Thursday, May 10, 2007

Slowly, slowly walking! Little bit up, little down.

We hired a porter / guide for our first trek in Annapurna. Mr Lama is a knot of muscle and sinew who has spent his life carrying loads in the Himalaya. The mountains here are not great for a guy's machismo. The knotty Mr L could carry "eighty five kay gee, no problem!" usually in the traditional style - in a basket suspended from the top of his head by a rope. We saw porters carrying huge and diverse loads this way. There are no roads or motor vehicles in the mountains and so everything is carried by porter, from food to building materials to live chickens. We saw the lot.

Mr Lama had a comparatively easy time of it during his 2 weeks as our porter. The 15kgs of Mary's rucksack were small beer, despite her best efforts to defeat the knotty man with a great diversity of hair and skincare products. I packed each morning to ensure that my pack weighed as much as Mr Lama's. This effort of macho self esteem backfired as each day Mr L would try both packs and say "Same same! Very strong man!" which when you know that he can carry more than your own body weight using only his scalp, is a crushingly patronising thing to say. He meant well I'm sure.

I think we are a little fitter and stronger on our return, however. My calf muscles, once like knots in thread, might now possibly be described as knots in steel thread. We're going to pack a little lighter for our Everest trek and try and manage without a porter for the first couple of days to see how we go. Mary is dreading the packing process more than the prospect carrying a pack for 3 weeks. I'm confident she may change her tune.

Another of Mr Lama's favorite phrases was "Slowly, slowly walking! Little bit up, little down." He is certainly right about walking slowly. Good trekking would seem to be an exercise in avoiding injury, by a fall or sprain, or by repetitive strain, particularly on the downhills. His second statement was less accurate. It is very difficult to walk anywhere in the Himalaya without a *great deal* of up and down. On the way to and from Annapurna Base Camp we ascended and descended over 12,800 meters (over 42,000 feet) which is one-and-a-half times the height of Everest. Perhaps after our next trek I will have knotty Lama legs too!

The indefatigable Mr Lama.

Everything was carried by porter - although some foodstuffs are self propelled! This is a sobering thought as you tuck into your evening meal and know that everything before you has been carried on someones head - rather like knowing that all the atoms in your body were created in a supernova! (perhaps not)

Lodges on the trail at Landrung. At every stop the views were a million dollars and the room rates a little under a dollar-fifty.

A rare moment of sober contemplation by a young Nepali.

We saw a couple of people airlifted out of the area. One English chap who had collapsed was sedated by one of Mary's super-strong and slightly trippy (pico trippy!) codine tablets. Our little medical kit comes in handy again.

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