Thursday, 5 April 2012

Why climb mountains?

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.


  1. Wicked ways and thoughts don't die with advancing age;-)

  2. Lovely, Jo. Glad to see you haven't changed a bit! Happy travels.

  3. Yay! Great to hear from you, and that you're meeting such interesting people in interesting places :-)

  4. Namedrop, privilege-of-travel-Tony, who has just returned from calf-enhancing Darjeeling, remarks ...

    Jo from only that 125 miles away, on that clear day, I swear I heard him ask "Do you come here often?"

    Everybody but everybody I met in Kenya and INdia directly or indirectly wanted me to take them back to UK that land flowing with milk and honey, streets paved with gold and of course flooding with economic and socai justice (a la Occupy of course) ...

    I took some pains to tell people to stay where they were and consider challenging the carpets of corruption they have in their countries, to look after their public space and place a magnet on each piece of THEIR litter ... to any avail ?

    All in the poems of course - which I needs must be brave enough to show my fellow wordsmiths back here and see if, with murdering a few darlings, see if any of them are fit for further travel beyond their own contexts.

    But that would be me 'completer finishing' something I initiated and stuff my fear of 'success' fear of 'failure' mindset etc.... um why climb mountains

    because after we are dead, on what I can comprehend to date, we will have missed our chance with one of the 'lords of life' - (ref The Snake by Lawrence)!! boom boom

    Namaste Jo

  5. Namaste, Tony - we'll sway stories when I'm home!

  6. Hi Jo My first ever blog! Not sure if set up properly! Just finished reading your book. I was with you all the way- amazing. Going up in a glider for my 60th seems vey tame compared to parahawking! You are giving me itchy feet. Book Club lunch in the Bell on Tuesday. Will raise a glass to you. Suzanne x

  7. 16th April,
    Just back from hols and catching up with your blog.That guy sounds great fun and to think you had to climb all that way to meet him.
    Love Tony's quote from DHL my favourite poem ever.