In 1953, over 350 porters carrying supplies for the British expedition that would conquer Mt Everest passed through the tiny Nepalese town of Jiri.
In 2014, we were also carrying supplies but in a different style: a run-down bus chocked full with bags of rice and rain-sodden farmers.
Luckily the cigarette-smoking man behind the wheel was a master of sliding overloaded 50-seater buses down muddy tracks, and after an hour on numerous edges we arrived at the end of the road in a town called Shivalaya; happy to be walking for the next three weeks.
After a night’s rest in a local teahouse, we applied our over-supplied packs, got our permits stamped by an inconspicuous woman on the neighbour’s porch and joined the handful of foreigners chiselling their way up the first of many staggering ridge lines.
Early into the seemingly-retired trail to Everest we realised that the stories we had heard about a trail ‘all but forgotten’ were true.
Thanks to the airport in the mountain town of Lukla 50 kilometres away, a main artery for hikers in and out of Kathmandu had been established.
Now one of the most dangerous airports in the world: the Tenzing-Hillary Airport — consisting of a one-directional downhill runway that dropped off a cliff at one end and had a cliff-face at the other — meant two weeks hiking on the original trail had been sliced off.
The traditional route from Jiri (or Shivalaya for bus enthusiasts) was now vacant of the sounds of trudging hikers ploughing through, and instead the chatter of locals living amongst the mountain tops could be heard.
The Tenzing-Hillary Airport in the mountain town of Lukla.
With the newfound environment of quietness and the low supply of foreigners on the trail a camaraderie with fellow hikers quickly formed.
From the hands of daily suffering and the unknowing of what lay ahead, people from all over the world started to get to know one another, from a retired US Marine looking for a new challenge in life, to an Australian couple retracing their backpacking footsteps with the new addition of two teenage kids.
The journey to Everest showed that it is something that does not attract a certain type of person for a a certain type of reason; some people came for the challenge others to see the mountains and the people.
Soon the daily grind of getting there quickly became celebrated at the end of the day by the group, camped up at the chosen teahouse for the night we would sit outside drinking tea or that well-deserved beer and applaud the last straggler of the group; much to the entertainment of the local Nepalese.
A porter taking a rest from the daily climb high into the mountains.
On the porch of their stone houses drinking warm cups of sweet tea or out in the fields gathering fresh vegetables, the local Nepalese people always caught your attention with an honest smile and no frantic rush to sell you goods you more than likely did not want.
Small villages that produced most of the resources they needed to survive seemed content on their way of life, and even had the cheek to poke fun at the struggling foreigner trying to make it to the next teahouse for the night.
The numerous smiles of porters carrying ovens or kitchen sinks on their backs as they effortlessly glided past you filled you with a sense of being welcomed into their land, although being a little laughed at at the same time.
After five days of constant assents and descents the morning ritual of groaning in pain whilst getting out of bed had began to fade.
By lunch time with the first sighting of Everest and a fresh sliver of recently purchased yak cheese in our hands, the knowing of what lay ahead of us was evident.
But instead of questioning our ability to get there we all joined in at laughing with the local shopkeeper at his wife perched on the cliffside peering though a pair of binoculars at the competition 500 metres below, whilst ranting in a language we did not understand, but a tone we all understood.
As we closed in on Lukla, the droning of planes began to greet us in the mornings as the local airlines took advantage of the calm winds.
The line of planes rolled through the valley and nervously swooped onto their perch beside the mountain town of Lukla. The tracks widened and the peace of the trail crumbled with the arrival of hikers fresh from Kathmandu.
Equipped with daypacks, porters and guides they merged onto the trail and our newly formed family of strangers became diluted in the crowds, and the feeling of being one of the 350 porters in a convoy to Everest for the British Empire of 1953 had a flash of reincarnation.