Messner On Tour
After a dream train ride from Lahore to Islamabad (3 pounds for air con compartment - The gauntlet has been thrown down National Express!) the inverse dream 16 hour bus journey from hell appeared. Nay sleep, a bus that once had a cleaner but who obviously passed way no less than 15 years ago and didn't have the good grace to inform the management, and a soothing 800 decibel reciting of the Quran for most of the way. Finally though we arrived in Gilgit - the Keswick of North Pakistan only without the loft, pubs and occasional fist fight between two opposing hen parties. A quick side story. On arrival we got a taxi to a guest house, and Rich left a small rucsac with his valuable goods in our chariot. Then ensued a search for the taxi in question around the town (it's not too big a place) involving the whole of the police force - including the chief - and several concerned civilians. After three hours the guy was spotted and pulled over (he hadn't stolen the bag) and offered back the rucsac immediately. The crowd of helpers, now about 15 strong, then looked on as the chief of police asked Rich to open and check that all the contents of the bag still remained. Rich opened the bag and pulled out one by one each item...... camera, dollars, passport, 2 litre bottle of urine, walkm.... On the afore mentioned coach journey from hell Rich relieved himself into an empty coke bottle and put it in his bag to dispose of later...... His explanation to the thronging mass was quick and cunning - an iodine treated bottle no less, luckily none of the onlookers were thirsty.... Anyway - back to the main plot....No sooner had we arrived than the rag tag army smelt the fresh pine air of the mountains and we made arrangements to set off on two treks on opposite sides of the 9th tallest mountain in the world - Nanga Parbat. Any dreams of reaching the summit were quickly put to bed when the rag tag put on their rucsacs at sea level and were quickly found panting for air on the way out of the hotel room. All sensible acclimitisation was soon forgotten as muggins was tempted into a feat of bravado in joining iron man Rich on a ascent of a 5200 metre peak on day two of trekking (more than twice as high as I have ever been in my life). We made a pass at 4900 metres before my eyeballs wrote a stong worded letter to my brain demanding to know why they were being sucked out through my arse. Retreat for the rag tag. Since then it has been eating from open fires and sleeping three abreast in a tent the size of three men sleeping abreast. As you can imagine the smell is pretty nice while the sound of distant avalanches and the sound of my comrades bowel movements is pretty much similar. The mountains are awesome though and I'm really chuffed that I am here to see them at last. The night life is pretty good with a few late nights past 9pm and some pretty hair raising games of cards in the tent. There is also a chess league hotting up as well so there is no missing those zany London nights.... Anyway - a comfy bed beckons for the first time in 10 days. Another trek is planned in 2 days and then it is off to China - I guess there will be no more t'internet until then so I'll see thee later. Over and out Messner PS The Himalayan beard is at 20 days and counting. mmmmm facial grooming ahoy!