March 4, 2021…
I am awakened by knocks on my hotel room. I ignore them. I am in and out of sleep. The knocks stop and I check the time. It is now 10 am. Just as I am about to doze back, the phone rings. The operator tells me there is a medical team waiting to give me my arrival covid test. I didn’t know such thing existed, but hey, you can never test too much. I told her I need 10 minutes to get ready then to send them to my room. The team is two young (very young) women wearing makeshift colorful hazmat suits, that look more like overall onesies. They are fully gloved and double masked. They are carrying a black igloo cooler and a folder full of paperwork. One of them reaches deep into my nose with a swab. It’s a bit deeper than I expected. I wince. She giggles. I sign a few papers, answer a few questions, thank them and off they disappear. Results will come in 10 hours I am told. That’s how testing should be done! No hassles, no lines, no appointments!
I go downstairs to the hotel restaurant to meet with my handler, Ngima Sherpa, who will be guiding me throughout my visit to the Himalayas. He is sipping a cappuccino on the hotel balcony overlooking the city of Kathmandu with a pretty impressive mountain in the background which he refers to as “the hill”. We are looking over people’s balconies. Women are sweeping rooftops, tending gardens, hanging wash, rocking babies. The smell of incense is everywhere. Ngima exudes a spiritual gentleness. Maybe its just the setting but it seems genuine. His English is adequate. Definitely better than my Nepali which is limited to one word – Nemaste. We chat it up and he tells me about his adventures of trekking Everest. His family and two kids, 5 and 8. The trekking company he founded in 2005 to get people to fall in love with the Himalayas. I am loving this guy. His last name is Sherpa and he explains that Sherpa is not a profession, it’s a tribe that lives in many regions of the world. There are Sherpas in Africa, Asia, South America. He tells me about his life starting out as a porter, learning of Edmund Hillary when he was a kid and how he doesn’t understand why people want to summit Everest in the winter. It takes a certain kind of mind he explains. Time is just breezing by and I am loving him more.
We will be starting the trek Saturday he explains. Once we get the all clear with the test we are off to Lukla and that dreaded (i.e, thrilling) flight from hell (not the fiery kind) landing on that incy wincy teeny weeny airport strip on the edge of a very tall cliff overlooking remnants of wreckage from previous failed landing attempts! I will be oozing with adrenaline and I can’t wait!