. Don’t wait lunch on me or anything. If I don’t reach you on IM I’ll try you at home tonight.
 
I have so many stories to tell you guys and I miss you all so much.
 
Love you,
Scott
LUMUNU (Love You Miss You Need You)

 
Somewhere between the last journal entry and now I’ve managed to eek out a chunk of badly needed sleep. I’m determined to make the best of my trip whether they find my lost luggage or not. I’ve decided to go out on today’s city tour and not give a second thought to my luggage, it is what it is. It may be the only time I have the opportunity to tour Kathmandu and I’m not going to let it pass.
 
First on our city tour is the Monkey Temple, a place where the Hindu and Buddhist religions exist together in harmony. It’s a fabulous place and although I’m really looking forward to this first stop, I’m a bit apprehensive about this visit as I have been warned by our local International Travel Clinic that the monkeys have bitten many visitors and there is no rabies program in Kathmandu. Upon arrival we’re told that this is true and not to feed the monkeys. As it turns out, most people are bitten when they’ve been feeding the monkeys and then run out of food. We’re also told that there are some two thousand monkeys here. By all counts we saw between thirty and forty monkeys during our visit, mostly resting in trees, although a few got somewhat closer.

Monkey-Temple

Next stop, the Tibetan Refugee Rug Factory. Here Tibetan refugees work together to make some of the most beautiful handmade rugs you’ll find anywhere. The quality ranges from good to very good along with the prices. If Leslie could have accompanied me on this trip I’m sure we would have purchased some of the rugs.

Side Note: Did you know that it typically takes four hours to buy gas in Kathmandu and that even after waiting for four hours to get your gas (sometimes much longer) you’re only allowed five liters? No wonder there are so many motor scooters here. Get this, if you’re part of the tourist trade, you don’t have to wait for gas and you can have as much as you need. The tourist trade is the primary industry in Kathmandu.

Next stop along our tour is the government-run craft shop. I believe Cyndi and George both purchased singing bowls here.
 
As we continued our tour of the city, stopping along the way to visit homes and market areas, including Durbar Square we stopped for lunch at a café stationed several floors above the city street level. Here Randy and I ordered but the only thing I wanted was two “cold” diet cokes and a bottle of water. The waiter looked at me with some bit of astonishment, but that’s truly all I cared for at that moment.
 
After lunch our last stop was to a huge Buddhist temple in the center of town. The whole area had been built around this Buddhist temple. Up to this period in time I had made a point of not turning the prayer wheels as the Buddhist religion goes contrary to my own beliefs as a Christian. But for some reason, if for no other than to experience fully the culture of the moment I did turn some prayer wheels here. Moments later, perhaps ten minutes or so, our guide received a phone call saying that they had located my luggage. I was elated! As if a weight had been lifted from my shoulders I had a new spirit about me that would carry me like the wind throughout the rest of the day. Prayer wheel coincidence, we may never know.
 
Just before leaving the temple area, we visited an art dealership where I purchased a print by master artist Tosy Loma, a print that I intend to hang when I return home. Some of these amazing works can take years to complete and cost thousands of US dollars.
 
Hi Guys – Dad reporting in from Kathmandu Nepal
Local time 5:01pm Wednesday – Your Time 7:17am Wednesday
Email Sent: Wed 10/24/2007 7:25 AM USA EST
 
Hi Guys,
 
We had an outstanding day today and I will forever look at the world differently. I have so much to share with you all, so many pictures, movies and stories.
 
GREAT NEWS!!! They found my luggage and I’m heading to Mt. Everest in the morning. They found it while we were away on our tour today and it was waiting in the lobby when we all got back.
 
Les, honey I will try to Instant Message you this evening or at the very least I will try to call. Heading out tomorrow I’m not certain when I will be able to contact you again. I love you honey and miss you so much. I’m having the time of my life and words can’t begin to describe the cultural immersion experience.
 
Steph, honey this may be the last email you get from Dad for a while. Just know how much I love you guys and miss you and I’ll be home soon to share this incredible experience.
 
Namaste or goodbye from dad,
Love you guys

 
Day 1 – Thursday October 23rd 2007
Up bright and early (3:30am), the morning finds a flurry of activity. Because this is the busiest time of year for tourist, we’re up early enough to get to the Lukla airport so that we may get a jump on other trekkers who are leaving for the same venue.
 
The Kathmandu airport would be considered small by our standards in the US. There security is minimal but painful, having to stand in long lines and be herded like cattle through highly invasive checkpoints that contribute to a feeling of hopelessness. You get the feeling you may never see your luggage or traveling companions again. Add to this the insistence of young men demanding money for tips because they may or may not have carried your bag and you begin to get the bigger picture. Having cleared these obstacles we did eventually find our group again within the terminal.
 
Unfortunately, any good plan can go wrong and we found ourselves fogged in and sitting at the airport for hours. Although not ideal, it did give us the opportunity to get to know each other better. There had been another group of trekkers that Randy and I, up to this point, just hadn’t met yet. Al, Dave, Theresa and Original Dave (self proclaimed because he was the elder), had arrived in Kathmandu before the rest of our group. So we introduced ourselves and took time to get to know each other. It was also during this time that I located another Internet Café and made contact with Leslie back home. I can’t emphasize enough the importance these Internet Cafés played for me during my trip. Being able to stay connected to Leslie and my girls kept my spirits high.
 
Eventually the fog lifted and we were led to a vehicle that dropped us off at our plane. Here we would stand for another hour or so while we waited on other planes and helicopters to be cleared for take off. We did see a UN plane and delegates nearby, so we may well have been held up by the UN. It was during this time that I started to get to know George, a funny guy with an English accent who was quick with a joke and just fun to be around. In one of the groups funnier moments of the trip, I recall George asking our pilots why there were prayer flags draped over the steering wheel and control sticks in the cockpit of our plane. We would eventually come to understand why they were there.

Yeti-Airlines2 Yeti-Airlines

 

After what seemed like an eternity we boarded our flight and found it very odd that such a little plane actually had a stewardess on board. Her only function, besides making sure people didn’t hit their heads when entering and exiting the plane, seemed to be handing out little mints during the flight. It was quite comical. Every seat was taken and all of us had gear in our laps onboard (refer to Lukla dance below).

Our flight into Lukla was somewhat like that of a Disney ride, very exciting. There were beautiful mountain vistas all around. Lukla has the distinction of having one of the shortest runways in the world. Couple this with the fact that it sits nestled on a mountainside and its runway dead-ends into the mountain and you have the makings of one genuine thrill ride. 

Update: Lukla Airport Voted The Worlds Most Dangerous Airport

Lukla-Airport

Side Note: It would add another “hard” week of trekking to walk the trails from Kathmandu into Lukla.

Upon landing at Lukla our team erupted with thunderous applause, we had survived! We quickly disembarked the plane and made our way to the staging point where lunch would soon be served and the Lukla dance would soon begin.

The Lukla Dance

Ah, the “Lukla Dance” the term Rusty, our trip advisor, would refer to often. I guess you could sum up the Lukla Dance as getting one over on Yeti Airlines. Surely they were aware that passengers were taking much more than their allotted gear weight quota. But I digress… You see, in order to board the plane from Kathmandu to Lukla you must be carrying less than thirty pounds of gear per passenger, which is nearly impossible to do. In fact, I hereby today declare it impossible to carry two full weeks of winter gear and keep it under thirty pounds. In order to circumvent this rule, you wear as much clothing as possible and stuff your carry-on with as much of your gear as possible to keep your stowaway bag under the thirty pound limit. You’ve seen the scene out of the movie “A Christmas Story” where the young boy tells his mother that he can’t put his arms down. Well if you have, you’re starting to get the big picture. Once you’ve landed in Lukla you scurry about to get all of your gear repacked as desired and this is known as the “Lukla Dance”.
 
