Friday, September 18, 2009

People who need Nepal.

People who need Nepal. That was the title of an article that caught my eye in a 1999 issue of Outside Magazine. The title was superimposed over an astounding double-page-spread photo of the Himalayas. I read the article and then tore the two page photo out and taped it up on the wall over my desk. I was a senior in college. The photo looked a little like this one.

I took that photo in May of 2000 while traveling in Nepal with a study-abroad group from school. I don't remember how or when I found out that I could study abroad in Nepal, but I know that when I heard about it, I leaped at the opportunity. I was in grad school at that point and talked my professors into letting me do the study abroad stint for independent study credit, creating my own coursework along the way. Since I was earning a stipend from the school, I don't even think I had to pay for the credits, just my transportation to get to Nepal and back. It was definitely too good to pass up.

Just recently, I had a big batch of photos scanned and returned to me in digital format on a DVD. My Nepal photos were among them and, looking back at them for the first time in several years, I am amazed. The scenery is breathtaking and awesome. Yes, some will be quick to remind me, my time in Nepal wasn't exactly my finest hour. I spent the last two weeks of my time there sick with Typhoid Fever (for which I had, ahem, the vaccination, thankyouverymuch), and while I was above 16,000 feet I experienced some very nasty altitude sickness. But even those ailments can't take away from what I see when I look back at the photos. I love the ocean, and I love the rainforests, and I love Colorado's mountains but, really, the Himalayas are the grandest sight I have ever beheld.

This is the plane that my classmates and I boarded in Kathmandu to get to Lukla, the airport closest to Mt. Everest's base camp. It sits on a ledge at about 11,000 feet.

Notice the stellar dirt runway. Where you see it drop off at the edge of the cliff, that's not an illusion. It really does drop off. And it really is a cliff. And the runway is very short. Sort of like taking off from an aircraft carrier. Only possibly scarier.

This is my friend Ashley and me with one of our Sherpas (a guide from the ethnic group native to the Himalayas) toward the beginning of our trek. He looks like he's about fourteen, doesn't he? See the Chacos I'm wearing? Still got those! Had them resoled this summer for their 11th birthday!

Ashley saved me when I had Typhoid. She went with me to the hospital and, while I was in a haze of sickness, she fought with the less-than-helpful Nepalese nurses to get me the best care possible. I am indebted to her forever.

Breakfast with the whole crew. We're a pretty ragged looking bunch.

Ahhhh...the splendor. We walked for about a week and a half with vistas like this the whole way.

Along the way we passed several Buddhist monasteries. The monks are teenage boys who come to the monasteries for room, board, and an education. You can see a few of them sitting in the grass in this photo.

More monks. I love the vivid colors in their clothes.

Ashley and me in front of Everest.

Walking through the fog past a creative wall.

One of many swinging bridges criss-crossing the River Duhd (pronounced like dude).

Oh, the porters. These guys get paid next to nothing and usually wear flip flops while making their way up the rocky trails. They carry everything that needs to get between Lukla (the airport) and all of the villages in the mountains. There are also yaks along the trail carrying big loads, but they seem to have it easier than these guys. Do you see how he is carrying the load? The basket is attached to a strap that goes around the top of his head. His neck carries the load and when he needs to stop to rest, he puts down the little crutch that his load is sitting on in this photo.

One of the many mountains rising above the gorge where the River Duhd flows.

The children of the Himalayas. Some of the sweetest faces I've seen anywhere.

Here are a few shots from Kathmandu. This one was at one of the plazas in a town on the outskirts of Kathmandu. The flags hanging down are prayer flags.

This was a cremation in Kathmandu. Once the body is burned, the family will put the pallet with the ashes on the river next to where the cremation took place so that the ashes will float down to the holy Ganges River in India.

Ashley and me after I had recovered from Typhoid.

This is the family I stayed with during my time in Kathmandu. Just as I was getting comfortable in their house, I got sick. My Bhai (father) in the family said it was because I "took too much exercise." I had been working out at a local gym during my time in Kathmandu. He attempted to cure me with a huge load of bananas.

It's funny how easy it was for me to forget about Nepal after I left. Not forget totally, but put it in the back of my mind. Six months after returning home, Scott and I got married. I had a wedding to think about, grad school to finish, work to was a busy time. But, I see the photos and the memories rush back and I'm reminded of what a unique and rich place it was. Like no place else I've been.


Cherry said...

Wow girl, those are AMAZING pics. Thanks for sharing!

Hillary Dickman said...

Thanks, Cherry! It's a pretty amazing place.