This morning we woke up to thick white clouds masking the 24,000ft peaks encompassing Namche. After our final breakfast, our hosts sent us on our way by giving each of us a traditional scarf symbolizing a safe journey and a promise for us to return in the future. Our destination for lunch was Phakding, where we had spent the night several days before. Along the journey to Syangma we met two gentlemen from New Zealand who are close friends to Peter Hillary, the son of the late Sir Edmund Hillary – what are the chances, right?! Discussing our project with them, they were very familiar with the trail itself having hiked and shot documentary footage of it some 20+ years prior. As they showed much interest in what we’re trying to accomplish through Hike for Help, we exchanged contact information and left our separate ways. The team was welcomed in Syangma with a great meal in a traditional Sherpa House. The view from Syangma was some of the most spectacular of the entire trip. The night concluded with a wonderful welcoming celebration where the local villagers of the area showed their appreciation and enthusiasm for the team with Sherpa singing, dancing, and general celebratory fun. The welcoming was well received and the team responded with singing and dancing of our own – an amazing night indeed.
The crisp clear morning in Syangma was a bitter-sweet gift. After the festivities of the night before, we were told that the team was thought of by the locals as warm, friendly, and loving Americans.Spirits remained high as the team was given another traditional departing ceremony prior to the two hour journey to the area that would serve as our base camp for the project. Adorned with numerous white and gold scarves, the team set out. Everyone took a short break next to the “Karma Primary School” which was constructed by Lhakpa’s father Karma; from there we passed through the village of Taté, arriving shortly after at the campsite. The team helped the porters set up the sleeping tents, the cooking tent, the dining tent, and the bathrooms (holes in the ground covered with a special 4×4 tent; absolutely glorious… yes that’s sarcasm). The views from the camp were extraordinary. Perched high above Syangma and Lukla, the team was eager to find their sleeping bags to rest their bodies for tomorrow we would begin the project we’ve come so far to begin.
The team awoke early to readily prepared black tea and wash bowls. Anxious to see the trail and get started, the team plowed through a breakfast of eggs and toast. The Sherpa’s conducted a prayer ceremony, after which Mike said a few words on behalf of the team. The project had officially been initiated. The money that was contributed from our team was able to hire 15 men. Along with the hired work, quite a few locals volunteered their time to be part of this incredible project. Picking at roots, shoveling dirt, and chipping away rock was the morning workout and would be the standard for the next several days. The integration between men and women on the work site, due to cultural practices and Nepalese customs, went better than expected. The local leaders of the projects were effortlessly making adjustments on the fly, a foreign and unorthodox concept for us Americans. This trip is already a humbling experience and reminds us that we’re here to assist the people of the Solukhumbu by empowering them, not to tell them how to do things our way. The first day of work was incredibly successful; everyone was extremely encouraged and amazed by the progress.
Another work day. Important to note that one of the elders from Taksendu trekked the current 1.5 day route to meet with us and learn details about how the new trail will affect the area. Once the bridge section connecting Taksendu with Tate is completed, this man’s 1.5 day trip will be reduced to that of only 4 hours.
Another work day. In the evening, the girls on the team decided to prepare dinner for everyone. Creatively using our on hand ingredients, tomato soup, naan tacos, mashed potatoes, and a fruit parfait would be enjoyed by everyone as we ate, sang songs, and further developed our relationships with our Nepalese friends. Jesse went for a long walk.
This morning the team had their last base camp breakfast. This part of the trip was more successful than we could have ever hoped for. In a short time we’ve managed to complete a large portion of the trail, strengthen our relationships with the people of the Solukhumbu, and get a better understanding of what our strategy will be moving forward with The Hike for Help. After closing down camp we set off on what would be the most difficult hike we had yet undertaken. We successfully crossed a large Himalayan valley, and shortly found ourselves in Chaurikharka witnessing something very few ever get to experience. We were asked to take part in a ceremony honoring a Sherpa family member who had passed away a year prior. The event was held inside an old Sherpa house where seven monks performed a ritual by continuously chanting and playing several instruments honoring the dead. Definitely something words can’t do justice describing. We are all truly better-off for seeing such a thing. After the ceremony concluded we continued on the path to Lukla. During a brief stop at the Lukla high school, the team decided to join some local children in a soccer game before walking up the last steps of what would be our final trekking journey. Our bodies smelly and aching, we were all looking forward to the many benefits of a village with running water.