I’ve included my gear list which allowed me to meet the airlines weight quota along with an email from Rusty which explains the Lukla Dance ritual below.
 
My Lukla Dance – My 18 Pound Backpack Included:
Journal
Book
Solar Panel
Fanny Pack with (Binoculars, Knife, Flashlight, etc…)
Camera
Solar Blanket
Water Bottle
5 Pair of Winter Socks and Liner Socks
 
The Lukla Dance As Described By Rusty Brennan In An EMail
 
Hi Scott, Thanks for the contact.

The gear list weighs about 22 to 26 pounds. An empty Eagle Creek XXLG duffel weighs 5 pounds. Personally my day pack with camera or 2, binos, book, etc, weights 12 pounds. The evening prior to the flight (either way) Mingma Sherpa is going to ask that everyone wear their heaviest items. This results in your “waddling” out to the flight in 65 degree morning air. On landing in Lukla there is a bit of chaos (I call this the “Lukla Dance”) as the plane is loaded and unloaded with gear and passengers. In about 30 minutes you’ll have access to your duffel and strip off lots of gear, switch back to running shoes if you like for the afternoons hike. Relax, this first day is a sorting out gear, yaks, Sherpa’s and staff day.

The Lukla Dance behind us, we settle down for a fabulous lunch. Everyone, all fifteen of our group, seem to be getting along amazingly well which really helps.

Lunch-Lukla

After lunch we made our way through Lukla and onto the trail which would eventually lead us to far away destinations. While I don’t recall the specific event which occurred between me and the Zokio (a cross between a yak and a cow), I’m sure I must have let one get too close to me. I did manage to pick up some form of reputation though, enough so that the Sherpa’s kept a close eye on me anytime the Zokio’s got too close. I got to a point where I would help the Sherpa’s keep our group safe by herding them away whenever they would pass us on the trails.

I never feared the Zokio, I respected them. They’re very large animals that would typically navigate the same terrain our group dealt with on a daily basis, all while carrying our gear. I asked one of our guides about them and discovered that they do sometimes fall off the mountainside.
 
We reached camp by nightfall and enjoyed dinner just before turning in for the night. Dinner was held inside one of many trailside lodges we would pass on our way up the mountain.
 
Side Note: Going forward, you’ll find many of the following entries were taken directly from my hand kept journal. Although not as detailed, they represent my thoughts at the time.
 
Final Journal Notes For The Day:
This will likely be our last night of warm weather as we head higher up the mountain tomorrow. The trail was brutal today as many a loose stone lay at our feet. So much so, that you are constantly watching your step trying to avoid an ankle turn. My knee hurt somewhat today and I pray that I will be able to hold up. Right now after a wonderful dinner I’m laying in my sleeping bag listening to the Zokio just outside my tent rustling around. I believe they may be eating. Tomorrow we’ll do perhaps the toughest part of our journey up to Namche Bazaar (what they call the downtown section of the Mount Everest Region) we’re told we will be able to do some laundry tomorrow, use the cyber café and even take a shower. We ran into the Maoist Terror Group on the way in this evening. Our experienced guides got us past safely and without incident. Darkness seems to come early here, as it was dark by 5pm this evening.
 
Day 2 – Friday October 24th 2007
 
Journal Notes: 7:47 PM Namche Bazaar Time
Today, with perhaps our hardest day behind us my knee is holding up (Lots of prayer seems to have paid off). It’s dark here now and Randy is sitting across from me asking me questions about my close encounter with the Zokio.
 
Today one of our Sherpa guides decided to play a joke on me (because of my close encounter with a Zokio yesterday) and rattle some Yak Bells behind me, but he didn’t catch me off guard. I turned around quickly with trekking polls raised and we all got a great laugh out of it.
 
The children are adorable here and one can’t help but notice how happy they are. They have very little here, in what Rusty classifies as a fourth world country, but yet they are so very happy. Our tents are nice, the food is great and service simply impeccable. Many of the bridges we crossed today are new, constructed of metal and cables, as they were built within the past few years replacing the older bridges of wood and ropes. Our team is having a great time together making this whole experience that much better. With every day that passes we learn a little more about each other. The Maoist stopped us twice for nothing short of bribes today but again the experience of our guides shined through and we passed without incident.
 
There are lots of Internet Cafés in Namche. Two in particular that I’ve used are very nice. One of the locals stood behind me this evening while typing and it’s a bit unnerving. I can’t tell if he’s just curious or what. Just for fun I typed in things, like “We should be able to take over Namche Bazaar in three days”. Okay, I’m kidding here…
 
The climb into Namche Bazaar this afternoon was perhaps the toughest physical thing that I’ve ever done and this would include my training for the mini-marathons that I’ve run in the past. The altitude has a great deal to do with that and I’m finding it hard to make my way about town this evening without feeling the effects of the altitude. We’re currently at 11,300 feet now and going to 18,120 when we summit Kala Patar in just a few days.
 
Day 3- Saturday October 27th 2007
 
Today’s a rest day but we do plan on climbing a bit to a nearby National Park. We’re told upon arrival not to photograph the military outstations, but I do so unknowingly at first and then on purpose from afar. Our group took a moment to assemble and have the only group photo I can recall made of the trip members. It was a great place to have the photo made as Everest graced us with her presence by coming out from behind the clouds for just a moment, long enough for us to have our pictures made. Then it quickly ducked back behind the clouds, as if not to tantalize us too much. It was a funny site to see Thupten taking all of our photos with the many cameras we handed him. We caught some great shots of Thupten as well before we left.

Everest-Group-Photo

We had planned on climbing to the Everest View Hotel today but since we’ll be passing it on the way up anyway, we’re taking it a bit easier and will explore the city of Namche more this afternoon instead. This will give me the time to pick up some items to take home for the family.

After our visit to the National Park, we were asked by Thupten if we’d like to drop by his home and see his personal artwork. Of course we all wanted to visit Thupten’s home and when we arrived he showed us around his home including his private temple. He also showed us a medal his father had been given and his paintings. The paintings were different than what I had purchased back in Kathmandu, but they were exceptional. I purchased one and I believe he sold some to others of our group as well. Upon leaving Thupten’s home, we all got a laugh at the site that we saw. It was a lodge with the name “Holiday Inn” on the outside. I wonder if this is where “Holiday Inn” began, probably not.

Holiday-Inn-Namchee Thupten-Private-Temple

I took time today to charge the batteries that I use in my camera. Up until now the four batteries that I’ve been using were sufficient for all the photos I had taken, but my supply of fresh batteries is running out. To my delight, the solar panel I purchased did the job nicely.

I was able to call Leslie today and just the sound of her voice brought tears to my eyes. I miss her so much I feel like I’m on the other side of the world from her. Oh wait! I am on the other side of the world. I underestimated just how homesick I would get on this adventure.
 
Sorry I missed you.
Email Sent: Fri 10/26/2007 10:02 PM USA EST
 
Hi Guys,
 
I tried contacting you this evening, about 9:42pm your time. I sure do miss you all. We’re heading up soon and won’t be back to Namche for more than a week, not exactly sure what day but it should be on the itinerary. I hope to be able to try you all again then.
 
It’s 7:35am here now and we’re heading up the mountain to gain altitude and will be coming back down and will stay here again this evening. Then we’ll head out early in the AM.
 
Les, If I tried to IM you this evening (my time), it would be very early in the morning your time (4/5am) and I think you said you had plans with your mom, so please go ahead and do that as I don’t want to mess up your plans for the day.
 
Steph, you and Sammy be good and I’ll talk with you as soon as possible. I love you guys and hope you’re doing great. Will see you soon.
 
