Namche and I

For me Namche Bazaar has had multiple impacts on my life. I have the most incredible story of running into a Swiss buddy, Thomas, in Namche in 1995. I won’t bore you with all the details, but with no internet invented and him never getting any of my messages and letters, we ran into each other on the exact day in the exact town I had written him about. Coming from different directions in Nepal. We traveled together for three months after and became good friends.

In 1996 I continued my travels in the US after my dad died suddenly and ventured to Alaska to see my sis in an old jeep. On the first day of my life I could have a dog, a litter of puppies showed up at my hostel/campground in Haines, Alaska.

I grabbed one as I was leaving and named what I thought was a boy dog Jack. After my dad.

Well after a few hours of singing along to the Band’s “The Weight” bellowing the line “if you’ll take Jack my dog!” And being in love with my puppy, we stopped for a pee break and lo and behold the little squatter was a girl!

As we continued on, I pondered her name. Jack didn’t work. I wasn’t trading her in. Finally I landed on Namche. The center of the Sherpa culture that so deeply impacted me on my travels.

For those of you that don’t know, Namche was attached to me for 12 years. And we went EVERYWHERE. It’s been almost ten years since I had my heart broken to make the call to put her down. It’s not unique in the world. But the relationship certainly was for me.

So as I walked up the stairs to Namche Bazaar, having visited once since I had gotten her, so many feelings washed over me. A time in my life of great awakening and experience in Nepal. One that would put me on the path to Buddhism. One that would have me addicted to the outdoors as a necessary part of my life to survive a culture I reluctantly participate in. A longing for a simpler path I have been unable to sustain for long. A feeling or a wish that we all could be motivated by at least the thought that all sentient beings have value and it’s in all of our interests to always keep our eye on that ball. And not only play for ourselves. However you may do it.

And of course, the feelings came over me like a tidal wave remembering my best friend. Only a few of my friends and family really understood what it meant for me to have someone rely on me and for me to take seriously her health and wellbeing. Many people judge animal lovers and truly, some of us are crazy. But she was the closest thing to a child I’ve ever had and she, along with my study of Buddhism, reminded me daily how fleeting our lives are. I KNEW I would have to say goodbye to her. From Day 1. And thus i treated every single day as a gift and as though it would be her last. She was my living breathing loving reminder of impermanence. And it played out that way.

After she died, I couldn’t even go to the beach without sobbing for a year. Every time I went to a place we had visited, I brought some of her ashes. Even to places I WANTED to go with her. I only backpacked National Parks for years as she couldn’t go there when she was alive. So it made it easier. I put some of her ashes in a sealed locket I got in India that I wore. I NEEDED that. It helped me cope and still feel close to her. Too much? I didn’t care.

I spread her ashes in our backyard, in the Eel River where she loved to swim. In the Pacific Ocean. All over the Lost Coast where we wandered and had our last backpacking trip. Took them to India with me. Twice. I finally took some back to Haines, Alaska in 2013 and made a little memorial for her in the Pet Cemetery that was coincidentally behind the campground where I got her. In Bolivia the next year the locket melted open in a natural hot springs so her ashes are on the Altiplano. I thought it was a sign that it was time to let go, got a new pendant with a new significance, and felt I was done with that practice.

Though in the back of my mind, I never really thought I would get back to Namche Bazaar. Well…Not with my physical problems and certainly because I had already been there twice. I had always wanted to take her trekking with me here as crazy as that sounds. She would have gorged herself on yak shit and gotten her ass kicked by some mountain dog.

So I brought some of her ashes with me. Just in case. I mean you can’t just buzz up to Namche Bazaar.

Even while in Bhutan just a month ago I was unsure. Would I trek? Could I trek? What does this mean?

As I left Tumlingtar and again leaving Lukla I said “me and you Nammie, one last time.”

So as I climbed into town, I sobbed. For Namche the town and Namche my best friend.

I was told there was a place up above Namche Bazaar with views of Everest and the Khumbu. And some mani walls and prayer flags.

Yesterday, I took her ashes, a khata I got in Bhutan as well as a little prayer flag and hiked up to the top of the hill.

I tied the prayer flag and the khata to the stone mani wall and waited for the right wind to say goodbye and send her ashes into the Himalayas one final time.

This will be her final resting place. I can’t do it again and of course there is nowhere else.

Except in my heart.

Now you know why this was so important to me. And it didn’t disappoint.

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