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Nagthali

November 21, 2020

Saturday 29th February

We have a slow start, extending our morning by half an hour. That gives the sun time to reach us. It’s another clear day but it has of course frozen overnight and there is no heating in the room until the sun reaches us. The good news is that once the sun is on us we are instantly warm. We follow the retreating shadow of the mountain at 0800 only to find two boys scrubbing their faces with ice water out on the deck. Their mother, our hostess is kind enough to give us some hot water from her kettle for our ablutions. The boys don’t seem to mind that we have steam and they do not and they furiously scrub at themselves though they remain mostly clothed. Even for Nepalese in the mountains there are clearly limits. 

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Arrival at Syrabrubesi

April 26, 2020

Tamang Heritage Trail.

Wednesday 26th

Looking south down the Main Street of Syrabrubesi

Grapes…green and purple. Apples. Bananas. Pomegranates. Strange – it’s a bit late for pomegranates I would have thought. All loaded onto bicycles and being sold on every corner. It’s a cool morning with a stiff breeze, and overcast. We leave Sacred Valley Home at 0810 in a Nissan Patrol driven by Rajan, who is proudly wearing his Man City jacket. Through Golkar. The road (F21 route) is clear now as we move through the fringes of the city, winding past marble resellers, plumbing suppliers, any number of food outlets, stone masons, timber yards and hardware stores and out into the fields. Kids in smart school uniforms flock to school. Terraced farming. Mustard in yellow flower. First blossoms hinting at pear and apple and plum. Broadbeans. Barley. Peas in flower. Potatoes sprouting through their mounds. Pink plum blossom. Lots of it. 

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Tamang Heritage Trail Diary – Kathmandu

April 18, 2020

Tuesday 25 February 2020

The refurbished Sacred Valley Home is comfortable and warm and we sleep like teenagers until the myriads (murders) of crows break through with their raucous calls as they hunt down breakfast. Then the builders start up and down the street with various tools and we are shaken loose from our room by 8am when we climb to the roof and have breakfast. The refurbished kitchen comes with a chap who knows how to use it and we enjoy bacon and eggs and very good (very, very good) Nepalese coffee. 

Our trek requires us to have a pass for the Lantang National Park because a very small part of it encroaches onto it. And if you are trekking in Nepal you need a trekking permit. The TIMS card. The Lantang Pass is gained at the office of Tourism and costs us NRP3000 each. It is a quick process. You hand over your passport and a clerk fills in a ‘cheque book’ of passes. No photo required. Its cheap at half the price but is especially of value given the fee primarily goes to support conservation efforts in the park. 

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Palmerston Sky

November 30, 2019

Recollections 4

If we are contemplating missiles and such, perhaps we can start this recollection with Skylab. Standing in cool air in the dark on the top of ‘the bank’ staring into a sparkling black sky waiting for movement. Then we hold our breath in wonder as a bright diamond rapidly slides across the deep dark of the night sky. And it was dark. No light pollution to ruin the view. Somehow that bright light connected me with the rest of the world in same way aircraft heading to Dunedin did. Passenger aircraft. Freighters including a regular Argosy run. Those orange tailed C-130s the US flew down to the Antarctic in summer. Flying from Christchurch mostly, arcing past a town of 800 people that was home to a twelve year old who escaped into a whole other world out there, imagining points of departure and places of arrival. Not that I was really looking to leave. I was happy there, content for the moment to be rooted in rural Otago, resident in a town no astronaut or pilot ever imagined existed.

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Bay of Pigs in New Zealand

September 6, 2019

Recollections (2)

In April 1961 an attempted military-by-proxy (a favourite US formula) invasion of Cuba took place by those who were no admirers of Fidel Castro and his Communist buddies. Backed and trained by the CIA the invasion at the Bay of Pigs was reduced to naught in three days and is often used to define the word ‘fiasco’.  At least on the part of the Americans, for it cemented Castro as a national hero and helped stitch up the relationship between Havana and Moscow. Emboldened by the idea that they had a friendly ally so close to the US and from which you could throw stones onto houses in Florida, Moscow figured they would plant missiles there. So between April 1961 through into 1962 the world was drawn into an increasing period of tension which culminated in the Cuban Missile Crisis as Russia deployed SS-4 Sandal medium range missiles onto Cuban soil. Eventually Moscow and Washington defused everything and the crisis was considered over in November 1962 but not before everyone thought they would be cooked in an instant of ‘one flash and you’re ash’ ‘mutually assured destruction.’