Les Honey, I miss you more than words can say. I wish everyday that you could be here to see and experience this with me. I’m trying to capture everything so I can bring the experience home for you and the girls.
 
I love you guys, signing out for real. 7:42AM Namche time.
 
Love Dad
___________________________________________
 
Hello Honey, Miss You – LUMUNU
Email Sent: Sat 10/27/2007 9:59 AM USA EST
 
Hey honey,
 
Sorry I got a little choked up today on the call. I just miss you more than I ever thought possible. I can’t wait to get home to be with you and the girls. This is our last night before our team heads up into the mountains leaving Namche Bazaar so I have a little time tonight to update my journal and send you this letter. Randy and I just purchased some post cards and I’m sending one home and one on to dad this evening. Thing is, I may be home before you actually get them. Maybe not, but things don’t move too fast here 😀
 
We’ll be back through Namche on our way down and I’ll try to connect with you then honey. Just know that I’m always thinking of you, I love you. Also, know that I’m feeling great and my knee is behaving itself :D. I’m also losing weight; we’re burning thousands of calories a day, but eating very well. Please let dad know everything is going well.

Good Night Sweetheart From Namche,
Forever Love
Scott – Signing out Namche 7:33PM

It’s getting late and Randy and I have just purchased postcards to send home. Randy’s heading back to camp but I’m going to head into the Internet Café and try to contact Leslie and Stephanie online before going to bed this evening.
 
Just before leaving the Internet Café I was stopped by a young German boy sitting next to the door who just had to talk to me. I had accidently kicked the power cable out of the wall this evening bringing down the entire Café. He had been downloading photos of his visit to base camp and Kala Patar, so I figured the potential was there for him to say something derogatory. However, quite to the contrary, he was simply excited about his photos and wanted me to see them. I guess I stood there for thirty to forty-five minutes before I had seen them all. He was on his way down the mountain and I on the way up so it was neat to see photos taken of the places I would be in a few days. He thanked me for my time, again just as excited as he could be.
 
I’m not exactly sure of the time it was, but sometime this evening we were adopted by a dog who found refuge in the vestibule just outside the front door of our tent. It was a very cool night so I’m sure he was seeking the warmth offered there. Randy had gotten up several times during the evening to visit the toilet tent and each time he did I was concerned that the dog might take a bite out of him. Again, we were warned to stay away from the animals as there is no rabies program in Nepal. The first time Randy left the tent, we were not sure of the dog’s demeanor so I specifically recall waking up and telling Randy to poke it with a stick, thinking he would leave. Each time Randy would step over the dog, the dog just laid there and never moved. He stayed the night with us curled up in a round ball so tight you honestly couldn’t tell where his head and tail began.

Dog-In-Tent-Namchee Dog-In-Tent-Namchee2

That morning as camp began to come to life, our newly adopted pet woke up, yawned and stretched before finally deciding to leave our company. Shortly after heading for breakfast we heard some loud barking and there was talk about how our camp had just been defended from another dog that had wondered in by our new friend.

Day 4 – Sunday October 28th 2007
 
We’re heading to the Everest View Hotel today. I slept well last night, better than all the previous nights. We’re heading for breakfast as the Sherpa’s are quickly breaking down our campsite.
 
The Everest View Hotel was actually very nice. I checked the rates just to see what they were in case I ever got back this way again and they were reasonable. I saw a helicopter land nearby on the way up and thought that I might be able to fly Leslie up to this point someday. We were asked to purchase something while we enjoyed the view of Everest from their patio, so I ordered a Diet Coke. The owners didn’t seem to appreciate us being here. I guess they get all the Trekkers as they pass by.

Everst-View-Hotel
Hiking today has been much easier than I had anticipated. So far both of my knees are holding up surprisingly well. It was cold this morning but quickly got warmer as we climbed.
 
Sunday Evening – At this moment I’m just laying in my tent writing with the sound of a river roaring beside me and we’ve just had hot tea. I’ve also hung some clothes to dry. Just outside my tent is a wonderful view of Mountain Evergreens. I sure wish that Leslie could be here to see this. Yaks are also outside our tents this evening. They’re different from a Zokio, which is a cross between a Cow and a Yak. Yaks are furrier. Yaks are also able to carry greater loads.
 
We’re using a Kitchen Tent this evening, so no more comfy cottages to have dinner or get warm in. We climbed to just over 13000 feet today and descended a bit just to acclimate.
 
Day 5 – Monday October 29th 2007
 
It was very cold this morning, near 35 degrees at breakfast and it must have been colder during the evening. We’re being warned now to keep our water in our sleeping bags so it doesn’t freeze.
 
Many of our team members are sick this morning. Randy threw up last night, George is sick having thrown up all night. Abra and Bill are not feeling well. I believe Bill has been throwing up all night as well.
 
With George out sick this morning I took the team member lead today, it just turned out that way. We have no official team member lead but I’ve noticed that George is more comfortable behind the lead guide and I respect that. I told George I was keeping his spot warm for him and that I expected him back at the lead tomorrow.
 
Today was mostly a trek day and I’m feeling great. We’re visiting a monastery here in a bit. It’s just a small ten minute hike from here, but still some won’t be going.
 
I brought a kite with me and flew it this afternoon. The kitchen boys loved it so much that I just had to give it to them to keep. Their faces lit up with the site of it and we had a lot of fun trying to keep it airborne.

Kite-Training-Everest-Sherpa Kite-Training-Everest-Sherpa2

I think most people are feeling some better this evening with the exception of Bill who didn’t make it to dinner this evening. I had a slight headache this evening but it’s gone now.

Many of the sick and others sent for diet cokes this afternoon. I ended up with two! I’ll drink one in the morning and one I’ll carry to Kala Patar and Base Camp. The trek tomorrow should be an easy one but probably very cold in the morning.
 
Day 6 – Tuesday October 30th 2007

Well it’s 5AM and I may be experiencing my first bout of Travelers Diarrhea (TD). As a precaution I’m beginning Cipro now at 5:20AM and will push fluids and hang back today, not working myself too hard. So far I feel fine overall and will attempt to keep a positive upbeat mental attitude and monitor my progress throughout the day. I’m hoping not to add to the numbers of those who are sick on our team. Fortunately, today should be a light day and we have a rest day coming up tomorrow.

It was very cold last night and I can’t wait for the morning sun to find its way across the mountains to warm things up a bit. Nights seem to go on forever here. We’re typically in bed between 6PM and 7PM and then up at 6AM for tea, with breakfast at 7AM. We usually hit the trail by 8AM.
 
We’ve made camp for the evening and I’ve never felt better. Both of my knees are holding up okay. There’s no Internet Café so I’m truly going through information withdrawal. It may be a while before I talk to Leslie again. I miss her and the girls so very much.
 
Today I reached a new altitude for myself. We’re currently at 14,400 feet about that of Mt Rainier, the highest peak in the Continental US. Also, I have all of my batteries fully charged, as I’ve attached the solar panel to my pack now and it’s been working very well.
 
The daytime weather has been nothing short of spectacular, but the evenings have been quite cold. We seem to be above the cloud cover now (Clouds roll in around 1-2PM) so we’re getting more of the afternoon sun.
 
It’s 7PM and we’re in tents, it’s not that we have to be, but there is little to do here and no where else to be, it’s also very cold and the sleeping bag offers some refuge from the cold. I saw the stars this evening, they were much brighter than perhaps I have ever seen anywhere with the possible exception of British Columbia (BC). But they are much brighter than they are at home, God’s true masterpiece in the sky.
 
Tomorrow they say is somewhat of a test day for us, as we’ll be gaining more than 1000ft in an hour and a half. We’ve also been told that reaching the summit of Kala Patar is a test for reaching Everest Base Camp. I’m afraid some on our team may not make it. I must get to Kala Patar and Everest Base Camp to consider this a successful trip. I didn’t come half way around the world to fail.
 
