I know, you thought I’d forgotten all about the Nepal picture project, and to be honest, for a while there, I thought I’d forgotten all about it, too. But New York’s American Museum of Natural History is food for Tracy nostalgia, and last week Peter and I had a visit from an out-of-town friend who provided me with all the excuse I needed to revisit the dinosaurs of my childhood. Hot diggety have those ever been updated! (Bear with me; I’ll bring this ramble back around to Nepal soon.) Not so very updated but still impressive were all the dioramas, which, as Abi (the aforementioned out-of-town friend) pointed out, are sort of a dying art form but which look very different once you think about all the work someone has to do to create and maintain them. I’d never thought about it that way before, but it made me consider those darkened halls of stuffed and mounted animals in a whole new (if dim) light. The displays of world peoples, however, were still just weird — even weirder now that I’ve seen more of the parts of the world that they purport to represent.
Which brings me to the Hall of Asian Peoples, where I could not find a single reference to Nepal. Lots about India, China, and even Tibet, to the point where I wondered when the displays had been created, and whether Nepal was on some kind of anthropological blacklist then. Next time I go back I’ll try to take notes on the exhibits and try to figure out where they fit on the Tibet vs. China timeline as I know it — they certainly seemed to represent a culture which I’ve learned think of as extremely endangered and better preserved on the Nepali side of the Himalayas. But I digress. The whole “no Nepal in the Hall of Asian Peoples” phenomenon was so weird that it made me want to get back to my long-neglected picture-posting project. So here I go.
The last time I wrote about Nepal, we had left Sagarmatha National Park and were on our way back to Kathmandu by way of the airport at Lukla. We spent the night before our flight at the Buddha Lodge, whose dining room provided us with a spectacular view of the infamous airstrip in action (when it wasn’t closed due to fog). We had our last meal from the kitchen crew there: lunch on October 31. I was too busy trying to eat seconds and thirds of everything to photograph that meal, so I can’t give it a very full description, but according to my notebook we had tuna coleslaw, chappatis, curried mushrooms, and that I ate even the sardines in tomato sauce that I’d gotten kinda sick of during the rest of the trip. (Also, canned Asian pears for dessert.) One of the reasons for making that meal our last was that Lakshman had been feeling ill for about a day at this point. That lunch and the day before, he served us with a bandanna over his nose and mouth, just in case he was contagious, and on the whole I was glad that he could go home soon, even though it meant saying goodbye. (Nawang sent Lakshman to the hospital in Lukla the next day, where he was declared healthy enough to make the walk home, much to everyone’s relief.)
That night and the following morning, we ate from the Buddha Lodge’s menu, which was good in a different, and somewhat startling way: it was the first time in weeks I’d had to make a decision about what to eat, instead of just enjoying whatever the kitchen crew put in front of me. Before reading the menu could completely paralyze me with indecision, I chose to play it safe, with the vegetarian dinner combination of (you guessed it), dal bhaat, tarkari, and saag:
Mom had the same, and Dad had the non-vegetarian dinner combination, which was all of the above with the addition of a little cup of chicken curry alongside (I loved that vegetarian was the default on the menu, and that the other meal was described as non-vegetarian instead of “regular” or some such). Piett was sucked into the menu and it almost destroyed us all, but eventually settled on a chicken chow mein sort of stir fry with noodles. We shared a basket of popcorn beforehand as an appetizer, when we realized we were all madly hungry, and split bottles of Everest beer.
We bought dinner for Nawang, Lakshman, and the rest of the crew: Nawang-gelÃ©, Urkien, and Lakshman’s assistant, whose name I never learned. No weak little airplane trays of food for them, though: the Buddha Lodge gave them each a full dinner plate piled high with rice, little portions each of chicken, saag, and vegetable tarkari, and a big bowl of dal with a ladle, so they could share. The mystery stuff in the bottom left of my tray, by the way, is a blazingly spicy hot relish, which was apparently not hot enough for our crew, since in addition to that sauce they got whole pickled hot peppers with which to dress their food. Yow!
The evening’s round of drinks included rakshi for Urkien and Cokes for Nawang-gelÃ© and Lakshman’s assistant. Nawang senior tried his son’s drink, and winced in disgust. Then he changed my order of a small pot of sherpa tea into a large one, for sharing. I startled the crew a little by pouring for both of us whenever I got the chance, but I wasn’t just trying to be polite — I couldn’t really handle the salt, so I was grateful for Nawang’s help finishing the pot.
We placed our breakfast orders before going to bed, so it would be ready and waiting for us the next morning, to save time before going to the airport. I had the Buddha Lodge’s simple breakfast: a pot of tea, two perfect over-medium eggs, toast, and gorgeous fried potatoes with tomatoes, bell peppers, and onions. (Later I would note that although I was excited about the first eggs in weeks that weren’t overcooked, I was sort of sick of eggs. But not potatoes!)
And then it was time to fly. You can click on any of the following images to see larger versions (and the rest of the Nepal photoset-in-progress) on Flickr but the quick summary is:
Lukla airstrip in action, and some of my views out the window of the teeny tiny plane that took us back to Kathmandu. It was literally one seat on each side of the aisle, but Nawang-gelÃ© (who accompanied us back to Kathmandu) managed to make sure we all got seats on the mountain side of the plane, where I snapped:
a hazy view of Khumbila,
and two pictures I want to stitch into a panorama titled “Goodbye, mountains, you were amazing.”
I deleted several attempts at taking photos on the plane before I realized that I was taking pictures of the propeller, and that all my snapshots would have some mystery blur in them. There’s lots more on Flickr, but I’ll stop here for today. Happy weekend, readers!