Mountains – Photo

IMG_0098There’s never a wrong time for a photograph of mountains, is there?  And my photo archive and stacks of albums contain many images of jagged edges, snow topped peaks and red faced walkers pausing half way up to either put their jumpers on, or to take them off.

This is my favourite of them all, I think, because when I look at it, I remember exactly where I was, and how up until the moment the clouds cleared, how weary and resigned I had been feeling.

It was in Nepal, and it had been a long haul of a day, by the end of which I was wondering why I was putting myself through all the slog of climbing ever higher, and anticipating, with no great enthusiasm, another cold night in a tent.  We were sitting inside a tea-house having a hot drink and playing travel Scrabble.  The word game was compulsory as the group leader used it to monitor our cognitive function at high altitude, which at that stage wasn’t that impressive as evidenced by the fact that none of the words on the board were longer than four letters.

The day had been overcast, and consequently dusk seemed to be falling more quickly than usual.  And then we looked out of the window and saw the clouds part and the mountain appeared.  With more energy than I had felt since we’d set off from Lukla, I leapt up, and ran outside with everyone else to catch a better view.  It was fleeting; within a minute or so, the peak had disappeared again, and I began to doubt that it had ever been there.  Maybe it never happened at all.

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Solitary – A Photo

I took this in Nepal at a small remote monastery we passed along the route.  I saw only the one monk, so am not sure if he was there on his own, but it’s a hard life either way.

Everyday Life – A Photo

While this isn’t exactly my everyday life, I remember these ladies very clearly from when I met them in Pokhara in Nepal.  They came every day to the Tibetan centre in the town to spin wool to be made into rugs and carpets.  They sat side by side, chatting and spinning.

I’m probably imagining it onto them, but they seemed to know each other very well, chatting and laughing frequently, probably at the odd ways of the people who came to see them and to buy a rug to take home as a souvenir of their holiday in the mountains.

We might come and go, but they’ll be back tomorrow.

Free Spirit – A Photo

In Nepal the fluttering of the prayer flags might be taking our thoughts onto the wind.  I’d like to think so, anyway.

Hands – A Photo

This picture is from a trip to Nepal in 2006.  It’s a feature of every trekking holiday I’ve been on, that the cook will produce a cake at least once during the trip.  This might have started because people frequently go on holiday around their birthdays, and if it’s your celebration in the mountains, you’ can be pretty sure you’ll get a cake.

In this particular group  there were no birthdays, but, for our excellent cook, that was no reason that there shouldn’t be a cake.  I couldn’t resist the obvious questions: how do they create an oven when all the cooking is done on top of a gas bottle, how do they get it to rise at very high altitude, what are the ingredients?  If they made another one, could I watch how they did it?

Once I’d expressed interest, everyone else wanted to watch too.  Once the Sirdar learned there would be an audience, he wanted to participate in the baking, much to the suppressed but still obvious irritation of the chef, the only person on the team who actually knew how to make a cake under trek conditions.

So, note the dirt floor, the tin of Cadbury’s drinking chocolate,the blue plastic bag of flour, the waterproof jacket sleeves carefully pushed up the arm to prevent dirt getting into the mixture, and the walking boots.  (They were my old boots, and had been tried out by several of the porters before finding their home on the feet of the only person who found them comfortable.)

The cake turned out well.  So next time you’re about to complain about your kitchen equipment, remember this cake, and the dirt floor on which it was mixed, and the converted biscuit tin in which it was baked.

Writing on The Wall

I’ve been looking through photos again, and here’s another random one that caught my eye.

It’s a wall in Kathmandu.  I recall noticing the tangle of knotted wires and the  accretions of layers of posters.  I assume the ones that remain visible are advertising films, but they might not be.

Family – A Photo

Brothers and Cousins

Another cliché in the making, the prompt for the photo this week is ‘family’…… What comes to mind, other than the too obvious?

‘Family size’?  That always evokes something cheap in such a large package that it will go off before it can all be consumed. Or ‘family syle’ which reminds me of a former colleague.  Nearly every time I went to the office in New Jersey for meetings we would go to an Italian restaurant for lunch, and he would explain to me that they served the side orders ‘family style’; I would usually say ‘in the UK we just say ‘to share’.

Then there’s the euphemism ‘family planning’, or the use of the word in biology, when it indicates a taxonomic category of related organisms.

Finally I’ve arrived at the idea of a family business.  On various trekking trips I’ve been on in both Nepal and Peru, over the course of the holiday I’ve gradually learnt the family relationships between the various members of the support crew of porters and guides.  Generally they are all from the same village or valley, are brothers and cousins, and have learnt about portering and guiding from their older brothers, uncles or fathers.  Most start as a porter, and then by learning English or Japanese, and getting to understand the strange behaviour of the foreign visitor, they can be promoted to cook or guide.

