Well, I made it back to Seattle this morning and am awaiting my flight to Pullman-Moscow this afternoon.
How do you eat 6 full meals in a day without overstuffing yourself? Cross the international dateline going east. This week I got two Thursday, November 10s, one spent in Seoul, “Yesterday,” and then one spent “today” in Seattle. First time in my life that I got to repeat a day, too bad I had to do so in airports and airplanes…
Speaking of airports, the airports in Seoul and Bangkok put even the most modern nicest airports in the U.S. to shame. Compared to the Seoul airport, walking into SeaTac (which, as U.S. airports go, ain’t bad) felt like walking into a bus station. Ok, maybe that’s overstating it just a bit, Kathmandu’s airport is way worse, but the difference between SeaTac and Seoul is astounding. Seoul airport Is super-clean, super high-tech, and has plenty of free services for travelers–like these big padded lounges for sleeping, free showers, free cyber cafes with laptops, a lay-over hotel for day use if you want to pay for a room with a shower for a few hours. The South Koreans know how to provide service! I will gladly layover at the Seoul airport again.
My journey is coming to an end, but what an incredible journey it has been. I’m now sitting at the international gates of the Kathmandu airport writing this final blog entry. Yesterday, Steve took off for South Africa, while Van and I enjoyed one last day in Kathmandu, casually walking, shopping, sitting in cafes drinking large bottles of beer, and still appreciating just how fortunate we were to escape Lukla so easily. Yesterday’s English-language Nepali Republica newspaper had a big story on our “rescue” from Lukla on Monday, stating that over 1000 foreigners and a handful of Nepalis were rescued. These numbers included the 400-500 lucky people, ourselves included, who were actually scheduled to fly out Monday and did so without any unusual waiting or drama. It certainly didn’t feel like a rescue, but just for the added drama (and we did stress about it and run to the plane, after all) I am going to consider myself officially “rescued” for the first time in my life.
The really ironic thing is that the overwhelming majority (over 99% according to the newspaper) of those “rescued” simply went out on commercial airplane or helicopter flights. The army’s big helicopter, that I described in a previous post, only made one trip before being grounded due to mechanical difficulties. As Steve noted many times while we have been here, maintenance is NOT a Nepali strength. Everything here is crumbling due to lack of basic maintenance. Just getting the trash picked up seems outside of Nepali ability or interest. Things can be nice when they are brand new, but everything seems to quickly deteriorate once constructed. Your typical handy-man, maintenance guy in the States might look at Nepal and think, “Wow, there’s an endless amount of work here for me.” But, he would be wrong: no one would think of hiring him, preferring instead to just let things slowly crumble away. As you can imagine, given this aversion to maintenance, I was very happy not to have to ride in a Nepali helicopter from Lukla, the Twin Otter Airplane seemed risky enough, thank you.
Sam, our guide is starting his own trekking business and I can’t help but give him a strong endorsement here. If any of you are interested in adventure travel (trekking, climbing, rafting, etc.) in South Asia (Nepal, Tibet, Bhutan, or India), I highly recommend you consider hiring BuddhaNepalTrek (www.buddhanepaltrek.com)to handle your travel and guide services. Sam is one of the most competent, professional, compassionate, friendly, and well-connected persons you can hope to have manage your trip for you. As I said before, he looked after us like we were his own family. Indeed, I told him him that he treated me better than my wife! Really Lisa, I was only kidding (mostly)… Ha! It will be good to be home again!
I apologize for my many typos and spelling mistakes throughout this Blog. I’m particularly embarrassed by my frequent mis-spelling of Buddha as “Bhudda.” Fortunately, Buddha is compassionate and has chosen not to punish me, at least so far.
As excuses, I’ll offer an altitude-limited cognitive ability, long exhausting days trekking, and trying to write on an IPad with very cold hands. None of these things help inspire careful editing….
Now that we are back to civilization, I can upload pictures! Here they are: