The Photoless Photography Blog Post - Part III

Hurrah! Trek number one done and now we’re indulging in the spoils of Pokhara, the safest place to fall over in the known Universe as you’re never more than four feet from a vendor erupting with cashmere. The eleven hour bus journey from the trek to here deserves special mention. Firstly, it was eleven hours long, that needed repeating. Secondly, we were delayed by diggers, big ones, clearing the road of rocks as large as cars from a landslide so recent it was still slightly happening.

Luckily, diggers are cool and that distracted us from the peril.

Roads in Nepal are an abstract concept, sometimes they’re a collection of mismatched rocks, sometimes they’re perpetual slop. Other times they’re an endless arrangement of holes so frequent that it’s a cosmic mystery how such a small amount of road can support so many holes. Hopefully, one day, the last of the road will erode and all that’ll be left is road shaped hole where the road used to be. Much less bumpy indeed.

The mud got the better of us at one point so the conductor dug us out with his trusty conductor’s spade. We cheered a little bit but he played it cool. No biggie. The bus had a TV at the front and he celebrated by putting an action film on. The loud, dramatic music and sounds of people screaming made for a journey that was not at all very stressful. If anything it distracted us from the lack of road to the left of the bus and the sheer drop into the valley should we topple. The conductor knew how to work a crowd.

Fortunately for our nerves that’s all a distant memory and we’re knocking back poached eggs at Sacred Valley and getting massaged by blind people at Seeing Hands Spa. As the epicentre of a raw, vegan salad magnet, Pokhara attracts a particular persuasion of tourist. Clad head to toe in hemp, the men have longer head hair than the women and the women have longer underarm hair than the men. Thanks to a strident bout of male pattern baldness I’ll never conform to that demographic, my wife could be the armpit Rapunzel but the good lord Darwin has blessed me with genes that will forever save me from a floppy top knot. I may be a bit of a hippy on the inside but I’ll always look like a Milwall supporter.

Attempting to further differentiate myself I’ve started spouting my repertoire of football vernacular. ‘Kick the ball!’ I cry as the unwashed festival types in the queue ahead of me order something called a ‘Buddha Bowl’ with additional flax seeds. In the same cafe another longhair attempted to woo an uninterested lady by silently drawing her then proudly presenting the finished work, presumably expecting spontaneous intercourse. Her frown, unchanged from the frown she’d been wearing all along, suddenly gave way to the words ‘that doesn’t look like me’ in a pleasingly blunt Eastern European manner. All to the soundtrack of me shouting ‘Teddy Sheringham!’ and ‘Transfer deadline!’.

The bit about me shouting footy banter was a fabrication for creative purposes, but also an excellent excuse to quote some golden era Simpsons:

"The following tale of alien encounters is true. And by true, I mean false. It's all lies. But they're entertaining lies. And in the end, isn't that the real truth? The answer is: No."

- Leonard Nimoy - The Simpsons, 1997

The bit about Biro-Casanova was, unfortunately for him, all true.

Dinner’s just arrived so I’ll keep this one brief. I’ve got a small bowl of curry with a pancake the size of a professional kite. Fingers crossed the wind doesn’t pick up.

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The Photoless Photography Blog Post - Part II

"The stiffer the climb, the gnarlier the dude."

- Albert Einstein, 1998

We’ve ascended. Steeply. The lines and valleys in the faces of the locals we meet deepen as the climbs heighten. Albert was right, to thrive in the Himalayas these folk need to be tough as the boots they’re too tough wear.

For a bit of context, we’re currently in the final stages of the Annapurna Circuit, a classic Nepali teahouse trek that takes a couple of weeks. The Annapurna’s are a bunch of mountains that are mostly rather large (Annapurna I is the 10th highest peak in the world) and we’re on our merry way semi circling around them. The route we've chosen is 90 miles long and ascends to a whopping 5416 (very precise) metres.

It’s hard to describe the epic nature of trekking past peaks just shy of 8000 metres, it was humbling enough to see those that reach a mere 4000 metres, crumbs, a pair of large hills in Oxfordshire have been known to fill me with wonderment. One involuntary phrase, spoken under my breath to no one, came close to describing the awe I felt gazing up toward the ancient tectonic sculpture of Annapurna II (7937m). It was as if the rock itself had reached into my mouth and plucked, between snow capped thumb and fore finger, the delicate and poetic words:

“Fuck off you fucking mountain”.

The obscenity, free from my subconscious and wafting whispered on the Himalayan breeze, will be heard forever more by those that follow in our footsteps. Lucky buggers.

Thorong-La was the ultimate goal of the trek, it’s a pass between mountains, one called Thorong, the other something else (not La). It’s the culmination of 10 days gradual incline and careful acclimatisation to the increasingly thin air, before 4 days descent and a bus back to civilisation. We journeyed from stepped rice paddies through pine forests and eventually to a mystical snow covered cold mountain realm. There were vultures (endangered white rumped ones) circling us at one point. They know when stuff is near dead and my body... My body was telling them, yes.

5416 metres is a lot of metres horizontal but a steaming shit load vertical. Colder than a witches tit, the water and food in our rucksacks froze instantly as we embarked at 5am. Thankfully, the bitter cold made me unaware of just how sunburnt I was. Thanks nature. Somehow we made it with a great sense of achievement in tow, although I've never shouted the phrase "I'M NOT HAVING FUN ANY MORE" and meant it quite as much as I did that day.

Of all the British creature comforts that have reached the remote villages we stayed in, I’m glad ‘taking the piss’ hasn’t. Dressed like a twat with trekking poles, desperately gasping my way through the lack of red blood cells required to exist at altitude, I’d be ripe.

Now, after the heady challenge of Thorong-La, flat ground is on the horizon and it’s a sight for sore thighs. Tonight we stay in Kagbeni, where the entrance of the town is guarded by a pre-Buddhist wooden statue of a man with an enormous erect penis. I have great faith in the protective powers of this gentleman’s member and feel certain his mighty phallus could intimidate a Mongol horde. I’ll be sleeping well tonight.

The photo-less photography blog continues. Crusty old words from my brain will have to suffice until I’m back home, blistered and broken on a South London sofa, with a cheese and tomato sandwich in one hand and laptop in t’other.

Maybe one day I’ll mount a photography exhibition where, instead off photos, there’ll be descriptions of what the photo would have been written on 6x4 photo paper. Ooh, that’s well arty, that is.

Don’t worry I won’t do it.

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