Day 7 – Wednesday October 31st 2007
 
It is 5:01AM, it’s extremely cold outside and I’ve been tossing and turning all evening. I can hear others in their tents making their way to the toilet tents. I’ve been unable to get really comfortable since we headed out, managing only to catch a cat nap here and there. The ground pads being used by the trekking team offer little or no support, perhaps a little insulation from the damp and frozen ground below.
 
The stars were incredible last night (no lights to drown them out) with the moon so bright one could make their way around camp without the use of a headlamp. I can hear the roar of the river below. It is now 6AM, tea time!
 
We passed the 15,000 foot mark today, up from the previous 14,400 feet. Some of our team didn’t make the entire climb, including Randy, opting to head back to camp and not continue with the few of us who decided to climb just a bit higher. We lost Karen altogether and I’m hoping she will be able to carry on tomorrow and beyond.
 
We all got showers today and I changed my shirt and socks! There were two types of showers which consisted of a pump up tank sprayer (like a garden type sprayer) and the other just a bucket with a pot (my choice) to shower yourself with. Nonetheless we were all happy to have a clean shower.
 
I attempted to contact Leslie by cell phone today. There’s a lodge just above our campsite and I asked the gentleman who ran the place if I could make a phone call. It was somewhat funny because in order to make the call, he had to lean out his second story window with it for it to connect. I got through to our home’s voicemail and later found that Leslie was in the shower. I’ll try again as we get nearer the summit.
 
Side Note: The calls are about five to six dollars a minute now.
 
Day 8 – Thursday November 1st 2007
 
I had a great nights sleep last night. I took some Tylenol PM and actually slept like a baby through the entire evening.
 
Shortly after leaving this morning Randy got sick. At first he seemed to have a rattle in his chest, extreme fatigue with shortness of breath. The team went on without us and me and two Sherpa’s walked very slowly with Randy. Just ten to twenty steps, rest and break. At one point I thought Randy would surely have to turn around and head back but he kept going and we showed up just an hour behind the other team.

Randy-Everest

Side Note: We passed the grave yards of many fallen climbers today.

As soon as we got to camp Thupten had me get out Randy’s sleeping bag and right now, 4:51PM Randy is asleep. I gave him some Motrin and covered him with my sleeping bag. Only time will tell if Randy will make it or not. Thupten laid it out to me like this. If he feels better in the morning he can go with the team, worse he heads down. Just a little better and he can go on to Gorashep with the team and rest on the day we summit Kala Patar and then perhaps take on the trek to Kala Patar when the rest of the team does the Everest Base Camp. I’m hoping for the best but I fear the worst, having seen Randy struggle up the mountain today gives me little hope. His breathing sounds laborious but at 16,400 feet everyone is having some trouble breathing.

Me, I’m doing well with just a small headache that seems to have followed me on each major increment of altitude gain. It has always gone away quickly, usually just after I stop exerting myself. My knee is holding up thanks to lots of prayer and Motrin.
 
I’ve set my watch timer to go off on the hour so I can check on Randy throughout the night. This should serve to wake me up should I fall asleep during the evening. I pray Randy and I have the strength to climb tomorrow.
 
Dinner is over and it was a bitter cold 30+/- degrees in the dinner tent this evening. At this higher altitude 30 degrees feels much cooler than it would at home. Still it is below freezing here now. Randy missed dinner and everyone is worried about him. We talked about contingency plans for an emergency evacuation this evening, should one be needed.
 
The hot water bottles will be a welcomed addition to everyone’s sleeping bags this evening. I made Randy take a hot water bottle, although he has typically passed on this in the past. I basically unzipped his sleeping bag stuffed it in there and zipped him back up. He didn’t put up a fight over it.
 
Just after dinner I checked on Randy and he said he was doing okay. Thupten came into the tent and checked again too. At about 8PM Thupten and a doctor (who was traveling in Nepal) checked on Randy. So there we were all four of us in this little tent for two, it would have been somewhat funny, had it not been for the gravity of the situation. The doctor listened to Randy’s lungs and checked his Blood Oxygen Saturation Point which was at about 50. Based on this finding, the doctor made the recommendation that Randy should descend as quickly as possible.
 
It is 11:08PM and it’s very cold. Randy got up to go to the bathroom tent and said he was doing okay, I’m not so sure. At 16,200 feet I’m finding it hard to breath. Just writing in my journal is making me tired and breathless. If I don’t get some sleep tonight I may not make it tomorrow, but I must stay awake for Randy’s sake. On nights like this you don’t want to have to get up and go to the bathroom.
 
The doctor has just come in again to visit with Randy. He is trying his best to talk Randy into going down but Randy thinks he will feel better in the morning. To Randy’s credit, I completely agree at this point with his decision not to descend this evening. It’s very cold and dark out and I believe the stress caused by these two factors have to be taken into consideration.
 
Day 9 – Friday November 2nd 2007
 
It was a very long night last night as lying awake to listen for Randy to breathe left little time for rest. Still it was the right thing to do.
 
Randy did descend on the advice of the doctor and Thupten our Sherpa guide. Everyone said their goodbyes to Randy during breakfast (not really knowing if they would see their new friend again) and then we headed to Gorashep, our final destination camp before turning back towards home.
 
I was very tired not having much sleep last night and our plan today was to summit Kala Patar after a light lunch. It took nearly two and a half hours (vertical climb) to reach the summit of Kala Patar but I did it with the help of Al who helped set a steady pace and Alex a young man who wouldn’t let me give up at the top, knowing just what to say and at the right moment to say it. Without these two, I surely would not have made it and I offer a sincere heartfelt thank you to both of you for your help.
 
I had my pictures taken with my Diet Coke I purchased along the way and with Everest in the background. It was also time to read the card that Leslie sent with me which made me seriously homesick. Tomorrow we head for Mt. Everest Base Camp, really just so we can say that we were there. The view from the top of Kala Patar of Everest and of base camp is truly awe-inspiring.

Everest-From-Kala-Patar Kala-Patar-Summit

It’s really cold here again tonight and water bottles will probably freeze again. I have my hot water bottle and I’m preparing to turn in for the night. I’m praying that Randy had a good day of it. We should meet up with Randy the day after tomorrow. I’m hopeful that he’s been able to get word to Les through Candy that I’m doing well.

Good night from Gorashep!!!

Day 10 – Saturday November 3rd 2007
 
It’s about 3AM, I’ve just woke up after having what my body feels like is enough sleep, which is pretty common when night time comes so quickly in the Everest Region, usually in bed by 7PM.
 
My decision today is a huge one, go or no-go on Everest Base Camp. It took everything I had and then some help from Al and Alex to summit Kala Patar yesterday. My greatest fear is that I won’t have enough strength to get from Gorashep to Mt Everest Base Camp, back to Gorashep and then down to Labochee for the night, a journey of just over eight hours of vigorous strenuous trekking. To make matters worse everyone else will be going and that would mean I would be heading down the mountain by myself, with an unfulfilled goal.
 
Side Note: As it turned out Paul wasn’t feeling so well and headed down. So I wouldn’t have been by myself after all.
 
So at 3AM I lay awake, still very tired from Kala Patar, and wondering if I can actually make it and whether or not I should try. By the time tea was delivered, I had made up my mind that I had to go. After all, that’s what I had been telling friends, family and co-workers I was doing for more than a year now. So even if I couldn’t make it, I was darn sure going to go down giving it everything I had.
 
