I woke in my fairly nasty room in the North Face Resort at 2am. It was strange, it was actually warm, the comparatively oxygen rich atmosphere of 2,800m elevation was strange, and after a quick “where the heck am I” (fourteen different locations in fourteen nights will do that to you, believe me), I realised I was in Lukla. Would I fly today? The answer was obvious when I began to listen to the sounds outside.
It was pouring. Not just any old rain mind you. Cloud was effectively below the level of the lodge, and it was monsoon style, torrential, beating rain. I drifted back into a warm slumber but never really slept again until 5.30am came, when the sounds of a German couple humping about 3 feet away from my head, and separated from me by the thinnest sheet of plywood, told me that I may as well just get up and see what the day would bring.
What the day would bring however, was sadly obvious from the moment I looked outside. The air was totally still, the cloud level some long way below us, and it was raining heavily still. This wasn’t going to shift anytime soon, and I knew it.
By the time The dining room filled with people at about 7.30am, all the talk was of helicopters and of how to get out of here by whatever means. Porters scurried around from time to time and got their clients excited with talk of a trek up or down the valley to a helicopter pad at exorbitant expense, but it was all for nought. Nobody moved, everyone sat and hoped in vain.
And so began one of the longest days I have ever experienced. I walked around Lukla for a bit in the morning, and for something to do. It took about ten minutes. There are probably 20 or so shops, but they all sell pretty much the same tat, so once you have seen one you have seen them all. Although my hotel overlooks the airstrip, I also walked down there just to kill time. The ‘terminal’ was closed, so that told me all I needed to know for the day. I did then see a helicopter take off and fly into the clouds, and then turn straight back again, so obviously they thought it too risky too.
There is also, horror of horrors, a Starbucks here! I am entirely sure that it is not a proper Starbucks having been inside and tasted their coffee, but it is a bloody long way for them to come and sue whoever it is using their name, and they had free wi-fi (albeit ridiculously slow), so it worked for me :). This enabled me to get online and catch up with work, and that will tell you how bored I already am.
In the afternoon I killed time by walking back and forward up and down the shops again. I bought incense sticks from practically every store just to mull away the time. I bartered every time too. It is amazing how much time you can waste just by simply arguing over 50 rupees, I also bought a wooly hat. The in thing round here it seems is to have is an “Everest B C 5364m” hat, but I had to be different and got a “Kala Pattar 5545m” one, principally because a.) 5545m is higher than 5364m, and also because I was there after all. It was my summit, and I’m bloody pleased about it, so for my bartered 250 Rupees I will jolly well wear my hat!
When 4pm came around and I literally could not carry any more incense sticks about my person, I dumped them all back at the lodge, and headed back out for the Irish Bar. It seemed a good way to pass a couple of hours before dinner, and also it was Happy Hour from 4pm to 7pm, which means here “buy two get one free”. That is a good enough reason for me any day of the week to wile away a couple of hours. Oh and as an added bonus there was Beach Volleyball being shown on the big screen – I seem to have forgotten the score and who was playing, but that doesn’t bother me too much :).
Whilst in the pub, the group next to me were debating (as every single person in Lukla is who has someone to talk to, except for me as I am on my jack) whether to sit out the weather or to walk to Kathmandu. They opted to walk, on the basis that a.) the weather is set now until Sunday or Monday apparently, and b.) they’d just rather keep moving than hang around. The walk is six days, plus a 12 hour bus jouney. I think that’s a lot, but I am seriously considering it. If I am still here in six days time I will have gone completely mad, I know that for sure.
Roll on tomorrow – except I somehow know very well where I will be both spending and finishing my day…………