12/4/2009 to 12/5/2009 | Nepal

Everest Marathon, Politicians, and back to the “Du”

The day I had chosen to head back to Lukla from Deboche was an eventful day in the Khumbu.  It was the day of the Everest Marathon for those who think marathons at sea level on well maintained roads are just too easy.  The marathon follows a 26.2 mile route from Everest Base Camp (5360 m, 17590 ft) down along a rocky trail to Namche Bazaar (3,440 m, 11,286 ft).  Ok it’s mostly down but there are plenty of up sections and at that altitude nothing is easy (not even a marathon).  Not surprisingly a Nepali wins every year so they have to have a non-Nepali winner as well.  It was pretty impressive to see some of those guys (and women) hall down the trail.  I later found out the winner ran it in a time of 3 hours 59 minutes.  The highest non-Nepali finisher was actually a woman form New Zealand.  While the marathon was displaying the incredible capabilities of the human body along the trail, high above helicopters were ferrying Nepali politicians who were displaying the incredible ineptitude of the Nepali government.  In a country that is desperate for money to build basic infrastructure the Nepali government had decided it would be a good PR move to have a meeting at Mt. Everest Base Camp, allegedly to raise awareness for global warming ahead of the Copenhagen Climate Summit.  Never mind the fact they were taking carbon polluting helicopters to take the photo op at base camp (the meeting was actually near Namche).  Allegedly  it was supposed to be carbon neutral, of course if they did the carbon saving measures that were need to make up for the helicopters and had the meeting Kathmandu they would have come out ahead.  (Before you say “hey didn’t you take a helicopter up there,” yes but mine was going up anyway to pick up a sick climber.)  Never mind the obscene amount of money that was spent of have doctors and oxygen available for the elderly parliament members.  Again allegedly the money was all donated but whether donated or not it’s still a colossal waste of money in a country that can’t afford to waste money.  The locals seemed to share my view, an elderly woman walking down to Lukla told me, “Why do they need to take helicopters, if they want to have a meeting at base camp they should walk like we have to.”  One local mention to me when Jimmy Carter came he walked up to base camp.  I gathered the meeting was largely ignored by the international press as well making it an all around flop.

Back in Lukla I wasn’t in the mood to hike the 4 days back to Jiri required to take the bus back to Kathmandu, time was also running out on my visa, so I coughed up the money and took my first commercial flight since I had landed in Hong Kong on Febuary 6th 2007.  Flying out of Lukla is a bit of an experience anyway.  The very short runway is sloped downward ending in a drop off to the valley below.  So you really better get enough speed for take off and hope they got the weight right in the cargo bays of the twin engine otters that ply this route.  Unlike my helicopter ride in the morning of my departure was clear and I enjoy the Himalayan view as I flew back to Kathmandu.

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