26.01.10 – 3.10pm (9.48am UK)

Well, I have a confession to make. I’m writing this – as you’ll see by the date & time – after our return to the Royal Singi Hotel. I asked the SLS if they minded me having a day off from the blog & they very graciously agreed. ‘Today’ is/was a monumental day for us all (second to the EBC landing of course), so I wanted to be free to enjoy the elation of arriving at Lukla safely first hand. So, I write this blog entry retrospectively whilst my room-mate dozes fitfully in our room upstairs & I await the arrival of my pot of strong, black, freshly ground Nepalese coffee, in the Royal Singi foyer… in my shorts & a t-shirt, freshly shaved & feeling on top of the world…!

OK, back to yesterday… it seems so long ago now…

Early start today, earlier than the last few return trek days. The last leg of our return trek lay ahead & although we would ultimately end up at around the same altitude, it was to be a steep down one side of the valley followed by a hard steep up on the other side of the valley before we would reach Lukla.

We sweated, toiled, laughed, joked, tripped, trumped, burped, poked fun at each other, sang, quizzed, trumped & burped some more… then finished breakfast & departed! No, only joking, we did all this on the trek.

We stopped for a break at around 11am, had lunch around 2pm, & arrived in Lukla around 4.30pm. Ruth, who had hurt her ankle quite badly the day before, had started the last leg (no pun intended) on a horse we had managed to persuade her to travel back on due to her pain, but after about half an hour & several close calls with mountainside rocks, she decided she would brave it on foot.

She did incredibly well & as we stopped for lunch she was only about 45 minutes behind us & managed to keep up pretty much all the way after that.

We made good time, as we had become accustomed to, but today was different – nobody really seemed to want to ‘take the lead’. It was as though none of us wanted it to finish & by not being at the front it would make it last just that little bit longer. Finally though, there at the top of the path, was the gateway to Lukla. We each shuffled over it & stood the other side, waiting for each of our friends – & they all are – to come through themselves. As we stood there, snow started to very gently fall & everything all seemed very still. It was a very special moment.

One by one each arrived until we were all there. We walked through the town to our lodge – the same lodge we had arrived at to eat out ‘packed breakfast’ of boiled eggs, sandwich spread sandwiches & fruit 12 days earlier. It felt a lot longer than that!

Greeted with the now customary hot black tea on arrival, we all congratulated each other with varying levels of hysteria at the fact that “we’d only gone & blummin’ done it!” – hugging, kissing, dancing around… but we told Mike that he’d have to calm right down.

Our rooms were very nice – or they would have been if a little heat had introduced – but by this time we didn’t care. We were just fixated [well, a good few of us anyway] with the fact that (a) there was real meat on the menu for dinner in the form of chicken – we hadn’t had meat for nearly 2 weeks, (b) there was red wine on the menu & it was from Spain! Bingo!

Dinner couldn’t come quick enough & boy did it taste good. Rob & I ordered an extra plate of chips we were so hungry! It was great to be able to invite all the Sherpa team & helpers to join us for the meal & sitting opposite Yak Man made a real difference to the way my chicken tasted. It’s not a taste I think I’ll ever be able to replicate, but that’s probably not entirely a bad thing… sometimes some things are just left as a fond memory…

After we had eaten, John gave thanks to the Sherpa team on our behalf for all their sterling efforts throughout the trek. John was sort of co-opted into this as no-one else wanted to do it – too shy you see – but I have to say, a better man couldn’t have been chosen for the job. He did a great job not only of summing up the journey on which we had all been – & not just literally – but in also picking out little details from the personalities of each of the Sherpa team, having taken time to talk with them throughout the journey & get to know them as people. As indeed he had with all of the group.

It is a great quality, John, & on behalf of everyone, thank you for your words & indeed capturing the pleasure of the time we had spent in each other’s company throughout our journeys.

Well, after this, I think you know what came next… yep, Psang’s eclectic iPod mix! Yak Man, of course, reacted like he had just been plugged in & made a bee-line for Trev to dance, Bob decided he was then going to teach Yak Man to Jive – only stopping when Yak Man’s face went pale at the amount of times his arm had been twisted around in its socket… & so it continued.

I must admit to having a ‘wee bop’ myself, to Boney-M, but I was not alone. I had trusty Rob at my side, flailing his arms around in a similar manner, Mike was moving his arms in a way I would imagine was once very familiar during his vetnary career as he delivered calves, John & Bob were piggy-backing each other at one point I think, & Judith & Ruth were all out going for it! It was a beautiful beautiful vision which I fear sadly would loose too much in translation if filmed. You’ll just have to use your imaginations…

Mike, Rob & I wimped out at about 9pm while the rest of the divas went on until very very late & retired about 11pm. Our wake up call was due at 6am the following morning & none of wanted to miss it!

Tonight is officially the last sleeping bag sleep. Tomorrow night, although far from home still, will be warm & insulated, & far from what we have become accustomed. BRING IT ON!!!!!!

Nite nite. Catch you tomorrow. 3 sleeps…