from Namche to Thyangboche
of the Khumbu
that got us there
Danger doesn't always come in the form of avalanche, crevasses, or high altitude edemas. If the truth be known, the real scary part of bringing an Everest climb to the Web is riding through Kathmandu on Jiban's motorcycle.
The Nepalese agent for the 1997 Everest climb, Jiban Ghimire tells me that if I want to get film back to The Mountain Zone quickly, for processing and posting, we have to go down to the DHL office and set up a way to get around the usual problems. There's no avoiding it, we can't send everything digitally, so when I say let's do it, Jiban just flashes a shy smile and points to his Honda. No idiot, Jiban pulls out a huge Bell wrap-around, the biggest helmet I've ever seen, and disappears inside it, cinching it tight. It's clear my own brains will be exposed to the considerable dangers of Kathmandu traffic, but no one said this would be easy.
Once we're out into the chaos of local traffic, however, I start mentally drafting my retirement letter. This is completely unreasonable. Bicycles, rickshaws, cars, buses, trucks and tuk-tuks move in an irresistible, organic flow with ever increasing speed as we leave the relatively sheltered back-streets of Thamel and move onto the main drags.
It's a ride of sheer terror that reaches magnificent crescendos as we approach the roundabouts. These local traffic circles are in fact pure high-speed expressions of individual driving styles, extended games of chicken featuring impossible chances taken and just barely pulled off. With one's mortal being in the balance, I'm thinking, this can't be real.
By the time we get to the DHL office, I'm in an altered state. Kiran, the manager, is a small, dapper man who wears suspenders and a tie. He's pleased to have the business, and offers us sweet-milk coffee. We sit quietly for a while and make small talk, the way of the East, and my cup doesn't so much as rattle in the saucer since I've moved to a higher consciousness. The mood is businesslike, and Kiran says thoughtfully he thinks Telex fund transfers from Seattle to Kathmandu will work best. You got it, Kiran, old pal, I think to myself. Gold bullion, unmarked bills, Euro-dollars, our CEO's first-born child, you name it, just call me a cab, would you?
Jiban, across the office, smiles enigmatically as he sips his coffee. I can tell he's enjoying this.