Gokyo Trek

As I’m waiting in the cafeteria for my plane to depart, the monkey next to me throws down the garbage bin to check for something edible. No one would care, seems to be a usual day at Kathmandu’s domestic airport. Surprisingly, I share the ride to the small aircraft with the pilot in person. “Your private plane,” he flashes a smile – except for him, the flight attendant, me and some cargo, the plane isn’t too busy today. While starring out of the plane window in hope to make out the snow-capped peak of Everest, the stewardess leads her folded hands to the forehead, then to the heart. Casual buddhist prayers on a flight to infamous Lukla. The rapidly changing weather situation in the region glorifies the small airport as one of the most dangerous spots worldwide for landing or take-offs. Sir Edmund Hillary once had it built for his Mount Everest expedition. Ever since, eight aircrafts have not reached their destination in one piece.

Hillary philosophically quoted after he and his partner, Tenzimg Norgay Sherpa, succeeded in climbing Mount Everest: “It’s not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves”. Since 1953, the sherpa caste has been considered as inexhaustible carriers, concentrated manpower with lungs made of steel and valves. One of them is Kami Sherpa, whom I follow to his village. As we walk, I’m trying to help him carrying the little things that can not be optimally stacked on the 80 kilos of cement bag. I would cry like a little girl. He’d be fine, he mentions parenthetically. Others would march for six hours with !150! Kilo of material on the hump. It’s been roughly 500 years since the Tibetan minority decided to settle in Nepal’s mountain area. For many, everything has changed since then. Some own hotels, study in Europe or play baseball in the American MLB. For about a tenth of the caste, however, the daily struggle remains. Several times I cross path with teenagers in 90-degree angles. They uplift beds (including mattresses), corrugated galvanised iron, pillars, dozens of beer crates, and building goods. The caste of the Scherpa obviously takes the rennovation for their cracked houses into their own hands. “Our government has neither delivered money nor support!” Barhat Sherpa hisses from the other end of the table where I rest after some hours hiking. His house has got some cracks. They’d have to organize the cement themselves from Kathmandu, he tells me. Barhat and the other residents of Machherma are among the Priority B People – Those who have not been harmed from the effects of the quake but own a cracked house. Many of them depend on tourism, tourists who do not come anymore. Too many images of collapsed houses and catastrophic situations were broadcasted lately. Only that remains in the minds of the people. Most forget, that Nepal is quite a big piece of country. Immediately after the earthquake, Indian Mi17 helicopters rushed to the flattened villages. They even flew more often than Nepalese copters. Maximum load weight; 13 tons. Average freight; Media guy, cameraman, pilot. Top of agenda; Broadcasting pictures and videos of villagers who bleed as much as possible. I also remember the words of Julien, a helicopter pilot from France, whom I recently met in Kathmandu. He still flies missions these days. His organisation would deliver rice, medicine and supplies to the destroyed villages (Priority A People). 15.000 tons are still waiting to be moved. On the way back to the capital they’d usually fly empty. Injured people stay where they are, or they walk five to ten days to the nearest street, to eventually hitch a ride to a hospital. United Nations and Nepal’s government do not allow passenger transport on those missions because of liability reasons.

Hiking excellent paths I reach Gokyo after three days. The south wind blows up the monsoon. Captivated I just sit for hours to watch the mystical clouds on their way up to the turquoise-blue lake where the Yaks feed on the purple and yellow flowers. The winter food for the majestic animals. Early in the morning I torture myself up to the nearest hill, the so called Gokyo Ri, to catch a 360 degree view on Gokyo and Cho Oyu with its glacier tongue. As a Swiss, its hard to impress me with mountains, but comparing the Alpes with Nepals summits, we basically just have hills. Take Cho Oyu, which raises up to 8.201 meters (that’s like stacking Matterhorn on another Matterhorn).

The next day I feel ready, Mount Everest is just around the corner. My idea is to reach the base camp the next day. I’m told I would be meeting Sherpa communities after I would successfully cross the glacier tongue of Cho Oyu. My host gesticulates stones falling on my head. After seven hours of constantly loosing myself on the unmarked trail, hiking uphill over a thousand meters in altitude, and observing the monsoon clouds raising again, I must face a difficult decision. Option 1: I climb down again on the unstable rocks (bigger than my own size) which have been recently covered by snow and hail. Or option 2: I try to cross a glacier where there is no route during the monsoon season (except for the note I’ve found on a random map which says “icy crossing”). As I’m borderline with my decition, I have to remind myself of the American who recently dissapeared just up here.. He has been missing for two months now. He too was traveling without a guide and everyone (also the check posts) let him pass without any concerns. He too was convinced of himself. Angry about myself, about the weather, almost about everything, I climb and occasionally slide downhill. Everst must wait.

Thanks to my desicion, I’m given a touching situation – as I make my way down, a 4-year-old monk is riding his horse up to Thame escorted by a troup of Sherpas in traditional clothes. I am formally introduced to the new Lama of the Thame Monastery. For several years, the monkhood was scouting for the reincarnation of the deceased lama. Here he rides. The little boy who had the same visions like his precursor. Also, he has always been craving for going to the region of Thame (which he had never seen before).

„When the earthquake struck Nepal in 2015 I decided to have a look at how things really are. In contrast to the nearly 8.000 victims, there are still routhly 29.992.000 Nepalese alive and exactly those people suffer directly from the loss of tourism (down to 5% of the average). Meantime, donation money flows into the country (roughly 3-500.000.000 USD), but dissapears shortly after in the pockets of corrupt politicians. Nevertheless, this article is about adventure seeking and its risks, but it also points out how the government makes money from natural disasters.“

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