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Himalaya

Day 54: Annapurna Base Camp to Pokhara

Michael Palin - HimalayaLast night my chest and lungs were better behaved but I was kept from deep sleep by an avalanche of images that roared through my brain, unbidden and unstoppable, for most of the night, making it feel like a video stuck on fast forward. At least I had no recurrence of the sensory deprivations of the night before. My room has two windows and I can see the cold mountainside in the moonlight. I can hear my neighbour through the wall. It's Basil, with a cough so fierce and bronchial that it sounds dangerous.

We're due to be taken off by helicopter some time this morning. I must be honest and say that, for me, it's not a moment too soon.

I think back to the enthralled group silent in the face of the majestic beauty of Machhapuchhre last night and I wonder if we aren't all in danger of falling into the romantic delusion that by staring at these great massifs of rock and ice we achieve some form of communication with them, as if something so forbiddingly colossal must somehow be friendly.

The mountains are far more likely to be enemies than friends. We take them on at our peril and, despite all nature's warnings, long to go higher. And the higher we go the more the mountains tighten their grip, squeezing the life out of most people, gently in some cases, more severely in others. The locals who see the mountains as gods to be appeased are only translating pragmatic experience. Human beings are not meant to live at these heights and they should expect trouble if they do.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Himalaya
  • Chapter: Day 54: Annapurna Base Camp to Pokhara
  • Country/sea: Nepal
  • Place: Annapurna Base Camp
  • Book page no: 123

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