Saturday, August 30, 2008

Concerto: Basan Part 11

The scenery along the highway to Mount Everest is simple - green fields along the road, gray green mountains in the distance with the occasional snow-covered peak, mixed blue sky with white clouds wafting towards the horizon. The car CD stereo plays amusing Indian songs that combine kindgergarten lessons with mature themes, or compliment women excessively:
"ABCDEFGHI...JKLM...NOPQRSTUVWX....YZ.... I love you."
"Lalala, lalala, you are my sonya, lalala, lalala, you are my sonya."
In the backseat, I hear Jeff softly humming the sonya song. When the ABC song is played again, Genevieve starts to sing: "ABCDEFGHI....JKML....wait a second..."
At the first checkpoint of the Mount Everest National Reserve, everyone displays their passports for the Chinese guards to inspect. Afterwards, we drive on dirt road that snakes up a mountain. Slowly we drive, slowly we climb. At the top, we stop to look out into the distance and see four of the highest mountains in the world on the horizon - Qomolangma (Mt. Everest), Kangchengjunga, Lhotse and Makalu. Qomolangma's peak hides behind clouds. Tsekey says, "That's typical...tourists have to wait usually three days, sometimes up to a week, to see the mountain clearly." Fortunately, ten minutes later, the cloud formation blocking our view of Qomolangma moves east. Tsekey says, "You're lucky." The fast winds almost knock us off the rock wall that we stand on - we all huddle back into the car and drive down the winding road.
Three checkpoints and four hours later, we finally see the peak of Qomolangma without a trace of cloud. A single star shines high above the mountain, stained violet in the evening.
At our guesthouse, I start feeling nauseous and my head starts to pound like a migraine. Is this altitude sickness? I sit closer to the firewood stove in the center of the communal room, but excuse myself to get some medicine from my bag in our bedroom. The air outside hits me like a football that bounces off my chest. I look up at the sky. I've only seen Scorpio, Sagittarius and Capricorn in my constellation books, but the sky is full of the white dots. Stars I don't remember seeing in my books appear along the Big Dipper and Casseiopeia. Star clusters and specks of galaxies are so distinct in the black background. The Milky Way rips through the night, its violet red trench cutting the poisonous tail of the Scorpio. The headache is gone, but my breathing rate is spiking. I madly take pictures, but no manual exposure, no special mode can capture that elusive Milky Way. Damn this weak digital camera.

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1 Comment:

Lucky said...

Aw, well the darn digital camera still took a mighty fine picture of the lone star above the purple mountain.

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