The terrain wasn’t good on the road to Kathmandu. It had been a couple of weeks trekking and some rough nights in the cheap hostels along the way. The chill seemed to freeze the smells of cooking and dung in the air, the only movement the steady flutter of Lung ta prayer flags tied onto the eaves of the huts. But we’d made it.
My mother and I had planned this trip for nearly twenty years, and for last few months had been going on longer and longer treks into the mountains near Cape Town to prepare our muscle memory. We’d flown to Joburg to get used to some altitude, and had wheezed our way around the crags with amusement. We weren’t fit, just determined.
It had taken decades for me to save up the cash for this: our trek to Base Camp in the Sagarmatha National Park, a dream to gaze up on Mount Everest and imagine the aspirations won and lost that blew around its icy peaks.
Perhaps it was the legends of Mallory and Irvine, the climbers who vanished into the mountain’s mists in 1924 that inspired my mother’s obsession with Everest. It could have been the craggy New Zealander, Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay’s riveting first ascent in the same year that Queen Elizabeth ll sat tentatively on the throne of England for the first time. That would have filled her imagination as a child, the little details – Norgay leaving some chocolates on the peak as an offering, Hillary a cross.
She’d read or collected every single book she’d come across about Mount Everest. I’d worked in a book shop and had been her enabler. “Have you seen this one, Mum?” I’d ask, and it would go onto her Christmas list.
She managed to convince me with her library. Books written by men and women of their battle through the Death Zone to conquer the mountain, tales of the ones who remained behind, frozen into the slopes of the hill that had conquered them.
So we planned to go there ourselves. To scoop up dal with a roti in a darkened room on the way. Feel the coarse yak fur blanket against our faces. Laugh with the village kids as they skidded about in the gravel and mud. Listen to the wind and the stray dogs howl and the ring of the singing bowls in the temples.
Only this never happened. She became ill with Alzheimer’s around the age of sixty and died five years later.
In my mind I make this trip with her.
I book my flight to India and arrive in Mumbai with a rucksack, ready for the connecting flight to Nepal. Watch the kites slicing through the thin air like souls released by the scavenging birds of sky burials. I hike into eternity and beyond.
*This is from a personal experience and is in no way meant to diminish the impact of the 2015 earthquake in Nepal experienced by the Nepalese people and the international climbing community.
This post was written as part of a tandem blogging experiment. SEVEN other bloggers have used the same title as a prompt, and their work will go live at the same time. None of us have seen anyone else's posts yet, so each will take a unique angle on their blogs. Take a look at their creative efforts at blogging “Mumbai” and like, share and comment if you've enjoyed what you read!
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