The photo is of part of the team in Nepal; we were on the last day of the descent and a couple of them may have already started their post trek celebration with a special local brew made from millet, but the others were keeping a close brotherly eye on them to make sure that both everyone and everything arrived at the final destination.  (Earlier there had been a bit of worried scurrying about when no-one knew the location of the young man who was carrying a rug I’d bought, for me.  I’m not sure where he’d been, although when I retrieved the rug it was covered in a fair bit of drying mud, but to no long term effect.)

In Peru when I did the Cordillera Huayhuash circuit the support team was all part of the same family: Papa, adult son and daughter, a grand daughter and three husbands and boyfriends of grand daughters.  Apparently as soon as any of the granddaughters became involved with a boy, if he didn’t have a job already, and many don’t, Papa put them to work in the family business, looking after the mules and horses.  It’s not a bad strategy.

Entrance – A Photo

The photo cue this week is ‘Entrance’.

Is it a verb or a noun, I wonder?  It feels a tad pedestrian to simply go for the door or the gate, but do I have a photo to capture something that bewitches?

A conundrum and very few minutes to deal with it……

Here is the gateway to Teng Boche monastery in Nepal.  It makes both the way in, and a remarkable statement about the monks’ resilience and  endeavour.  The Monastery is many days’ walk from the nearest road, and everything that has been built here has been carried in on the back of yaks or men and constructed on the top of a mountain to provide a place for contemplation and prayer, by hardy people who, when not praying or meditating, are scraping a life out of an incredibly harsh and hostile environment.

Revisiting the photo reminded me of the admiration I felt at the sheer effort of it all; perhaps not entrancement, but certainly a pause for thought.

Hot – A Photo

At first this weekly photo challenge prompt inspired nothing; no thoughts of spicy food or sun baked terrains or red faced people.  Or, I suppose, it did generate those thoughts, but none of them described a photo I felt like posting.

So I resorted to my dictionary, and for such a short word it has a remarkably long entry, mostly defining composite words or phrases including those three little letters.

So we can move from ‘of or at high temperature’, to the one that jumped out at me ‘hot and bothered’ meaning ‘exasperated and agitated.’  Exasperated might properly be used to describe how I feel about seeing the grey sky and torrential rain out of my window this morning.

Friday it was hot, today it is not.

So here is a photo of a hot spot.  It’s Thamal,  tourist central for visitors to  Kathmandu.  I took it on the evening I arrived, as we were walking to Fire and Ice, a well known pizza and ice cream restaurant catering to trekkers and climbers; where traveller’s tales bounce off the walls, and where it is possible to bump into people you don’t really know, but whom you met briefly on the trail and are oddly pleased to see again.

Old Fashioned – a Photo

What do we mean by ‘old-fashioned’?  Is it praise or a pejorative term?

It rather depends on the circumstances, doesn’t it?

‘Fashion’ implies something which is of a particular time, the prevailing  custom at a specific era.  Something which will change as time proceeds.  Does the ‘old’ prefix indicate regret for things lost, indulgent observation of the quaintness of the past, or the dismissal of something with which we no longer have to deal?  Is it conservative, or antiquated, as suggested by the dictionary?

What about ‘an old fashioned look’, described by my OED as one of dignified reproof?  I think we all know someone who has perfected that particular ‘look’, and have clear memories of when it’s been projected in our direction.

Somewhere I had a memory that it’s also the name of a cocktail.   A few moments of research revealed only ‘a cocktail of whisky, bitters etc’, and as I have no need to make one, I looked no further.

But might it also apply to something that has endured?  Think of something that has been done in a particular way for years because so far that’s the best way to do it, and there are no real plans to change it.

When I visited the Khumbu region in Nepal  our path crossed with that of a group of Tibetan traders with a team of yaks carrying Chinese products over the mountains to trade at Nepali villages, like Namche Bazaar.

We acquired a very attractive pink thermos flask to save it the journey.

I understand that this form of trading has gone on in the same way for many years.  In a land of extreme climate and terrain, where there are no roads and only rough paths, in which people describe distance by the length of time it takes to walk there, the yaks have been used to transport goods and materials to market as the most efficient means of transport.  They eat what they can find, they follow where they’re told and they pick their way though the rocky paths and across the suspension bridges with no apparent complaint.

The men and women with them were hardy, leather faced and curious; at our meeting it was impossible to tell who was observing whom more closely.

Traditional, antiquated or old fashioned?

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