Where in the World is …
June 5, 2007
In Nepal, the visitors and villagers know a world that’s anything but flat. And my trek along the Annapurna circuit to the base camp at 13,500 feet nine years ago didn’t prove otherwise.
At first arrival of setting up camp, the Himalayan mountain lived up to her name – the harvest goddess. An avalanche came tumbling down her side, and I suddenly felt small. Annapurna South stands at 23,000 feet, so excess snow will eventually surrender to gravity.
I felt the same way. Mornings were spent gaining thousands of feet, only to lose it in the afternoon. In summary, a collective of 30,200 feet was gained – an elevation 1,000 feet higher than Mount Everest.
But you’d never know the porters felt that way. On organized treks including this one, they’d carry the trekkers’ duffel bags wearing sports sandals by day. Then, they’d dance all night to the rumbling sounds of bongo drums and chants of “Ama Dablam.”
Porter guide Pat Malal Tamang, who spent part of the time flirting with the female trekkers so he could move to the United States, told me the saying means “no problem.” They say the people make the place, and I believe it.
I thought the out-of-this-world scenery would be the highlight of my 21Ú2-week trip, but it was how grateful and appreciative the local porters were with their lives. When I rewarded my duffel porter, Balu, with a treat every day, he’d show it off to his buddies as if a Snickers bar were gold. For making a mere $6 to $10 a day, they struck me as the happiest people on Earth.
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Aside from the porters, the local villagers greeted the trekkers with warmth. At one village, I pulled out a Frisbee from my duffel, and the local children had a blast with it.
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