Lukla, Tuesday 23rd
In Mike's briefing email last night he said "another special day I hope". He could not have started to actually describe how special it was. A few highlights follow - I'll aim not to get too carried away.
But just to set the scene. After a 3:30am wake-up (the less said about that the better), we gathered in the foyer of the Radisson at 4:30 before pulling onto our bus for the almost deserted streets of Kathmandu (if you read yesterday's post you'll know that's a rarity). We were in the air to Lukla by 6:10, on the ground at 6:45, the second last plane for the day before Lukla's Tenzing-Hillary airport was closed due to the low clouds. So had the weather gods chosen to act a little differently we may not have been here at all. Lucky. Special.
Today we spent time with Lakpa Tsering Sherpa. Mike had given us the following briefing:
We have heard about the new Mayor of Kathmandu who is really getting things done and we are to meet the equivalent person in Lukla. Lakpa and several of his friends who grew up in Lukla , and went to the Hillary built school we are visiting on wednesday, are the developmental dynamos of the town.
Lakpa's further education was funded by an Australian friend and Lakpa first became known in Nepal as a pop star whose concerts raised money for developmental work which Lakpa started to do as a sideline, toilet block construction in schools, a forestry project in Lukla etc etc. Later Lakpa gave up his singing career to work full time with his wife, Dr Jangmoo Sherpa on Development projects. They began Action for Nepal that is involved in education and health projects for the Australian Himalayan Foundation and many others. About 5 years ago Lakpa and his other Hillary educated Lukla friends masterminded a new whole town water project and he supervised the reconstruction of the local high school after it was badly damaged in the 2015 earthquake.
Lakpa is waiting for us in Lukla and will show us around both the day we arrive and the following morning when we visit the High School he reconstructed. His wife Jangmoo is elsewhere opening an Australian Himalayan Foundation Health Clinic but we will meet her on June 6th back in Kathmandu on the night she and Lakpa and the Australian Ambassador are our guests for dinner.
Lakpa greeted us with khata scarves for all. That was a sign of things to come. I guess any post like this must have a picture of the infamous Lukla airstrip.
And then herewe all are at the airport, followed by a couple of shots of Lukla town:
Our first stop with Lakpa was the Nicole Niquille Foundation hospital, where we were given a guided tour by the hospital manager Pasang Lhamu Sherpa. The hospital is funded by the Swiss, and is a fine example of how primary healthcare is making a difference to the people of the Solukhumbu. Pasang Sherpa on the left, Lakpa on the right, with David Nott, one of our group.
Next visit was to the town water project that Lakpa spearheaded. In summary, the water is piped a couple of kilometers from high in the mountain behind the town, passes through a series of sand filters (which are flushed/cleaned ever 6 weeks), then into 4 holding tanks around town with a total capacity of 135kl. Lakpa has installed/managed 5 of these in the district, at a cost of some USD100k each. The pictures tell the story (look closely at the brass plates inscription):
Our penultimate stop was the Lukla Basic School (Grades 1 - 6). Lakpa attended this school (and is now studying at Harvard and Deakin Unis). I understand that this school was one of the earliest which Ed Hillary established, and along with numerous others nearby have their teacher training programmes supported by the AHF.
We were invited to visit one of the Grade 1 classrooms, after which there was a lovely farewell for one of teachers, seemingly well liked and respected. Some more photos:
This lady is the teacher. Her baby joins her in class ...
The group - Lakpa on the left. With our second khata for the day ...
Teacher farewell, being presented by maybe 100 khatas by the kids...
The day was capped off with an unplanned visit to Lakpa's mother's delightful house in the centre of town.
Wonderful day. There's many more photos, but this will do - first day on the path tomorrow ...