A Dream Come True!
I’ve searched for the right words to explain the grandeur of the moment when we reached the base of the tallest mountain in the world, known to everyone as Everest. That apex, a moment in time if you will, when you’ve reached for a life goal and you can say you’ve truly done it. I can only say that it’s greater than the culmination of all of life’s experiences rolled into one moment of a lifetime.
 
Every step I take leads me closer to home and loved ones.

Everest-Base-Camp

I DID IT!!! Perhaps the toughest day yet, I lay here with my right knee reeling from today’s trek. I’ll take a little Motrin and hopefully all will be well in the morning. Again it’s very cold here in the tent and the walk to the toilet tent is, well treacherous. There’s enough frost on the tent to build a snowman. We should be heading down to warmer weather tomorrow morning and should meet up with Randy soon. I pray that he is doing alright.

Side Note: Our cooks met us on the trail today between Everest Base Camp and Labochee with lunch. To say they are dedicated doesn’t say enough. We have received phenomenal service.
 
Day 11 – Sunday November 4th 2007
 
We were supposed to have met up with Randy today for lunch in Pheriche, but when we arrive we’re given the bad news that he’s had to continue his descent. We are told that we will see him this evening when we get to camp.
 
It’s getting late by the time we arrive at camp. It’s very cold outside as well as inside the lodge where we’re all seated. We’re waiting for Randy (whom we all hope is upstairs getting some rest) and for the owners to get a fire started in the cast iron stove centered in the room. Again and again they try to start the fire and it becomes a bit comical after the third and fourth attempt. We’re all tired after a long days trek. Meanwhile the team is continuing to wait for Randy to show up.
 
Time passes and we’re baited with anticipation when Thupten comes into the lodge with news on Randy’s whereabouts and condition. It seems that Randy is getting considerably worse and plans have been made to airlift him off the mountains in the morning from Namche Bazaar. Thupten believes it is bad enough that he has decided it’s necessary to leave camp this evening and set out for Namche in the dark, a difficult enough journey in the daylight much less the darkness of the evening.
 
As tired as I was, I decided that if Randy was serious enough to be airlifted off the mountains in Namche he must be in pretty bad shape and perhaps not able to make good decisions on his own. I decided quickly that I must go with Thupten. I had only a few minutes to gather up some items, my parka, headlamp and backpack, but everything else I would leave behind hoping to meet up with it later depending on the circumstances. A quick hug and some good luck gestures from the team and we were on our way.
 
By all accounts the trip should have taken another five hours by foot. But given it was getting dark and I had already trekked several hours today, it was a true blessing when a man showed up with a small horse and offered to take me the rest of the way into Namche. I was really getting tired and trying to keep up with Thupten was proving to be quite a challenge, in fact there was a point where I briefly considered turning back. Thupten asked me if I’d like to rent the horse and I guess the grin on my face said it all. He then asked the man how much and it came to something like one hundred and seventy five US dollars, although it quickly went to two hundred US dollars when I so readily approved of his asking price. I said no to the two hundred US dollars and the price dropped back down to his original asking price.
 
With a little help from Thupten and the guide, I mounted the horse and we began to make our way towards Namche. Because of the very steep embankments, I was asked to get off the horse from time to time so the horse could make its way safely down around rocks and other obstacles on the path. Once or twice the horse slid with me on its back and it was somewhat unnerving when this happened. At one point down a particularly steep drop, I was asked to dismount and walk down. I slipped and then Thupten slipped and then me again, so much that it got to the point of being funny. We ended up taking each other’s hand and continued to slide down the path together until we reached the bottom.
 
By now it was beginning to snow and getting so dark you couldn’t see your hand in front of your face. To make matters worse we only had two lights, the one that Thupten was carrying and the headlamp that I was wearing. I’m not exactly sure why I had done it, my batteries were still good, but I had put a fresh set of batteries in my headlamp the night before. Another blessing, I’m sure.
 
Up and down the mountainside trail we went for what seemed like hours. Thupten’s light long gone, we were now using my headlamp exclusively and although it was a great headlamp, it scarcely put out enough light to navigate by.
 
Every once in a while the horse would walk to the edge of the path and stop (my headlamp barely making a dent in the darkness as I looked down into the abyss) and I couldn’t help but wonder if he was considering jumping and ending it all. I later learned that he had made two similar trips earlier in the day and I’m sure he was getting worn out by now. I also learned that I could navigate the horse by shining my headlamp the way I wanted him to go and this worked well most of the time.
 
We continued on into the darkness for what seemed like an eternity, when we came upon a guest house where we stopped to give the horse some water and take a rest ourselves. I dared not take photos but I’ll never forget the scene as we entered the guest house. The experience somewhat surreal, a mother and her baby sat on a bench, an older lady welcoming us in as if she knew Thupten well. A father like figure sat at the end of a table chanting a prayer-like mantra. It was quiet warm here. We were sitting in the kitchen now, a nice change from the snowy weather outside and it didn’t take long for me to feel at home, especially when they offered me a Coke and some warm Moo Moos (a type of meat-filled dumpling) for dinner. It seemed obvious that Thupten had stopped here many times before.
 
It wasn’t long though before we set out again for Namche. Traveling again for what seemed an eternity, we had encountered numerous steep slopes and it occurred to me that the team was going to have a tough day of it tomorrow. I don’t think anyone would have envisioned the work ahead of them as we were supposed to be heading down the mountain not up. Around one bend and then the next, the welcoming lights of Namche Bazaar began to glow in the distance. We’ve made it!
 
We paid the man and thanked him for the use of his horse and because it was getting so late, he may have stayed the night at Thupten’s brother’s lodge where Randy was staying. I know that Thupten had tried several times to get a cell phone call made to the guide’s mother to let her know her son was okay. Several attempts were made to use the cell phone, perhaps as many as eight calls during the night to complete one conversation. Time and time again the call would be dropped and Thupten would try again from another location. Can you hear me now?
 
It was late by the time we arrived and we took just a moment to collect ourselves and ask about Randy before heading up to check on him. I ordered another Coke and drank it as Thupten talked with the curator of the lodge. Only a few minutes past and as we approached Randy’s room, I wondered what he would think to see us here at such a late hour (My best guess is that it was sometime around 11PM in Namche). To my surprise Randy answered the door expecting us. It seemed that he had received a phone call earlier in the evening letting him know we were heading his way.
 
Randy didn’t look well, but I kept this to myself. Overall though, he was in better shape than I had been lead to believe and I was relieved to see him. Randy had developed a nasty cough and was having trouble breathing. I too had picked up a bit of a nagging cough on the way down the mountain. Thupten spent a little time in the room talking to Randy about what to expect tomorrow and when he left we caught up on what had been happening in both our lives since parting a few days ago.
 
The room was tiny with two double beds, but I spent the first night since leaving Kathmandu in a toasty warm, comfortable bed and although it was down the hall, it had a real American toilet! Ah, the good life.
 
Day 12 – Monday November 5th 2007
 
The morning didn’t find Randy any better. Thupten checked in on us around eight and it was decided that Randy would fly out by helicopter which was to arrive at 11AM.
 
We spent the morning getting Randy’s things in order and as the time grew near we headed towards the helicopter landing pad. Because it was on the other side of Namche we left in plenty of time for Randy’s scheduled departure. In fact, we ended up stopping by Thupten’s sister’s lodge where I again had a Coke and we rested, waiting for Randy’s rescue flight.
 
When the time came for Randy’s helicopter arrival we left the lodge and walked to a higher point just above Thupten’s sister’s lodge. The landing pad consisted of little more than a flat dirt area with perhaps some gravel or stones.

Randy-Everest-Evacuation Randy-Everest-Evacuation2

Time and again we would see helicopters fly past us thinking that it was Randy’s but to no avail. When Randy’s flight did arrive, it was a quick loading and unloading of gear and goods (No flight goes empty here, even a rescue flight) and then a quick goodbye, see you down the mountain, get well my friend.

