Wednesday 10 August 2011

Trekking the Himalayas

Sometime ago (BK - before kids) I was lucky enough to do the classic Annapurna trek  across the Himalayan ranges to Jomson in Nepal. Jomson lies close to the border of Tibet and sits at a dry and barren elevation of 5500m. It was February and snow still covered many of the paths. I was travelling with two male friends and on this particular day we had been trekking for about two hours when the boys decided that at the next guest house, which we would use to refuel our supplies, they would have a little smoke of the old green stuff. I just wanted to power ahead because I knew that we still had a long way to go if we were to make our final destination before nightfall.  I'd gotten my stride up and was pacing out the steep inclines to the raw sound of the Ramones when the track led down to a wide, dry and peebley riverbed that seemed to stretch ahead endlessly. There was not another living soul in sight. I followed the riverbed along for quite some time before I noticed up to my left a narrow path up the side of a steep slope dotted with the occasional landslide. Maybe I wasn't meant to be in the riverbed. The sun was out and suddenly I was seized by thoughts of it melting the snow in the ranges up ahead and a flash flood roaring down the riverbed and sweeping me away. I quickly scrambled up the slope onto the narrow path. The path led higher and higher up the mountain and the view was amazing! I was quite pleased with myself for taking the 'high road' and celebrated with a quick snack stop, breaking off a chunk of cheese and eating some dry crackers. As I continued on the path became narrower and narrower until it finally petered out. I was stuck up the mountain! Far down below appeared some local traders who luckily were quick to spot that I was in a precarious situation. They started gesturing madly at the closest landslide. I thought maybe they were trying to tell me that the path I was on could collapse at any moment, which of course it could of, but they continued to pantomime that they wanted me to jump down the landslide. Bloody hell - what if I jump down it and the whole thing avalanched on top of me? I looked back at path I'd come on and realised it would take at least a good hour to return to my starting point. To hell with it, I thought, and taking my life in my hands jumped. Obviously I'm here to tell the tale but the lesson I learned was that the outcome that's best for everyone is not always reached by going it alone on a narrow path. By the way I reached our destination, a small village, just as night was falling. I was by myself and had to negotiate my way past a loose and irate bull to the first guest house. Unfortunately my two pothead companions, who were also carrying most of my supplies, were still an hour behind me and in their euphoria went to the wrong guesthouse. I spent the night cold (they had my sleeping bag), fearing they were either lost on the high road stranded in the darkness or had been mauled by the mad bull.

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