Trekking is, indeed, putting one foot in front of another. There’s nothing inherently alarming about it.
Except – trekking in the Himalayas involves tramping about in mountains. And these mountains are seriously huge. With side so steep that paths cling to the mountainside or (worse) are steps build of irregular stones that can stretch on for hour after hour. My guide, kindly, allowed me to reduce the four-hour climb up steps to a mere hour and a half, by taking a serious detour and a jeep along one of the few tracks that are accessible to a 4x4.
Never again shall I complain about living in a house on three floors. People who live in these mountains leap up and down these steps every day.
Was it worth it? Or course it was. And not only for the views, which are astonishing. But how else would I have met Devi Lam?
Devi Lam is a wizened man, whose job is to ‘look after the forest.’ It’s very unclear what this means, as I only saw him sitting about look at the view. Sit by me, he beckoned. He had no English, and my guide translated the rest of our conversation.
You have a husband? (It is a question I am often asked here.) He died, I said, sixteen years ago. My wife, too, she died; I have two sons and a daughter. I was enjoying too much the local wine, and one day I woke up and my wife was dead. (No, I couldn’t quite make the connection either.)
How old are you? he asked. I told him. He is, he said, the same age. It was clear he hadn’t the faintest idea how old he is. But he turned to me with a twinkle in his eye and a wicked, impossible, unspoken thought – and suddenly it was funny. He put his arm round my shoulder when my guide took our photo. And still we were laughing.
Why was he special? Because – in spite of his limited experience, and the reality of his harsh conditions in the mountains, he dared to play with an impossible idea, and to find it funny.
Now all I have to do is work out how to get a copy of the photograph back up all those steps.