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October 24-25: The Final Leg

January 20, 2011

24 October
Greetings from Pemba’s Trail Lodge/Yak & Yeti Cafe in Surkey. We made another “early” start at 8 am, though as always we’d planned for half an hour earlier and didn’t quite pull it off. We powered through to Phakding to have lunch and I was all prepared to knock out the last leg to Lukla.

Or, as I prefer to think of it:

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Last night a couple at the lodge reminded us that the last 200 meters to Lukla was almost straight uphill, and after lunch I decided to change my mentality and prepare for one of the hardest legs of the journey– mostly mentally, because I think we were all getting a little sick of walking and I knew at least I would be hoping for the end of the road around every corner.

However, following the greasy potato balls I’d had for lunch, and the Mars bar Wayne and I split just before setting off, I wasn’t feeling too hot. After a while there was this long stretch (though I was hesitant to believe it was 200 meters) of uphill leading to houses, and in spite of telling myself, “Not Lukla, not Lukla, not Lukla” I must confess I began to believe it was Lukla.

But I was wrong… Lukla was still an hour away, and as it turns out, it wasn’t even where we were going. We took a break at Pemba’s sister’s teahouse and learned that to get to Pemba’s guesthouse we’d split from the Lukla path right there and spend an hour going downhill. He stipulated that this meant an hour-and-a-half walk back to Lukla in the morning, but we’d been telling him we wanted to stay at his house, so we stuck to that.

It was a really beautiful walk (on which we saw so many baby cows! Including a baby baby calf running around a pasture, giving some boys the slip), but it didn’t take long to start doubting the hour-and-a-half morning figure. It was a long way down, and we watched a plane fly in and it seemed so far away. However, he stands by it, so I guess we’ll see.

the rinj man bringing up the rear

another village across the valley… i’m sure pemba has relatives there too (that’s not even a joke)

so sweet!

can still see the little girl on the steps to the right

that’s pemba’s house, top right

His lodge is beautiful (if lacking in electrical efficiency… we were trying to play Nerts last night and the light s were flickering to the point of turning off. Also Laura ordered spaghetti and got noodles in ketchup, which may sound like a “go figure” statement, but we’ve ordered plenty of decent s’ghetti dishes on the way. Luckily Rinji’s like a bottomless pit and was able to finish Laura’s and my leftovers.) and wonderfully situated in a gorgeous valley. He also has two awesome sons; a 12-year-old whose English is alright and who taught us a war-like card game, and a toddler who’s just precious.

It’s hard to believe the journey’s nearly over (but not quite! I keep reminding myself), but it’s been a really good one. It’s even harder to believe that Wayne and I will be in India in just two days!


cute, right?

And I don’t have any documentation of our last day. But as I recall it did only take us about an hour-and-a-half to make it up to Lukla. Our flight was a little delayed but we made it back just fine, then had one last blast in Kathmandu before Wayne and I departed to Kolkata on the 26th (to be joined by Laura a few days later). If I had to choose one aspect of the post-China travels to hold above the others (which is no easy task), I’d say the hike would be it. The people we met, the interactions with nature and astounding beauty of our surroundings, the physical and mental challenge of the whole thing, and the immersion into this completely different way of life are just a few of the things that make the experience truly memorable for me (and Laura and Wayne, I imagine). It’s something I would recommend to anyone and a hobby I’d definitely like to pursue further. Anyone down for the Annapurna Circuit in the next year or two?

pemba, his wife and baby, his niece, and rinji. oldest son not pictured because he was mad pemba was leaving again. he thinks it’s too dangerous, which i suppose is understandable since one of his uncles died guiding his (i want to say) 12th everest summit. apparently it’s in their blood though!

just below the airstrip

pemba lives deep down in that valley


came up literally next to the airstrip

one last view of kathmandu, from the hall of our hotel. notice the clothes drying and tires on the roof, the winding traffic, and of course, the himalayan peak in the distance


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