Being There

“Sometimes it’s heaven and sometimes it’s hell and sometimes I don’t even know.”
-Willie Nelson

A friend answered an e-mail that I had sent to her. “Good rant,” she wrote. “But so true !”
Rant ? I wondered. I don’t rant. I’m just telling the truth.

I’d like to say that I ran into a guru, like the ones we’re always seeing in the comic strips, on one of the peaks of Nepal’s Himalayas. I could then pass on to you this wisdom, but at the altitudes we were at I had trouble even remembering my own name.

I usually come back from trips either sick or injured. To tell you the truth, there’s a lot about our trips I don’t like. In my doddering old age I’m a homeboy at heart. The best day away is usually more difficult than my worst day at home, but I’m always trying to learn something, to come away with a broader perspective than when I left. What I really love in life is to watch sports, play hockey, work out in the gym or golf and then go out with the boys for a beer afterwards, not necessarily in that order. I even like walking our dog around our neighbourhood’s Dow’s Lake or in the nearby arboretum. I realize that some could consider this a shallow life, but I’ve mellowed a lot and no longer harbour delusions of grandeur. I don’t argue politics or religion anymore because I’ve come to realize most politicians will say or do anything to get or stay in power and now that I’m collecting Canada’s Pension Plan I’m older than all of them anyway. I don’t discuss religion because people would think I’m a weirdo, if you can believe that. The following are some random observations from Himalayan mountain-tops that don’t necessarily make me a better person, but found interesting anyway.

Despite the often bad raps that the millenial generation takes, kudos to their sense of adventure and initiative. We met several twenty-something females who thought nothing of quitting their jobs or taking a year’s leave of absence and trekking through India and Nepal. A lot of them were English, German, Dutch or French. One young Aussie journalist had been to one hundred and twenty-eight countries already and she was not yet twenty eight years old. We met another young English lass who had spent the last month in New Delhi and “… didn’t suffer one day with the dreaded ‘Delhi belly’, an intestinal affliction which is hard for travellers to avoid in that city. Her name was Millie, she told us.
“Millie… what’s that short for?” I was charmed by the old-fashioned moniker.
“Millicent,” she answered.
“Wasn’t that the evil fairy’s name in ‘Sleeping Beauty ?” I asked.
I’ve never lost my charming ways with the ladies.
But enough with the praise already. I still find those millenials way too politically correct !

I love those Hotel Trivago commercials. But a hotel ? Who needs ’em ? If you don’t like bare-bones rooms with two single beds on a cement or wooden-planked floor and a roof of corrugated tin and a Turkish toilet somewhat nearby, don’t hike the Annapurna Trail. But the price is right. Rooms are very seldom more than two dollars a night for two, often being offered for free if you agree to eat supper and breakfast at the establishment.

The hike often seems to be at a seventy degree angle, going up or down, often stepping over boulders. If that’s not your idea of fun, then don’t come.

I saw a Nepalese, he must have been in his fifties, carrying a huge pack on his shoulders up the side of a mountain. The bulging pack must have been at least forty five pounds. He was wearing flip-flops over a pair of socks, a feat in itself. Didn’t faze him anymore than me walking my dog around the block.

I know that we’re not supposed to generalize, but Spaniards are noisy. (Full disclosure- my last name, Perras, is originally Spanish.) Early on in the trek we would run into different groups of Spaniards, as the Annapurna Trek must have been well-publicized on the Iberian Peninsula. If you should end up seated at a table beside them and you’re sensitive to noise, you’ll probably go to bed with a headache. This was shortly after the Catalonian vote for independence and there were very passionate opinions one way or the other. Too bad I couldn’t follow the arguments. You have to admire their passion however; we in Canada let our politicians off the hook far too easily.

We start to think about bed at about seven p.m. By this time it’s been dark for at least an hour and a half and it will be another long day’s hike tomorrow. One night I find myself seated around the woodstove with three generations of Asian women: grandmother, mother , daughter. They are all smoking, snorting and spitting. I don’t happen to smoke so I fit in by doing more snorting and spitting.

Our porter, Sunil, speaks hardly any English but he’s always ready to learn. After a brief respite, a group of Frenchmen sitting nearby get up and prepare to move on. They must have nicknames for each other, because one calls out to another, “Allons-y Dum-Dum.”
Sunil gets up, shoulders his pack, looks at me and smiles. “Okay, Dum-Dum?” he asks.

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