At 4:45 in the morning, we’re still out in the car, blissfully asleep; my feet are out the window, and I can hear the dogs outside breathing and rustling. I smell the river and the dust when Summit Sherpa knocks on the window; we get up before the sun.
At five, the dozen of us are loaded up again, and on the move. Enrique Iglesias is blasting out the tinny speakers at 110 dB, and we’re flying through the haze and gorges.
Two hours of this elapse; the driver’s maniac grin – three fake Red Bulls later – doesn’t ease off. The rest of us are lolling around, heads hitting each other’s shoulders as the truck bounds from corner to corner. As the sun comes over the hills, we stop for breakfast by a riverside shack: one room, three kids, a kilo each of rice.
As the sun heats up proper, we’re back at it. Nepali pop replaces Latin dance on the radio, we’re all a little quiet and loopy, but the sunlight filters in: waves of dust shimmer in the rays. There’s road construction, and we go slow: interminable periods of sitting in traffic and the dust. Nicole and the Summit Sherpa start to get fed up – that’s how I know it’s hard.
Come noon, we make what we know is our last food stop; the entire jeep haphazardly pours into a roadhouse. For an instant, we go from being a dozen butts to seat to being two dozen hands feeding a dozen mouths. I shoot selfies while eating fish and eggs.
The road is smooth tarmac, and the stiff breeze is crisp as we fly the last leg, wheels barely on the ground. Two hours later, we’re embedded in traffic again, but this time it’s Kathmandu’s traffic. We pass under the watchful gaze of Shiva; Nicole and I laugh at each other silently: Shiva is both the destroyer and benefactor, the transformer, simultaneously the ascetic and family man.
There’s a girl leaning out of a bus ahead, her long black hair flowing in the wind. Masks come out, but our eyes are smiling. We stick our heads out the muddy windows; fingers surf the breeze. Blanketed by the sunshine, we add to the noise.
One by one, our dozen breaks apart. We exchange cards and addresses; five of us split off before Nicole and I take our turn near Thamel. She helps me into my harness the last time, we make promises to meet for dinner the next day, and that’s it.
The last note in my logbook reads:
“Home, at Steve’s. Set for now. Errands. But now, proper done.”