The plan is to be out walking by 6am if the sky is clear. Once again there are clouds piled against the distant peaks and there are no mountains to be seen. Still Karin and I decide to go for a walk. We enjoyed where we went yesterday so will do that again this morning and we convince Tendi there is no need for an entourage. His mama arrives to have tea with Lhamu just as we are leaving so that ensures Karin and I can slip away politely to enjoy a quiet walk and picture taking expedition without the usual audience. It’s rather nice to just have ourselves for company after the intense socializing of the past couple of days.
As we gain altitude I look back and there peaking out of a lovely blue pocket behind grey clouds are some glorious snowy peaks. I get all excited wondering if we are seeing Everest. Unfortunately that is not the case but we do get some pretty spectacular Himal views none the less. We climb up to just short of yesterday’s tea stop and find a peaceful spot to just sit and listen to bird song while watching clouds descend across the horizon and then wrap us in cool mist.
We return to the village hungry for lunch and refreshed from our private excursion. When reporting our destination there is considerable surprise that we went that far – unsupervised even!! It’s time for our last meal and we are pleased to finally be able to all eat together. Usually Karin and I have been served first then shuffled off to the comforts of the dining room while the rest eat something different in the kitchen. Today we are also joined by papa and mama so that is an added treat.
The delicious meal complete, mama brings out her version of Roxy. This one is distilled from her apricots. It too is smooth and slides down very easily! Of course one cup is never enough. The time has come for farewells. Khatas are draped around our necks and tears are shed. I’m a bit surprised to see mama and papa also tearing up then Tendi too. He explains. Tendi’s sister died a couple of years ago. After that I became his didi. His parents are happy to consider me a new daughter. I’m overwhelmed. I continue to feel so. What an extraordinary honour.
We leave mama and papa at the house and head up to the village. There we need to drink yet more tea and have another sip or two of Tendi’s sister-in-law’s Roxy. Finally we head for the jeep. We pass through an enormous crowd of people. Many more khatas are bestowed. We climb in the jeep with three passengers we’ve agreed to take. More khatas are pushed through the windows.
There is a sad and rather awkward note which concludes our otherwise wonderful visit. Two of the passengers are a mother and daughter who clearly feel they are important enough to have the front seat. They are quite put out to discover that as free loaders they are riding shot gun in the very back. An elderly frail gentleman sits in the centre seats with Tendi and me. A fourth person wants to come. Karin and I have paid US $280.00 to not be riding in an overly stuffed pay-by-the-seat jeep. We say no more passengers. We agreed to give three a free ride that is enough. Unfortunately this puts Tendi in a difficult position. No one is pleased we are taking three for free. Everyone is annoyed we aren’t taking more. We are also transporting assorted cargo on the roof. With all the emotion of our leave taking, these things leave me feeling pretty devastated. Tendi and I discuss the situation, he understands our decision, and respects it, but clearly wishes he hadn’t been put in the middle. He’ll hear about it and take flack when he returns. This we understand is a cultural norm in Sherpa society. When you are asked for something, you give. You can be asked for just about anything. “No” as I’ve previously mentioned is never an acceptable response whether you are on the receiving or giving side of the gifting equation. Karin and I have transgressed rather grievously, however we are the ones making the long journey back to Kathmandu. We hope some consideration will be given as we are weird and by Sherpa standards, selfish, westerners. When I come to the village next I’ll try a different approach but can’t think at this moment what that might be. Now I know the consequences, I’ll do my utmost not to put Tendi is such an awkward situation again. As it turns out Tendi paid for the fourth person’s seat in a public jeep leaving the next day. I have since compensated him for that…..the complexities seem endless.
Enough of that. Our journey back to dismal Okhaldunga is bumpy but uneventful other than our back seat passengers being quite car sick. Karin kindly hands over some gravol. We hope it puts them out of their abject misery for tomorrow’s longer drive to Kathmandu. We’re staying in more humble, but actually nicer accommodation tonight. Our room has much softer beds and is actually fairly pretty and cheerful. There is an inside tap so we don’t have to practise long distance toothpaste spits. Instead we just have to contend with sharing the space with horking men. All that throat clearing and glob spitting is just kinda disgusting at close quarters! At dinner the younger of the two women buys us each a beer as a peace offering. Tendi has explained that as they aren’t paying for their trip they don’t get the prime seats. You’d think that would be obvious but evidently not. Anyway Karin and I accept the gesture and enjoy the beer before bed.
We are exhausted but sleep doesn’t come that easily. It has been quite an emotionally challenging day.