Yesterday I did something I never thought I’d say I did. I hiked in the Himalayas. Alright, for two hours. In the foothills. BUT STILL. It’s quite impressive for an adventure-sports-phobic city kid like myself.
I didn’t really even want to do it that much, but in the end that seemed churlish. I woke up at Tiger Mountain Lodge in Pakhora, a rickety mountainside town around 30 minutes flight via shaky prop plane from Kathmandu.
I was the only guest in the place, which is a kind of an upmarket hideaway, and so had that weird thing where there’s lots of staff with nothing to do but watch and note your every move. You can’t pick anything up beyond cutlery without someone dashing over to snatch it from you lest you expire under the strain, which is alternately luxurious and exasperating.
Dinner looked to be a tense affair as I dined alone with seven bored waiters intently gazing at which vegetable I was going to fork next, but thankfully I was joined by the ultra-charismatic and indelibly posh general manager.
As little as I have in common with the upper classes, the ones that aren’t massive racists are always consummately charming and very entertaining to listen to and actual, dyed-in-the-tweed gentlemen do conversation incredibly impressively, it has to be said.
I retired early and woke up to the sun poking over my wooden deck and onto the awe-inspiring canvas that was the snowy tops of the local peaks, each around 7-8,000m high, the most satisfyingly mountain-like one being Machapuchre (Mount Fish Tail).
The guide, Harry, did promise a menagerie of wildlife, though in the end, this was limited to our companion, Boss Dog (a dog), and the goats and cattle kept by the local farming community.
Each family had a small holding, and we rambled through their property, though Harry said it was alright. To be fair, they all came out and waved and said hello, the adults in Nepali (‘namaste’) and the children in English.
It’s hard to talk about the appearance of people living in what the west would term simplistic living conditions without coming across as patronising, but it was striking that even in these rural habitats, the children were heading to school in pristine uniforms, and the women were all working their corners of the hillside in beautifully coloured sari. I wanted to take pictures but then wondered how I’d like it if some idiot was pressing his lens into my daily routine.
Not much, is the answer.
After a couple of hours – me sweating buckets, Harry lamenting that we only had time for ‘a very light stroll’ – we (I) called it a day. I was so awestruck by the backdrop of spectacular peaks and I wondered if seeing that every day made you take it for granted. I asked Harry if he even noticed the mountains any more.
“Yes, of course. Each day brings a slight difference. The shadows and colours change with the sun. It’s always changing.”
I guess nature of that scale and majesty is almost impossible to take for granted.