After Randy’s departure I had some time on my hands. Thupten and I walked back to his brother’s lodge and he asked me what I would like for lunch. I asked again for Moo Moos. I’ve grown quiet found of these and they usually seem to be cooked well enough to be safe. While I waited on lunch, I had the opportunity for some downtime. I just sat outside on a stoop watching and listening to the sounds of Namche Bazaar letting the ambiance soak in.

NamcheStreets-of-Namche
Namche-Home

It was shortly after lunch that I received word from Randy, via Thupten’s cell phone, that he had made it down the mountain and was being taken to a nearby hospital for evaluation. He said he was already beginning to feel better, which brought me some relief. After hearing the news, I was on my own the rest of the afternoon while waiting for the rest of the team to make the long hard climb into camp.

While I had some time on my hands, I took care of a few things. I called Leslie to let her know about Randy’s situation and ask her to contact Candy, Randy’s wife. I also needed to pick up some money, so I headed into town to a currency exchange where I could obtain some extra funds from my bank. I later called Leslie back to see how Candy had taken the news and found that she had taken it quite well.
 
As I spent the day walking about the town waiting for the team to arrive, I realized that I have a bit of a sore throat, but given what I’ve been though over the last few days, I’m lucky to feel this good.
 
The team arrived into Namche around 2-3PM this afternoon and I was never so glad to see a group of trekkers in my life. They were obviously tired and rested while I brought everyone up to speed inside our dining area we would be using for the night. They were all excited to hear the news about Randy and were relieved to hear he was doing so well. They were also glad to see me and were happy that I had made it safely into Namche last night.
 
I had a nice warm hand bath this afternoon and later this evening will spend time in the nearby Internet Café trying to contact Stephanie and Leslie via Yahoo Instant Messenger.
 
Although I wasn’t able to reach Stephanie by instant message this evening, I was able to send her the following email.
 
Hi Honey, it’s Dad!
Email Sent: Mon 11/5/2007 2:37 AM USA EST
 
Hi Sweetheart,
 
It’s dad, coming to you from Namche Bazaar. I talked to Les really early this morning and she told me how well you had done on your Regional’s. Just wanted you to know how proud I am of you and to let you know how much I miss you and Boo.
 
You’ll be proud to know that your dad has now summated Kala Patar and also have been to Everest Base Camp. It was the hardest physical thing I’ve ever done but it was so worth it. I can’t wait to get back home to share my stories and pictures with you all. I miss you guys so much and think about you every day. I’ll be home on Sunday to see you guys.
 
PS. I rode a horse last night for 3-4 hours with just the light of my headlamp from one little town into Namche 🙂 Thank goodness the horse knew where he was going 😀
 
Love you,
Dad

 
Day 13 – Tuesday November 6th 2007
 
We left Namche Bazaar this morning having slept in late, and then hiked mostly downhill for about four hours or so. Not a bad hike, mostly downhill. I left my heart in San Francisco… Oh, I mean Namche (you know how the song goes). Of all the little towns we’ve been in, Namche was the one I’ll miss the most. Of course Base Camp and Kala Patar were the places of greatest achievement, but Namche has forever secured a place in my heart. I will miss you Namche.

Namche-View

We’re spending one more night in tents this evening, in Padting, a place we stayed on the way up (Our first night). Tomorrow it’s rumored that we’ll be staying in Lukla at the hotel and will have hot (Hopefully) showers. All my clothes are dirty at this point and I’m sure we all smell, even though I can no longer tell, so I’m really looking forward to getting back to Kathmandu where I have a clean change of clothes waiting for me.

I haven’t heard anything out of Randy today and I know the team is looking forward to meeting up with him again when we get back into town in a couple of days.
 
I talked to Leslie last night and it was so nice hearing the sound of her voice. I can’t wait to see her and the girls again.
 
Our entire team is starting to look a bit ragged from the couple of weeks on the mountains.
 
Day 14 – Wednesday November 7th 2007
 
It rained a bit last night while we were sleeping (first real rain we’ve had). It was quite soothing and it was considerably warmer too. The cold that I’ve picked up along the way (sinus drainage) hasn’t developed any further and now that we’re staying indoors this evening, it will hopefully get better altogether.
 
It’s funny, on the way out to Lukla today we were watching the newbies arrive with their clean clothes, polls and equipment and as shameful as it sounds, I couldn’t help but wonder who would make it and who would end up going home.
 
Today’s uphill trek was much easier than it has been in the past, partly because of the oxygen levels returning to normal, but also because we’re in much better shape now having gone into the mountains and back. We’re staying in the lodge where this adventure began two weeks ago. Most of us have had baths along the way, but I think that most of us have run out of clean clothes. So, although I’m clean I’m still smelly. I purchased a Coke earlier today at only 200 Rupees. It’s gotten much cheaper the lower down the mountain we’ve traveled.
 
When we arrived at the lodge we all gathered at the same tables for lunch that we used when heading up the mountains. There was a problem with our rooms being overbooked, as bad weather had prohibited the previous team’s departure, so instead of each of us having our own room, we ended up sharing a room with someone from our team. Steve and I ended up sharing the same room, which was fine with me. Steve is perhaps the quietest person on the trip and the one person I really haven’t gotten to know as well as I had hoped. The rooms are fairly nice by Nepalese standards, with two double beds, an American toilet and a full bath, although the bath has no partitions. Because of that, the water from the shower hits everything.
 
Side Note: Our shower this evening consisted of cold water, so instead a bucket was used to bring heated water back to the room (water was heated on a stove in the dinning area). So basically, I ended up taking a glorified hand bath instead of a shower.
 
We tipped earlier and I did the best I could, based on REI’s tipping policies, to determine the proper amounts to put into each of the envelopes provided for the guides and servers. They all did a tremendous job for us so I wanted to tip them well. However, tipping was a source of contention among our group and I hope to bring this to the attention of REI when I return home. REI’s tipping policy said one thing and we were hearing something else from Thupten who really didn’t want to get involved in the tipping process. All and all, it would have been much better if we could have tipped when paying for the trip.
 
It’s about 4pm and we’re all inside the heated dining room area writing in our journals. Dinner’s at 6:30 this evening (which is supposed to be a buffet – this should be interesting). We’re supposed to fly out in the morning to Kathmandu at eight, so hopefully the weather will be good so we can get out on time. Randy who is staying at a different hotel now should be joining us at our original hotel when we return. He was placed in a different hotel because there wasn’t any room at our original location due to the popularity of the season. In any event it will be nice to see him again.
 
The lights have gone out now and I’m hoping they come back on this evening. I’m not sure if we’ll have heat this evening but anything should be better than the tent.
 
There’s supposed to be a party here tonight, we’ll see how that goes. We can see the planes taking off and landing out our room window and dining room windows. We can also see snow in the mountains, having just missed it. The rain must have caused snow showers in the upper regions last night.
 
As has been the case with all the meals we’ve enjoyed on our trip, tonight’s meal was excellent. As we all sat around the table laughing and having a great time both Paul and Abra shared poems that they had written, which reflected the times spent on the mountain. Both were quite funny and they helped to alleviate the notion that this wonderful experience would all be over far too soon.
 
After dinner I caught Thupten in the hallway and presented him with my headlamp. The flashlight that he had used the evening we traveled into Namche wasn’t sufficient for a lead guide and it was a real honor to pass this on to him. It was the least I could do for taking such good care of Randy and for helping me get safely into Namche in the dead heart of the night. He appreciated the gift and gave me a big bear hug.
 
