Explorations Above Kathmandu


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October 13th 2017
Published: October 27th 2017
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On our very next morning the whole group, minus one perhaps fearful couple, woke up very early and bussed to the local airport to fly Buddha Air's "Best Mountain Flight in the World." The morning was slightly overcast, which caused some not so small concern among several of us. But we boarded the two propeller plane, each of us strapped into a window seat, and off we went. Climbing through the clouds, we burst above them into a world of tall mountains, seeing valleys and tiny villages far below, impenetrable rock faces, and snow high on the peaks. It was stunning and absolutely gorgeous, a happy surprise to actually see the mighty Himalayan range so close. Following the maps given us, I tried to identify which summit was which, knowing that Everest couldn't be seen for almost half an hour. The stewardesses pointed out Dorje-Lakpa, Phurbi-Ghyachu, Choba-Bhamre; I was delighted to correctly identify Gauri-Shankar and Melungtse by their shapes. Mesmerized by this high altitude beauty, I gave up trying to name individual peaks and let myself become lost in this extravagant visual gift, and there, right outside my window, seemingly almost close enough to touch, loomed Sagarmatha, Mt. Everest. At a height of 29,035 feet or 8850 meters, Sagarmatha, the Nepali name for Everest, rises beautifully among all the other Himalayan mountains, some of which are so sacred they can never even be stepped upon; but I have no inclination at all to climb any of these mountains. It is enough simply to view them. I would have liked to hover up there for hours, but the plane turned around, letting the voyagers on the other side of the airplane have their turns viewing the highest mountain in the world.

Sagarmatha means "Ocean Mother" in Sanskrit. It is easy to identify, not because it looks the tallest (it doesn't), but because of its flat sides. Its peak has been said to be shaped like a three-sided pyramid, but from our vantagepoint in the plane we could only see one flat side clearly. The international border at its summit is divided among Nepal, China, and Tibet. I could not see any flags planted on top, but I am certain there must be some. The Himalayas are the youngest range of mountains in the world, still increasing in height by a few centimeters each year, but there is controversial debate centering around which mountain is actually the tallest in the world. "Highest" means from sea level to summit, but "tallest" means from the base of a mountain to its top; the base could even be measured from under water, so this definition changes most people's perception. As those terms are understood today, Everest is not the tallest mountain in the world, but it does hold the honor of being the highest, in altitude as well as in common acceptance.

How quickly we get used to almost anything; how quickly the extreme becomes the norm. On our way back people were soon turning their backs on the extraordinary views outside their windows, chatting together and wanting to buy tee-shirts and videos, ignoring the amazing beauty that less than one hour earlier had held them spellbound. And then our magnificent flight to see the top of the world was over. How could any other sight ever possibly best this morning's adventure? The euphoria lasted for days.

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27th October 2017

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Laura: We are enjoying your blog posts.

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