Everest and the Toenail

Life in Kathmandu, Nepal and Beyond

Womb of the Sacred Himalaya or, Bye, Bye Kathmandu

with 8 comments

Will I miss the huddled shops, interiors visible only through long unwashed windows?

Shall I yearn to be reminded of the young boy, deformed feet like flippers flapping from where his knees should be, one hand on the kerb stones, the other on the road, straddling a fetid ditch, shouting out at the world. Perhaps I shall be content to be reminded now and again of the vastness of the riches I have inherited. Maybe I will find myself quick to forget.

Will I ache for the stench of open sewers in lieu of streams and rivers? Will my lungs ever forgive me for the grit and grime that has filled them, tearing my alveoli to shreds, coating them with black soot.

The confinement is at an end, the exit canal squeezes tighter, expelling me fast now. Men walking towards the airport with cardboard boxes on their heads while I whizz by in the hotel minibus. I said goodbye to so many people: the family at the Tanka studio, Shree Ram, and the lady guard at the gate whose eyes looked into mine in a mutually dependent moment of farewell. Renu, MB and Maya Didi. Good bye my lovely lady of the highlands, the soft-haired shake of your head, and the flower that fell into a night made fair by the glow of an extreme moon.

There was a helping of grit in the lubricant of expulsion, but mostly smooth enough. We left the house white, empty and echoing, the fountain silenced, the plants dispersed, the inverter stilled. All that remained of our habitation were the squares and gullies of full coloured carpet where our furniture had stood.

Locked in the windows and walls reminders in the cracked marble floors of terror and hellish dislocation when all that we were jumped up and moved backwards, when every molecule, dream and love, the very bedrock jiggled like an agitated temper tantrum. An unwieldy adolescent shaking the walls just to see what happened. Well, guess what? Fuck you. I am in the air. I have left you behind. Now there are just harmless echoes as a spot of turbulence jiggers at my stress levels for an instant. But my flight reflex has grown fat and lazy and I cannot summons the energy to flutter my wingtips. My signal to noise ratio is almost fully recovered.

My current writing playlist plays, Robert Plant seeing his brothers in the sky, and the unbelievable has happened. When I agreed to accompany the CoP to Kathmandu my first thought after saying yes was that I would die there. Strangest thought to have had. In the end we all dodged a couple of bullets and a few whiffs of stronger than normal essence of mortality, but I am flying now, almost too exhausted to write. Too full of memories and grief and relief to do more than partially regurgitate them in pre-digested form.

But Hootie sings a song to me and I remember a little.

The steps to Ghandruk, the majesty of mountains and the holy curves of a sacred landscape. The moon on the white peaks and, yes, I don’t believe in time anymore. I walked clockwise round and round the stupa for a hundred seconds, minutes, hours, propelling myself toward eternity and the bottom rung of the stairway to heaven.

Saturdays on the rim of the valley, looking down over the city with a circle of lunatics, joined in a communality of exercise, beer and tuna dip, Pubic Wig and Finger in the Hole, Apple, Trouble and Morning Glory.

I saw it, unfinished, on top of a pedestal and fell in love with form and function. Last I saw the polished Buddha  wrapped in a blanket of cotton wool. ‘It’s precious to me personally,’ I said to the packer. ‘To us as well,’ he replied, as he wrapped it in tape.

Perhaps most of all I shall remember leaving this place stronger than I went in. A few understandings reached and an ability to change the course of my own journey, no matter what the cosmos might be saying in the light still travelling from ancient stars no longer there. The striving peak of Everest is the tip of a vertical desert of rock thrust from the seafloor into rarified human view through the tranquil mists of the sacred and the storms of the eternal. That I shall always remember. Standing within sight of Everest I was but a mote in the eye of geological time, a tiny detail in the sanctified architecture of the whole, conscious of wonderment tumbling like a fresh glacial river from the womb of the sacred Himalaya. Departure is rebirth. I am swaddled in the new present, ready for whatever comes next.


Written at 36,000 feet somewhere between Kathmandu and Abu Dhabi.

Written by jamesaeoglethorpe

December 17, 2016 at 8:25 am

Posted in Uncategorized

8 Responses

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  1. A wonderful piece of descriptive writing James; you at your best. We wish you a smooth re-entry dear friend and a happy return home. xx

    Diana & Andy

    December 17, 2016 at 12:31 pm

    • Thanks, ducks. Re-entry smooth so far, sleep not working out quite so well at the moment, but just thrilled to be home. xx


      December 18, 2016 at 3:17 pm

  2. Hi James! I first came across your blog in August 2012, when I came to Kathmandu for four weeks to work with a social entrepreneurship organization. I’ve since followed your journey, and wanted to thank you for everything you’ve shared. I hope you’ll keep writing and I look forward to coming along for the virtual ride.


    Jennie Armstrong jennieand.co


    Jennie Armstrong

    December 17, 2016 at 10:11 pm

    • Hi Jennie! Thank you for your kind comment. It is always a pleasure for me to know who my readers are and the pleasure for me has been not just the writing of the blog but knowing it has reached people, yourself included. Thanks for reading and I will keep blogging, the direction uncertain, but certainly something transitional for the time being and see how it goes. Very nice to read yours too. It is, indeed a place for stories! Best, James


      December 18, 2016 at 3:16 pm

  3. This is beautifully written James. I feel as if I am there in Nepal – poetic and evocative. I hope you are adjusting to the different pace and surroundings now that you are home. Wishing you a warm and peaceful Christmas . Heather x

    Heather W.

    December 19, 2016 at 4:21 am

    • Hi Heather, glad you enjoyed the post. Adjusting slowly in a state of shock, disbelief and huge enjoyment. All my best at Christmas to you and yours as well. JXX


      December 19, 2016 at 7:05 am

  4. This feels brutal to read, and yet so utterly beautiful. I am still struggling with the numbness of re-entry. Reminiscing seems too luxurious with the mountain of practicalities on our to-do lists. A lot of what you have written this past month resonates deeply, and I am grateful for your doing so James. The story of the packers handling the Buddha . . . goodness. Big hugs from across the pond where we are experiencing parallel emotions. x


    January 9, 2017 at 6:24 pm

    • Thank you, Ryna. Glad there is a similarity of experience and it is not just me! “reminiscing seems too luxurious…” how true that is, very nicely put. Love to you all,. xJ


      January 9, 2017 at 6:40 pm

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