The party was a real hit. Thupten got things rolling by introducing the guides and servers giving each team leader their own team’s tip envelope. When everyone had been introduced the party erupted with music and dance. First the guides began to dance and sing and then the rest of the group joined in. Cyndi and some others tried to get me to dance and if I have any regret during the entire trip it was that I was too shy to get up and join them. I still had a lot of fun and captured some great video to take back to Randy so he could feel like he took part in the festivities.

Thursday November 8th 2007
Everest-Sherpa
Up bright and early the day begins with a great deal of excitement as we prepare to head towards Kathmandu today. We gathered our belongings together, grabbed some breakfast and then went outdoors to wait for Thupten or one of our guides to tell us to head up to the airport terminal. Once the word was given we quickly trekked up to the airport terminal, went through security and waited to board our plane. We couldn’t help but notice the efficiency of Yeti Airlines. Once an airplane landed they would literally turn it around inside of four minutes. Passengers were rushed off and people were boarded so quickly that if you blinked you could have missed it. It was a real sight to behold. I noticed a souvenir table so I haggled with the owner and purchased Leslie some pins for her collection. Soon it was our turn to board.
 
Having seen many planes depart the airport, I figured we were in for a real treat. Nearly every plane you see takeoff drops off the end of the runway, quickly recovering, but still reminiscent of a roller coaster drop. So I, and perhaps some others on the plane, raised our hands over our heads in anticipation. As the plane surged toward the end of the runway we just knew what was in store for us. Wait! We’ve lifted off without the drop. Somewhat disappointed, but happy to be in the air and alive, we sped towards the Kathmandu airport.
 
Our uneventful and successful flight over, we’re met at the airport and taken back to our hotel where we’re reunited with Randy who is looking much better now. It’s great to be back in Kathmandu although I didn’t miss this smell.
 
Through a flurry of activity in the hotel lobby, Randy manages to tell me that we’re in a new room now. It seems that we’ve been upgraded and moved to a corner room on the second floor which is much nicer and has a view of the courtyard and front entrance. So we head up and check out the room.
 
The room is very nice and right now all I can think about is calling for my bag, grabbing a nice hot shower and putting on some fresh clean clothes. After my bath I decided to rearrange my bags and crash for a bit in front of the TV, it seems they have an exceptional movie channel out of India here showing some really great shows in English.
 
After a bit of rest Randy and I head out for a bite to eat. The whole team has been raving about this one restaurant in town called Helena’s Restaurant and so we definitely want to give it a try. On our way there I encounter many street vendors but one in particular who has caught my attention playing a violin-like instrument. I don’t catch his name, but because I’ve made eye contact with him, I’m now his new best friend and he’s begun to serenade me through the streets of Kathmandu. “Only twenty dollars”, he says as he makes his homemade violin like instrument sound like a true Stradivarius. I said “no thank you”, and the offer dropped to fifteen, again no thank you. “Okay for you sir a real bargain, only ten dollars”. Ten dollars, that’s fifty percent off! What a deal, Okay I’ll take it. “Thank you”, the man says as he heads off. Oh Wait, how about some lessons? Too late he’s gone. Feeling pretty good about my purchase we proceed to the restaurant where we meet up with everyone on our team with the exception of Cyndi and George who later show up but have dinner alone.
 
It was a great dinner even though we lost the lights for a few minutes and yes the food was exceptional by Nepalese standards. I had the chicken dish this evening but as I understand it, by talking with Alex, their cheeseburger is about as close to home as you can get. So tomorrow night, our final night before flying out, I plan to return here and have the cheeseburger.
 
When we returned to the hotel after dinner, most of the team gathered in the courtyard to order drinks and to talk about the trip for a while. Having noticed my Nepalese violin, Paul had purchased his own on the way back to the hotel, but had been able to purchase his for five dollars. We all got a big kick out of this. I chatted a bit, ordered a couple of diet cokes and decided to see if I could contact Leslie in the Cyber Café.

Helena’s Restaurant

Helenas-Katmandu

It’s great to be back in Kathmandu!

Side Note: Sometime this evening Randy and I were returning to our room when I thought, hey we have nothing to prove now. Let’s take the elevator! (We had been using the stairs because we didn’t want to seem like we couldn’t climb them. After all if you can’t negotiate a flight of stairs what are your chances of actually making it to Everest Base Camp?) Even Randy’s doctor had told him to take it easy. So we stopped in front of the elevator and waited for the doors to open. When they did we noticed three ladies on the elevator and as we began to step in, the doors quickly closed before we had an opportunity to board. This particular elevator had the nasty habit of trapping you in its doorway. At this point Randy said he was taking the stairway but I was determined to use the Elevator so I waited until it arrived again. To my surprise there was only one lady of the original three on the elevator now and as I entered the strangest thing occurred. She hit on me! Leaning back against the wall of the elevator she pushed her sunglasses down her nose, so that her eyes were now looking right at me and she began to sing to me with her German accent. “If you’re looking for trouble, da da da da, you found it!” I don’t recall a lot about what happened next, only that I was way in over my head and that I wish I had taken the stairs with Randy. Randy will tell you that he saw me bolt out of the elevator and as I did, I heard her asking me not to go, to come back. The next morning at breakfast we did encounter the German lady again. As I quietly slinked behind my menu she was speaking to the Matradee. We never saw her again after that.
 
Friday November 9th 2007
 
It’s a down day for us, time to get our gear ready for the flight out tomorrow. I believe Randy is staying a day in Thailand on the return flight but I’ve got a straight flight back into the US and I’m really looking forward to getting home. The flight is supposed to be two hours shorter going home and I believe this is because of the tailwinds we’ll encounter.
 
We’re supposed to meet up with Thupten here in a little while. Randy and I both need some extra cash to pay for the paintings we purchased from Thupten. They’re spectacular and I can’t wait for Leslie to see the one that I purchased.
 
After our trip to the bank we spent most of the day gathering our stuff together and watching India’s movie channel “Stars Movie Channel”. We’ll be heading out shortly for some shopping and will meet up later with the team for dinner tonight at Helena’s again.
 
Our first stop is to purchase some brass bowls for Randy to take back home to family. He’s asked for a set of eight and so we’re out looking now for a shop in which to purchase these. There are numerous street vendors and lots of shops that line the narrow streets in Kathmandu, so it doesn’t take long for us to find a location specializing in of all things, brass bowls. At fist the deal seems to be falling through, it seems they don’t actually have the number of brass bowls at this location that Randy needs. Randy is told that if he would just leave a small deposit and come back in an hour, they would have the bowls for him at that time. Randy and I both look at each other and quickly come to the same conclusion that this isn’t a good idea. So Randy tells the store owner that we’ll return in an hour and will purchase the bowls if he is able to secure them.
 
On the way back to the hotel, I stopped in at a lady’s scarf shop to see if I could find something to take home to Leslie and Barbara, Leslie’s mom. I haggle a bit but can never seem to get the pricing that I want so we continue to shop until I happened upon a music store. I guess we spent about thirty minutes to an hour shopping here. I listened to countless CDs until I ultimately ended up purchasing three for about fifteen US dollars.

Hotel-Cortyard-Katmandu

Side Note: While shopping at the music store this afternoon, some children came in and began to sing. All part of the current Festival of Lights, the children sing until they receive payment to leave or are offered something in return for their departure. It occurred to me this was akin to our Halloween. I would later see these same children outside our hotel window near the gate of our hotel.

We returned to the room briefly but by now it was time to go back and check on the bowls. Upon our return we discover that nothing had been done, but if we’re willing to wait a bit, they’ll have them here shortly. So Randy and I both took seats and began to wait. As boredom began to set in, I reached for one after another of the brass singing bowls to try my hand at making them sing. At first I couldn’t seem to get the knack of it, but persistence paid off and I discovered that I too had the hidden talent for making them sing. One bowl after another they sang, until I decided what a great gift idea. So I purchased a couple of them to bring home.
 
