Landing in Kathmandu: Part One

Mount Everest as seen from Drukair2 PLW edit

CC BY-SA 2.0

The journey from Guilin was a comedy of errors that lasted for 16 hours. It was fraught with delays, reroutings, and landings repeatedly thwarted by storms. I hadn’t slept except for fitful naps in odd places—bouncing helter-skelter over China, draped across my luggage in the airport at Chengdu. So I was out cold when Air China flight 437 glided across the eastern border of Nepal.

I was jolted awake by the turbulence, shaken conscious to a curious sense of peace. My head was a cocktail of delirium and belonging, a tincture of serendipity spiked with sleepy wonder and sweetened by a splash of delight. The concoction was appealing despite being served on the rocks by the Himalayan wind.

I opened the window, felt my breath catch softly, like a moth in the web of the vista. The plane was still cruising at 39,000 feet and yet the mountains seemed close enough to touch. Toward the gates of heaven and beyond they towered, pewter peaks robed in gleaming white silk. And in their midst stood the empress of mountains, regal and sovereign and proud—vexingly beautiful, formidably alluring, elegant, alien, alone. She seemed to have wings, spread open to the world, white beak turned skyward in prayer.

The face that launched a thousand inconceivable expeditions. The siren that buried countless searching souls. The peak that knows the secrets of the moon but isn’t talking. The hercules holding up the sky. The magic carpet of all courageous conquest. The holy grail of all great journeys. The landform that goes by many different names but answers to no one on earth. Sagarmatha. Qomolangma. Peak XV. Everest.

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