Maya Hitches A Ride

December 3, 2011

in Nepal, Philanthropy

Maya & Me On The Trail 2 By Jon Wist

On the way to Lukla: Maya, Me, and Mani. Photo credit: Jon Wist


I never thought I’d be carrying a child on my back through the Himalayas, but that’s exactly where I found myself.

When the Sunrise family decided to send Maya to Kathmandu, they needed a way to get her there. I was hiking out to Lukla the same day and catching a flight in the morning, so….

They washed her face, gave us a Sherpa send-off of Coca-Cola and prayer scarves, took a bunch of photos, and packed up some biscuits for the trail. Maya was leaving with the clothes on her back, though I did insist they track down her beloved pink pony. Maya likes horses.

Although the family told her she was going with me, I anticipated some fuss and crying. I picked Maya up and asked her in Nepali if she would come to Kathmandu with me. She said, “I’ll go,” and she meant it. No fuss, no crying. This little girl struck me as immeasurably brave as she headed off into the unknown with a stranger and a smile.

Hiking across the suspension bridge with Maya in my arms, I had a moment of, “Oh my god, what am I DOING?!?!” I turned to Dawa, my Nepali friend and guide, and asked a little uncertainly, “This is okay, right?”


The suspension bridge leaving Phakding.


Dawa had witnessed the whole story starting in the spring. He beamed at me and gave me a strong, “YES!!!”, and I was filled back up with confidence. I shifted Maya around to hang on my back Nepali-style, and we hiked out towards Lukla.

Our Sherpa team kept offering to carry her, but I carried Maya about two of the three hours. It was the second time this season I knew the weight of a human being, this time a small girl. I had a big responsibility for her now, and I wanted to remember the weight of her as a reminder of my responsibility. Once I put it that way, Mani let me carry her up and down and up some more until finally I was too tired, and he took over for the final uphill to Lukla.

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