Sep 13, 2012

Destination Makalu Base Camp - Almost..!

I spent a sleepless night in Kathmandu enjoying the relative benefits of jet lag packing and repacking my two 110 liter duffel bags.  It’s strange to think that everything that I needed to deal with temperatures from +30 to -40 was contained in these two bags.  What’s slightly unnerving is the realization that if you forget something you either need to improvise or make do without – there’s no Walmart or Selfridges enroute to Makalu!!

Our first flight out of a series of shuttles connecting Kathmandu to our final destination Makalu Base Camp was on a small fixed wing plane to the tiny airport of Tumlingtar.  We were welcomed to the thriving metropolis of Tumlingtar (population 10 residents and about 40 chickens) by a wall of 30 degree temperatures as we dragged our bags to the side of the runway and flopped onto the grass. Here we waited for the connecting helicopter from Fishtail Air under the command of our pilot Ashish, which would take us up to Base Camp. Adrian, our guide, had already begun to manage expectations around weather and, looking at the sky which was quickly filling with cloud, I suspected that our heli-ride into Base Camp would be broken into a series of shuttles taking advantage of the flat terraces which could provide safe places to land in case of emergency.

As the silver heli drew near we quickly sorted both bags and passengers. It was a spectacular ride – the summer monsoon had greened up the valley and we were mesmerized by the many different greens which knitted together the rocky, mountainous landscape below – from greens so dark they appeared almost black to greens that appeared almost fluorescent under the shadow of the helicopter passing overhead. It quickly became clear that a shuttle directly to Base Camp was going to be impossible on account of the weather which was quickly closing in.  Ashish the pilot gave us a knowing smile and began our premature descent in the rain into Tashigon… another thriving metropolis with a population of about 20 people and about 40000 leeches….


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