The sudden change in pace from the mountains to the city overwhelms for the first day or two. Noisy traffic, crowded dusty streets, ancient and modern buildings filling every corner of this great city.
But the one constant that binds all Nepal together are the fluttering prayer flags – conveying the dreams, hopes and prayers of millions skyward to the gods and the mountains.
It was an exhilarating experience as the chopper rose a few feet into the air from the landing pad, turned and – and descended down the valley, towering mountains on each side, the pilot skilfully navigating his way through the clouds, occasional turbulence and mountain passes.
Whilst there are many trekkers like myself who choose to walk to and from our destinations, increasing numbers of well off travellers/tourists use choppers to visit the region. Many risk altitude sickness as they have not had adequate time to acclimatise to the altitude.
The helicopter is a critical form of transport in the mountainous Himalayas. Without roads – the transport choices are walking, yaks, occasionally horses. Helicopters save lives in medical emergencies, allow trekkers and mountain climbers to rapidly reach distant locations and carry supplies of many types, to wherever they are needed.
As you descend leaving Namche Bazaar, the well-worn EBC trail becomes lusher and greener. The yaks disappear and are replaced by bullocks. The harsh rock strewn terrain above 4000 metres is replaced by lush rainforest, tall trees and fast running icy rivers.
Rock and ice – the glacier is constantly on the move. The noise of crashing rocks and distant avalanches permeates the air.
The retreat of the Khumbu Glacier is a concerning and very apparent indicator of rapid climate change. The lower reaches of the glacier are shrinking every year. This is affecting villagers, wildlife and river flows.
Mount Everest with Everest Base camp in the foreground.
This place is so rich in history, stories of survival and death, the strength of the human spirit and great human courage. In particular the inspirational dedication, loyalty and utter dependability of the brave Sherpas, who made climbing Everest possible. I am drawn to return to the Khumbu, which I shall do in 2018.