The Lukla airport is an amazing place. We got up early, had bags packed and by the door by 06:30. Breakfast, and then... The Lukla Limbo. We had "reservations" on the second set of flights out this morning, but those flights to Kathmandu depend on flights arriving from Kathmandu first. Clouds and weather impede egress. And so, we waited. The toasted trekkers made an appearance, but I'm wondering if they lost anyone due to a hangover...
We watched the planes land, the sound hitting a few milliseconds after the touchdown, and then witnessed as one by one they decelerated coming up the steep incline to the loading area. And then when they took off, it seemed as if each plane almost nosedived as it descended the runway and then glided off the end. Lucy laughed and shared her mental image of all the occupants raising their hands and saying, "Wheeeeeeeee!" as they went down the hill. Still makes me laugh. I can't remember what time we were called, but at some point Lhakpa came into the tea house dining room, and we were off and up the hill to the airport. Once there, it was chaos: weighing bags, checking bags, pseudo-security ("Do you have knife in bag?" and the not-so-frontal stroke-down we'd enjoyed in Kathmandu), and the hurry-up-and-wait. We finally boardedo the twenty-seat plane, and were down that hill and in the air within a matter of minutes. (and yes, we threw our hands up in the air and yelled, "Wheeeeeee!" Hopefully Jeff and Linden didn't notice our maturity.) I was on the "wrong" side of the plane this time, as all the big rock was on the right hand-side of the plane. Well, that is, when you could see rock. After about fifteen minutes, I noticed the clouds surrounding us, and wondered how the pilots were navigating without sight. There were some bumps and the window got really cold a few times. I distracted myself by writing, so I didn't focus on the flight-except to register that it seemed to be taking longer than the arrival flight.
After we landed and retrieved our bags, Linden and Jeff shared their concerns about the flight- that we had circled around, gone from clear air pocket to clear air pocket, flown higher (that explains the cold blasts through the window)- and their worry that we'd have to return to Lukla. Fortunately, all ended well. And we retrieved all the luggage-half of which was mine.
We stopped by theYak and Yeti, our previous hotel, to pick up our "stay bags" and our lock-boxed documents. From there, we hit the Hyatt hotel to avail ourselves of some higher-bar service and amenities. After some check-in snafus, we met by the pool in our finest trekking wear- Lucy in snowboots, Jeff in long johns and heavy "summit" socks, and Corell and I in (dirty) trekking pants and long shirts. Only Linden was dressed appropriately. Regardless, there we were next to sunbathers- but the sun felt great, the food was good, and both were sorely needed.
After lunch we spent a few hours unpacking our bags (to dry out all our wet gear), and discovering what we had left behind in our "stay" bags several weeks ago. I could barely remember packing my stay bag, and so I enthusiastically emptied my bag, pulling out ziplock after ziplock of toiletries, electrical, and miscellaneous supplies. I was nearing the end when I pulled out a bag which contained a thick brown mass which was leaking brown fluid over other contents. Being such a great scientist, I poked and prdded and bent and squeezed in an attempt to discover what the heck it was. I couldn't smell too much because I've been so congested due to the smoke and smog and dirt. It looked like an amalgam of manure and mud...liquefying. Purely nasty. So, as good friends must, I decided to share my good fortune with Corell and Lucy down the hall. Oh, if you could have seen Lucy's face when I showed her the bag! Then Corell admitted to finding a gross gift in her stay bag as well. Hers, she said, looked a bit furry, like a snake, and she had been busy the previous ten minutes chloroxing everything in her bag. At this, I started laughing so hard I fell to ground...in the hall. It cracked me up so... It was just too damn funny and I was enjoying the sick humor of it all so much that I couldn't think straight as to what it could be. It was just foul. Corell was disgusted, and Lucy went straight to her "stay" stuff searching for similar stash.
I went down to meet Linden in the lobby, and could barely tell him the story because I was laughing and coughing so hard. When Lucy and Corell joined us, we walked to the Hyatt entrance to hail a cab. Along the way, Linden, ever-thinking (and in this case, just a wee bit of a spoilsport)(or, as he says, a "Sherlock"), asks us what we did with the marigold leis he had given us as we arrived at the airport in March. We nearly stopped in our tracks. That was it. Mystery solved. For some reason, in our packing panic of the night before we left for the trek, we had decided ( now here we disagree on who started this... She says me and I say she) to save the leis. So I put mine in an unzipped Baggie (hence the dripping brown liquid of my discovery), and she had put hers in bare. Science experiment concluded. Both methods of lei storage are imperfect, but the zippee protocol yielded a semi-gelatinous, semi-solid, liquefying, disgusting brown mess. Don't try it.
So, a little bit melancholy because the mystery was solved and we couldn't continue playing "what if?" games, we piled into a cab and headed back into the city toward Thamel, the tourist district. Linden showed us the route to our "celebration dinner" restaurant, The Roadhouse Cafe ( where we had dined before we left on the trek), and then pointed us in the direction of Durbar Square- the location of many palaces and the home of the current, pre-pubescent living Goddess.
We haggled and shopped, and finally made it down to Durbar square as it was turning dusk. We walked along, marveling at the architecture which had a distinctly pagoda style. We saw a large painted wall relief of the Hindu god of fire (Shiva?) where several people were purchasing votives from nearby sellers and then going up to the statue/relief and anointing themselves or doing ablutions.
We finally had to retrace our steps back to the Roadhouse Cafe, and into the melee we dove. Dodging cars, bikes, rickshaws, motorcycles, and people in this distinctly Hindu area, we felt it was as treacherous as descending Island Peak in the snow. It was astoundingly crazy, overstimulation extraordinaire, and still we pushed on- following fearless Corell. And then, we were back in Thamel. And the noise and the people and the vendors and the cars and the rickshaws were...gone. What a difference a block makes. We rushed into the restaurant 15 minutes late, and I think the boys forgave us.
Delicious pizza for dinner, and we solved all the world's problems. Linden presented us with our "Summit Certificate" (20,300 ft!!!), and both he and Jeff said some sweet things-and now here I am, in the hotel lobby at 1:30 AM because the WiFi doesn't reach my room. From Lukla to Kathmandu, what a day.
We are one step closer to home...love to all!!
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