At the end of an epic trek to Everest Base Camp I found myself stranded in the Himalayas.
Poor weather conditions had forced a hold on all flights on the Kathmandu – Lukla route so with little other alternatives, I waited.
This went on for three days.
Sitting on a chair outside the guesthouse I was over-staying at, from 6am-4pm every day I sat gazing at the sky, hoping to catch sight of a dot which I prayed would be a plane incoming.
With each day that passed, weather conditions only seemed to worsen.
On the morning of the fourth day, something in me snapped and I broke.
The mental, physical, emotional exhaustion of the past couple of weeks, combined with the tough conditions in my environment united to form a deadly mix catapulting me into a state of complete anguish.
I broke down in the street, begging my guide to do something, anything to get me out of there.
Thoughts of self-harm took over. If I’m hurt, then they’ll have to put me in an emergency helicopter and rescue me.
My thinking at the time was desperate, it was irrational and erratic.
As this happened a girl walked past me and seeing the state I was in she asked me, ‘what’s happened?’
As best as I could, I told her my situation and without hesitation she took me by the hand and we went to the airport to see if there was anything that could be done.
It was afternoon at this point and the weather was still bad. There was no way there would be flights coming.
We sat for about an hour. I had calmed down and was sitting in a state of solemn acceptance – dismay would be a good word to describe it.
One man approached us. I’d seen him hanging around.
‘One cargo flight is arriving here at 5.30pm. It’s returning to Kathmandu after and it’s got two seats available. Do you want them?’
How could this be?
I couldn’t believe it. In fact, I refused to allow myself to believe it until I saw this plane he spoke of land with my own eyes. It can’t be true.
We paid the ticket fares and the girl and I sat in silence, our eyes locked in the distance. Occasionally we glanced over at each other in anticipation, eyes full of disbelief and questions that we were both too afraid to ask out loud fearing that somehow if we said anything we’d dispel this sheer stroke of luck that had occurred against all odds.
At around 5pm the plane arrived on the runway.
Our luggage was swiftly loaded and we were ushered on to take our seats.
As the tiny plane spluttered and chugged its way off the runway I glanced towards my left. The sun was beginning to set over the Himalayas. The girl and I, with the warm glow of the setting sun on our faces looked at each other and smiled. We were going to Kathmandu.
But the story doesn’t end there.
In all of that – from the timely passing of the girl, to the flight that shouldn’t have been, to the two vacant seats – the thing that I find hardest to comprehend is this…
That this girl, who I met by chance in the vast Himalayas, who happened to be walking by just as I was about to lose myself, happens to be my neighbor.
Just how can it be explained?
A coincidence? A stroke of sheer luck? I can’t accept either.
I still don’t know how or why but whatever brought us two together in the unlikeliest of ways has reinforced my belief that there are no such thing as ‘chance encounters.’ We’re always exactly where we need to be and help is always just around the corner.