A sliver of light leaks from the window across the isle.
Rubbing my eyes, I reach for my window shade. Sliding it up reveals a lost horizon, engulfed in a desert storm. It’s 12 hours later and we’ve crossed half our Earth, flying over the Atlantic Ocean, Africa, and were beginning our slow descent from 40,000 feet into Abu Dhabi.
“Just an hour left now,” my hiking parter Paul alerts me. So much for my movie marathon and work emails. Miraculously the bottomless glasses of wine our flight attended kept feeding us paid off.
We eventually drop down and when the wheels finally do touch, I am immediately transported to another earth. A different language, script, even smells… I feel almost as a kid again, wide-eyed and eager to get out there and explore my new backyard.We begin to mosey off the plane.
“Bye bye!” I look down and there’s a lady, small and wrinkled in age, peering up at me smiling. “Bye bye,” she giggles again, just hoping for me to reply in those two funny words once more. “Bye bye,” I reply, smiling.
We haven’t even made it to our connecting gate and already a local has offered us her home in Kathmandu. Those last three months of speeding across over 7,000 miles of United States roads rushing from one place to another for work, stress, emails, deadlines… all slowly begin to fade away and suddenly, I’m here.
We exit the airport and the thudding of the city is now beneath my feet as the humidity closes in. There are people everywhere and we’re being pushed across the street, dragging loads of climbing gear and trying to keep watch that nothing goes missing. Emerging from the crowd, a smiling face pops up and begins to point at Lonnie, the mountaineer and leader for our expedition. Mumbling a few noises he signals that he knows who Lonnie is, and as well who’s looking for him. Lonnie disappears with the boy in the crowd and 5 minutes later were met with a familiar face, Nima, our friend and Sherpa.
Loaded up in the van, we spin through winding streets, dodging motorcycles and street dogs. I try to catch a glimpse of the passing sites, but it all a collage of metals, wires, trash, and a mess of traffic flying past.
After we arrive to the hotel, Nima, Lonnie, and Pascale dig out the maps. Everyone gathers around and listens to the latest news from The Himalayas from Nima while getting an idea of what the next three weeks of our expedition is to look like.
Later that evening, Nima and I flip through pictures, comparing packing yaks in The Himalayas to my packing horses in Patagonia. “We have the same job!” he laughs aloud. One of his photos catches my eye and I notice, “Nima, I know this man.” “Ah, yes…” he replies. “That is my brother.” Turns out that his brother’s coffee shop in downtown Portland, Oregon was home to many of my early morning jaunts. Here I’ve traveled quite literally as far from home as one could be, and on day one the world begins to feel smaller than ever.
Tomorrow we begin our transfer to begin our Manaslu Circuit trek on The Vertical Nepal Expedition.