So much for Pema’s clean explanation of how Lukla’s flight schedule works. He said we’d be on the second flight out and that we should be ready early, but about 8:30 in the morning. Actually that hour was not at all a strain for us since we had a very light and guarded sleep in our “hotel”. After the porters left and the cooks absconded with the pot of steaming chang to their own private festivities we were left feeling dressed up with no place to go. We had been looking forward to some Sherpa hoopla and dancing, but regardless we were content to curl up in our cozy, wooden rooms with a porcelain toilet nearby and flat, carpeted flooring. All was quiet for the moment as we cut the lights and zipped up our sleeping bags. However, soon and throught the whole night we lay sleepless, feeling on edge with thoughts of Maoists infiltrating our stronghold. We heard rattling noises and soldier noises outside our windows. As if that wasn’t bad enough, half-way between our dreams we became aware of the community of mice or rats scurrying around in the hollow framing of the woodwork. We slept lightly and were very anxious for sunlight to hit our windows. After all we’ve been through and all the anticipation we were completely finished with the Khumbu for the time being and were intent and catching our flight out.
When morning came we lined up in the dining room in early anticipation of our bed tea. The cooks were a little late, good chang no doubt. We eagerly ate our eggs and packed our duffle bags down the stairs to make sure there was no delay. We we very relieved to see the perfectly clear skies to ensure no hitch in our departure. We sat down outside, baked in the warm sunlight, and enjoyed our last glimpses of the snow-capped, jagged peaks above the valley. We soon found, though, that the time was passing without us hopping off the hill for our departure. There were a number of planes that sped onto the uphill runway, but they they sped away without us. Pema was taking it cool though. He’s been through the departure process enough times to know that you just leave when you leave. We waited over 3 hours more before we even rallied and filed into the airport next door. The small buidling was packed with fellow trekkers, and we learned that the departure schedule was a little backed up. The previous day or two had been stopped up by some foggy weather. We had another good, long wait, and many planes packed with cases of Everest beer came and went without us. Finally after 1 p.m. our green Yeti plane pulled up and we piled in. After watching so many other flights pass through we were anxious but just intent on getting out. We were mentally washed out from the Khumbu (for the moment), so we were single-minded on getting to our showers and pizzas in Kathmandu. We were so happy when the engines finally buzzed and we lept out over the steep cliff below Lukla and we were airborne.
Instead of getting very sentimental and saying “I can’t believe it’s over,” I’ll just say that it was already a tremendous culture shock leaving the solitude and peace of the high mountain ranges to speed over the terraced slopes then to the crowded rice fields, and then suddenly to the infrastructural catastrophe of Kathmandu. Suddenly we’re caught up in raging stampedes of people and barking taxis. It’s nice to be walking on paved walkways, but the air in unbreathable and there’s too much sensory stimulation. The ride from the airport to our hotel must have been much more intense than when we first arrived early in the month. Once we got into our room and cleaned up we are feeling much better though, more like happy humans again. We were disappointed that we weren’t able to meet up with Shovan’s family. There is some kind of taxi strike going on, so we wouldn’t be able to travel out to their neighborhood. Instead we walked to Thamel and went to Kilroy’s. We brought with us such tremendous appetites that we all order pretty much two meals each and gorged on it all. No leftovers, we even had dessert. We had such good food, and while gorging we talked about more good food. That was a good start on satisfying our month-long cravings. I think we’ll hit Thamel again in the morning and have some more. We can also do some serious shopping, knowing that the prices are so much lower down here. Remember how sodas cost up to 250 ruppes up at Gorak Shep – down here they are 35 Rupees and lower. One vendor I talked to got a good laugh when I told him about it. What idiot would pay that much for a soda?
Tonight we’re in the Yak and Yeti again, and we almost feel like the luxury is too much for us. There are towels draped about for us. There is a sink that has a pipe leading outside. We don’t have to dress up and carry a flashlight to try and find the squatter outside. There’s even carpet leading to the bathroom. There’s a shower with continuously running water, and so forth. This is a very nice hotel, with very comfortable accents. Each room holds a few antique-looking items, such as ceremonial masks carved out of dark wood. The halls hold colorful, handcrafted creations. The staff are very courteous and friendly, and they look right past our scruffy dress and don’t wretch at our stench, as I often do of myself. at the back of the grounds is a very lovely, elegant garden and swimming pool. I already know how relaxing it is to wake up early and take a quiet stroll outside. The irony is that this is all in the middle of the biggest shit storm that I know of on the planet. There are worse places, but why? We are very grateful to be staying here and to be recuperating/adjusting back to the world.