The river of mud, yak poo and urine beneath my feet had become a blur some kilometres back, all that mattered now was that my feet were taking me forward, not what they were stepping in.
I began chanting to myself, one … two … three ….
One, two, three, counting my footsteps, counting the steps getting me closer to the end. Every turn on the track spat out more steps upwards, never ending, one, two, three.
One … two … three … Yangjing’s encouraging ‘not far now,’ urging me forward, washed over me as the mud ran under my feet. I’d long since stopped looking for the end point. The late afternoon dampness enveloped me, so far removed from the morning crispness we had set off in some 10 hours ago.
At what point had enthusiasm for the day’s challenge turned into a struggle and then into a determination that blotted out all else? There was no option, I had to keep going, I would reach the end.
Ironic, that as we headed theoretically down the mountain, the track took us upwards to our destination. This was our starting point just over two weeks ago, obviously we set off in a downwards direction but who realised or remembered that this is what we would face at the end. I certainly never thought that one of my biggest struggles would face me on this last day.
The entrance to the Sagamartha National Park, the gate that we’d originally passed through enthusiastically and with a verve that had gone missing in me in recent hours came into view, but still more steps.
One … two … three …
Finally, after what seemed like forever, I walked under that arch, through that entrance way and back into Lukla. That main street didn’t seem so long the last time I walked it. One … two … three ….
One … two … three. The slippery rocks that paved the way needed a watchful eye and careful footwork, the open ditch needed to be crossed, I almost stumbled and needed Yangjing’s steadying hand.
More steps up to the lodge, I grabbed the handrail needing all the help I could get. It was no longer one, two, three but one … one … one …
And then it was over.
I’d done it.
I’d trekked from Lukla to Everest Base Camp and returned. The tears held determinably in check for the last couple of hours erupted, there was no stopping them. The seat that I collapsed onto was so welcome, my legs no longer capable of supporting me.
Others in the group who’d arrived half an hour in front of me shouted their congratulations and high fived me, but all I could do was sob. Anande put a warming cup of hot mango juice in front of me, at least I think it was mango, he accepted my gulp of thanks and refilled the cup as I emptied it.
From my sitting position I unloaded my pack from my back, leant my hiking pole against the wall, leaned back and breathed.
Yep, I’d done it and despite my tears I was grinning inside.