“You have a helicopter booked to fly you back, so why don’t you take it for a spin around Mount Everest first?” This is how we ended up cheating everybody else on the way to Everest Base Camp.
The sun rose in Namche Bazaar, and our plan was to trek back to Lukla that day. After all, we were not here for fun but for work. My colleague needed to leave Nepal the same night, so she had booked a helicopter to pick her up from Namche and bring her to Lukla so she could fly back to Kathmandu and out to Sweden. Fortunate for her, as she still suffered from altitude sickness from the day before. The helicopter was booked to fly all the way to Namche from Lukla, so indeed we did take it out for a spin first. My colleagues were dying to see Everest up close. It may sound lame but this was never on my bucket list. It was possibly the only thing missing from my bucket list. When the chopper landed I was not going to get on it. When it took off I was somehow onboard.
Our pilot had oxygen. We did not. He let out a little fizz into the cabin at takeoff, and then happily breathed his own oxygen for the rest of the trip. We flew well over Base Camp which means we must have been at approximately 6,000 m altitude. As I was taking photos and videos I forgot to breathe regularly – and actually caught a bout of mild altitude sensitivity right there, seated on the plane. Feeling sick and lightheaded I tried to focus on breathing, while my colleague, who was blue in the face just the night before, was happy as a canary in the front seat.The moon landscape that makes up the last 4 days of trekking is astonishing. It seems quite dead, but I am convinced it isn’t. This is the top of the world. Life is found in highly unlikely places. And while it is exotic and dangerous to us Europeans, sherpas and yaks consider this their home. Hats off to them (if anybody wears a hat anymore).
(Namche Bazaar and Mt Everest, Nepal; November 2016)