Side Note: Randy finally got his brass bowls, but while we were waiting a funny thing happened. The merchant picked up a little statue of Buddha and asked Randy if he liked it. Randy said that he did and the merchant basically told him that he would be happy to sell it to him. Now that’s salesmanship.
 
We had a great dinner tonight. Everyone was there including Cyndi and George and because it was our last meal together it was a time of reflection, hugs and goodbyes. I’ll miss my new friends, a team of great people who accomplished a great feat, who supported one another through some very trying times. Often pushing each other to accomplish more than even they thought possible.

When we returned to the hotel Randy and I decided to go to the rooftop. We had heard about a restaurant on the top floor of the hotel but hadn’t yet visited it. So being the explorers that we are, off we went. We were surprised when we reached the top floor of the hotel, walked outside and discovered we could climb even higher. So up the side of the building we went, using ladders to climb up to platforms that were just large enough for a few people to stand on, but offering an unparalleled view of the city and its celebration.

Tihar (Deepawali) known as the Festival of Lights was currently going on and the entire city was lit up with fireworks as far as the eye could see. It wasn’t long however, before we were discovered and our friend (the bellboy whom I mentioned before) and another bell boy came up to see what was going on. I’ll never know how they discovered we were on the roof, but they did and came up to investigate. Expecting to be told to come off the roof I think we were both surprised when they joined us and appeared to be having as much fun as we were watching the city’s celebration?

All good things come to an end, but just before heading back to the room, we checked out the restaurant we had originally come up to look at. It was quite ornate with a large illuminated wall mural hung on one end of the room. It was quite impressive. It appeared clear that this room was used for meetings and large celebrations.

Saturday – Sunday November 10th – 11th
 
It’s Saturday morning and we’ll be leaving soon. We’re all supposed to meet in the lobby to be shuttled off to our departing flights out of Kathmandu Airport. It’s a sad day but one I’ve been looking forward to ever since taking that first step towards home after reaching the base camp of Mount Everest.
 
Some last minute checks to make sure we have everything and off we go. We’re met in the lobby of our hotel and given scarf’s to wear as a kind of blessing for a safe trip home and then shuttled to the airport.
 
Once we arrived at the airport and cleared security, we had to find the line to pay our departure tax. We’re sure we’re in the correct line when we realize that we’re actually standing in line for a flight to Bangladesh. We move quickly to the correct line, pay the departure tax and then find the line to check in and drop off our baggage.
 
Side Note: Bangladesh was hit with some very severe weather shortly after I arrived back in the US. I couldn’t help but wonder if some of the people we were standing in line with were affected.
 
What? The computers are down? George, what did you do? (Just kidding George and Cyndi as they were standing in front of us) Once the computers came back online we moved through fairly quickly. Abra had developed some sort of problem with her check-in so we decided to stay with her until it was straightened out. It wasn’t long before we were on our way.
 
Randy was right behind me when we reached the security check point for our carry-on baggage. Because I’ve packed everything in the two bags that I checked, I have no carry-on (this will prove to be a problem for me when we land in Thailand) so I moved quickly through the line. Randy on the other hand is going through the line at a fairly slow pace, so I’ve decided to continue on to locate our departure gate, assuming he would be following me shortly.
 
As time passed more and more of our group began to show up when I noticed that Randy had yet to arrive. I guess it had been at least fifteen to twenty minutes ago that I left him to find the gate, thinking he would be right behind me. So I decide to go look for him. I asked the group not to leave without us and headed off to see what was taking him so long.
 
I’ll never forget the scene as I stood there waiting for the crowd to clear and I finally caught a glimpse of Randy speaking to the security officials. I could see that something wasn’t right. I dare not go over and get involved myself. One of us would need to be available should something happen, like Randy being carted off to Nepalese jail or even worse, shot on sight. So I stood there waiting until I saw money exchanged and Randy was cleared to go, apparently I had just been a witness to bribery.
 
When Randy reached me, he told me that security had questioned him about the brass bowls he was carrying in his daypack and that they had told him they were considered to be weapons. Randy went on to say that he didn’t initially offer to bribe the officials, even though he knew that’s what they wanted. He wanted the officials to come right out and ask for it. Eventually Randy did offer 200 rupees and the officials took the offer letting Randy pass through the gate.
 
The flight into Thailand was uneventful. I said goodbye to Randy who was staying overnight there and wished him a safe trip home. I then proceeded quickly to the departure gate being questioned by security briefly as to why I didn’t have any carry-on baggage and it was demanded of me to produce some baggage claim forms, which fortunately I had. This seemed to satisfy the officials and they let me proceed to the departure gate.
 
The flight into the US was another long one. I sat next to someone on this flight and it was difficult, to say the least. I’ll never fly coach again on a flight of this duration. Still, it was Thai Airlines and everything else was first class, if not the seating.
 
I drifted into and out of sleep the entire flight, occasionally catching a movie on the monitor attached to the back of the seat in front of me. When we landed in Los Angeles it was dark outside. We had to go through customs and because of this I tagged along with Cyndi and George as they had been through this process before. We first located our bags in a room full of bags. It wasn’t the easiest quickest process but I did manage to locate them. Cyndi gave me a quick hug as we were not sure we would see each other again and then it was on through security where if deemed necessary your baggage was subject to being searched.
 
I had a couple of items I was especially concerned about, a couple of stuffed Yaks for the kids that had some type of fur on the outside, the origin of which was unknown to me. We had also been warned before-hand to make sure all of our gear had been cleaned, so there wouldn’t be any trace smells coming from our bags (I had actually washed my gear, including my boots in the bathtub back at our hotel, so I felt fairly comfortable that I would pass though without incident). A small dog with a “Department of Agriculture” logo on its little shirt, trained to zero in on these trace smells wondered about the area and I almost ran over him with my cart. Once through, we had to recheck our luggage, a much faster process than I anticipated. Then it was on to the question and answer part of the US Customs process.
 
I proceed on to the US Customs area of the terminal and once there, found the correct line in which to stand. When it became my turn, though feeling a bit apprehensive, I stepped up to speak with the US Customs agent. I was first asked if I was a US Citizen and then a declaration sheet describing what I was bringing into the country was reviewed before I was allowed to go.
 
USA! USA! USA! I was on home land again and I was elated. One of the first things I did was find a phone to call home. It was great hearing Leslie’s voice and those of my girls. “Dad’s coming home”, I said! “I can’t wait to see you guys”. It was getting late and I would see them in the morning, but I would first have to spend the evening flying into Atlanta and then into Louisville International. I would be at the airport just in time for breakfast.
 
The second thing I did was hit the McDonald’s for some real AMERICAN FOOD! I ate and then proceeded on to the departure gate.
 
The flight into Atlanta was a pleasant one. I sat next to a nice, very polite young Christian boy who was traveling with a small group from his church. As there was little to do but rest, I caught as much sleep as possible drifting into and out of sleep as the flight progressed. Once in Atlanta I proceeded to the gate and boarded my flight for home.
 
HOMECOMING
 
I anticipated seeing Leslie and my girls, but I didn’t expect them to be standing there with a balloon and a ‘welcome home banner’. What a surprise! I was finally back where I belong in the loving arms of my family. It’s so good to be home.
 
In Closing
This Journal has been hard for me to write, it’s not that I don’t enjoy telling the stories of the journey, but quiet the opposite. It’s not something I’ve looked forward too and I’ve not been in any hurry to write. I believe this is because it brings closure; closure to a dream that took so many years to fulfill.
 
We have but just a short period of time on this earth before God brings us home. Get out and experience life before it’s too late!

Copyright © 2007 – 2017, Scott Goldbach. All Rights Reserved
No use without the written consent of the Author