Two days of gear checking, buying missing kit, buying better kit and so on until we arrived at last at the Garden of Dreams – that oasis discovered two years ago. I have introduced myself to my fellow climbers and am pleased to have finally met them. And I have introduced them to this place and they all seem duly impressed. They are mostly tired after travelling long distances to get here but we were able to enjoy a meal together and start to get to know each other a little better. We have a group broken into two language groups – English speakers made up of Americans and a couple of Australians, and a second group of Europeans, most of whom seem to understand or speak German. Although the early group dynamics have broken us along these lines we are all getting along and I don’t get a sense there will be anyone we will clash with. No one is proffering any climbing expertise but I suspect there was a lot of false modesty around the table tonight. Time will tell but false modesty is safer than false skills and I am just a little pleased that the conversation went no where near climbing and mountaineering over dinner. These people seem deeper than one dimensional climbers which will be important given we will be living together for the next month. Mind you they largely seem a ‘lean and hungry’ lot. Or rather, I should observe that ‘we’ are a lean and hungry lot. The European guys look like Tour De France riders! They seem to have done a lot of climbing but demur on detail and I am resisting the urge to grow a false sense of skill given their modesty.
The other Australian is from Sydney. Darren, a paediatrician who is quick to laugh and make friends. It’s been so long since I have heard an Australian accent it takes me all evening to get used to it. I am pleased he is here. Charlie from an eastern European pedigree but now calling Florida home. Also quick to laugh and make friends. Mike from Colorado, an ultra marathon runner and to whom I have immediately warmed. Chris from Switzerland, a large lad who does not look like a Tour de France rider. But he is open and friendly and his command of English makes him a little less impenetrable than the other Europeans. Alfonz from I can’t recall where (I need to drink a little more of this single malt and maybe I will remember), Paul from Austria and quick witted Jas from the US via Punjab who does not appear to have roots and darts off to meet his friend from Hong Kong just as dinner gets started. He seems like an interesting character but he did not reappear so I will have to get to know him better later. They are all an engaging and congenial lot and like me I suspect they harbor secret desires to summit even though we are starting to hear how tough it is going to be.
I am at the bar at Garden of Dreams. Everyone else headed to bed after dinner but I was ready for a drink so stepped out of the group as they headed to the gate and made my way to a familiar spot. How pleasant this is. I would sneak down here two years ago after the others had retired, write my journal and resist drinking too much. It was tempting to imbibe, for it was such a wilderness time, a desolation of desolations and who could know? One of the Annapurna team had an idea, for they gently chastised me with a “You need to talk”. How true, and so we did even though the responsibility of safely getting a team in and out of Annapurna overshadowed any personal drama. But now I sit on the same stool as I did then and wonder that two years and so many kind friends could be so healing. I fancy that I am sitting here watching a different, two years younger me and figure I barely recognize him. Hazel rightly refers to new chapters being written and how true that is too. How different these fragrant, soft lit gardens seem two years later, untainted by futility and gloom, now unencumbered by any regret or despondency. Two years ago I would not have guessed I would be back here. How glad that I am, and how blessed that it is under such improved circumstances at home, and here too with a group of folk who hold out the promise of interesting new friendships. Old friends. Long term, stalwart friends. New friends. Passage of time and new chapters. And how fine that 14 year old single malt is too by the way.
20,953 total views, 125 views today