Today was a long day and quite frankly all over the place. At 6 a.m. you could see across the valley giving hope that perhaps a helicopter could come and take us to Phaplu, but these hopes were quickly dashed within the half hour as fog completely took over. There are few options with respect to our return – we either sit around and wait for clear weather and hope a plane takes off for the first time in weeks or that we can get a helicopter cheap enough to take us to Phaplu where we can proceed to drive 8-10 hours back to Kathmandu OR we get hiking to Phaplu, which is 2 hard days away with quite a few sizeable hills. I decided it was better to have the sure thing, so we started hiking.
Shortly thereafter though, the clouds parted and we had some blue skies. Helicopters started flying in and out of Lukla making us all question the decision I had made. Fortunately, there is a helicopter pad in Surkhe, although after an hour of waiting around trying to arrange a helicopter we were still out of luck. Every passing helicopter was accompanied by strong feelings of longing, wishing that we were on it. After being in the field for almost a month now, saying that I’m tired is an understatement – I’m exhausted. Next year I need to remind myself that when I schedule a rest day for everyone that I need to participate in that day of rest as well. Nonetheless, with our hopes of a helicopter dashed we continued on the trail only to have new potential at lunch! A guy who we had seen in Surkhe said that he could arrange a helicopter – terrific news. After 30 minutes of phone call we were scheduled to have a helicopter in Puiyan, which was only an hour away. I’m not sure who was more excited, us or our porters, as they are also utterly exhausted by this point and time as well and saving 20 hours of hilly trail would have been very welcomed by them.
So off we went to Puiyan with the hopes of a helicopter only to see clouds slowly roll in and a light drizzle begin. Laxmi soon got a call that the weather was too poor for anymore helicopters today and our luxurious ride was canceled – bummer. After trekking until 6 p.m. (our latest day so far), we’ve arrived at our midpoint. Tomorrow, we’ll wake up at 4:30 a.m. in an attempt to hike 10 hours and get to Phaplu at a reasonable hour such that we can jump in jeeps and drive the 8-10 hours back to Kathmandu and hopefully not have to drive straight through the night… I guess we will see. It feels great to finally take the pack off and rest and it does feel good that we no longer have any remaining hope of a helicopter. The trails here are quite muddy and the trains of mules are frequent, so sometimes you aren’t sure if you’re stepping in mud or something else. And I almost forgot there are also leeches although tomorrow is supposed to be worse on that front – I only had one on my leg today, so I can check that off my bucket list. It’s certainly interesting to see the lower portions of the Khumbu. One part almost felt like a rain forest, which was pretty impressive until you realized after 20 minutes that rain forests are wet and that the path was going to be mostly mud for the next hour. It’s time for us to rest up and eat our fair share of dal baht tonight.