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Guts for Garters

September 3, 2019

Recollections (1)

In the movie “Hunt for the Wilderpeople” Hec, the grumpy character played by Sam Neill, in the final denouement moments of the story, threatens his protégé with the warning that, should the boy Ricky Baker outperform Hec, he would use the boy’s ‘guts for garters’. It was such an unexpected line I laughed out loud  and even in rewatching the movie I wait for the line as the movie closes. It’s such a wonderful line with deep undertones of awful violence. To use one’s intestines, presumably cleaned out, twisted and dried, as instruments by which to keep your socks up implies foul murder and wanton butchering. What’s to be done, after all,  with the rest of the body if only garters are produced? I’m surprised the line survived the editorial cut but I’m pleased it did, for it’s a line my father used and it ‘takes me back’. Back to lines which threatened unreasonable death such as “I’ll knock your block off” or lesser drubbings such as  “Do you want spiflicating?” or “I’ll belt you into the middle of next week”. That was a delicious favourite, as I imagined flying through time to find out what would happen before anyone else arrived. None of it was ever taken seriously of course but the tone was about suggesting you had better straighten up. Indeed, that word spiflicate was beyond our understanding. It was the sort of thing the old man might have made up and right through into our teens we imagined that was the case.  So it was with a cry of delight that brother Rob rushed through the school library one afternoon and declared the word actually existed in the English language. So, said the Greater Oxford Dictionary. Sadly the meaning was far more droll than the magnificent and exotic lashing we imagined it might represent. 

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Fire on the Mountain

November 1, 2018

Friday 13thJuly 2018

There is ‘fire on the mountain” this morning. Cloud shifts swiftly in long ribbon strips along the hills, white against the green, following the contours as it were, and a light rain intermittently scatters itself, sometimes so light the first awareness is the sound of the drops in the Alder, a fine pitter patter that barely registers on the ground, but after some time leaves you quite damp. We are up fairly early getting gear ready but despite even the best preparation and most comprehensive warning some are still not ready by 8.30 when everyone rushes out of the Lodge and charges up to the footbridge. We arrive there at 0836 just as Hollis arrives in his van, though we had booked him for 0900. Other trekkers or visitors (likely the latter) are waiting and expect to be given a lift but are to be disappointed when Hollis calls out “Are you the party of 19?” Read more

Fireweed Mountain

September 28, 2018

Thursday 12 July 2018

 

Around here the locals tell us they use the Fireweed flower as a weather barometer of sorts. The plant pushes up a single flower stalk which is preloaded with hot pink buds. These open from the bottom and over a period of time the initial blooms drop off and are replaced by new blooms opening further up the stem. So on and so on will the buds at the very top finally open. At that point, when the flowers have expired and the last ones transformed into ‘smoke’ filaments the first snow is due to arrive. There is no prospect of snow right now  since these flowers are only blooming halfway up the stem. However there is another metric at play. Fireweed Mountain, which looms high above us to the northwest of our lodgings and which forms the western buttress through which the Kennicott Glacier attempts to squeeze, is also a winter canary. Read more

Sexy Woman

July 21, 2016

IMG_0619Machu Picchu Diary

4 July 2016

Sacsayhuaman (something like “sarc-say-wha-mahn”) is an Inca site above Cusco which we visited today. The team is mostly in good shape altitude wise and managed the 200m lift in altitude to this modest hill above the city without any drama. However some are still feeling a tinge green. Hopefully another nights sleep, tomorrow’s descent into Mollepata, and the fact that we are camping at Cusco altitude later in the day should mean everyone gets another two nights of acclimatising. I am hoping that helps since we do need to get everyone over that Salkantay Pass the following day. Having said that, there is a Plan B for anyone who is forced back by the height – a bus trip back to Cusco, up the Sacred Valley and meeting us at Machu Picchu in five days time. (The Machu Picchu site is significantly lower than Cusco). Read more

OXFAM 2015

October 9, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-10-10 at 9.36.10 amThe tide silently pushes still water into the upper reaches of the seeping grey green gloom of this gully. Snatches of froth and the occasional bubble betrays the silent upstream flow of water beside me. The ground is damp so footfall is muffled. That of my colleagues metres ahead is non existent save for the occasional scuff of boot on rock. The sun has retired though it is not completely dark, but I figure in another twenty minutes we will need to retrieve and don our head torches.  Something trills above me, its call echoed in the bush, by others, on the other side of that sliding, clear water. One trill among a constant shower of bird calls and notes that are scattered down among us. Our escorting treecreepers and fly catchers sing out their last light lullabies. A single cracking call from a whip bird went unanswered and he sulked off and kept silent. Wrens scold and chitter among themselves high in the rocks on my left. Read more

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