Tag Archives: mountains

Humility

I was startled by a small hand tapping me on the shoulder, not least because I was inside a traditional Gurkha restaurant in the city of Pokhara, Nepal, sharing a meal with a group of friends. The city of Pokhara is small, and beautiful. It skirts a turquoise lake and sits at the foot of the vast Annapurna mountain range. After two weeks travelling through northern India and Nepal we seemed to have reached nirvana. That morning we’d been woken at 4am and packed into a taxi-bus. Bleary eyed we arrived in a little village set into the hillside above Pokhara, the best view-point (we were told) to ‘experience’ the sun rising on Annapurna.

We weren’t alone. Fifty or sixty other tourists gathered in awkward circles, expectant yet dubious, waiting impatiently, not really convinced this ‘experience’ warranted getting up so very early. Then the snow-covered tips of the distant horizon shimmered gold as the first tenuous sunrays touched them with fire. Chatter became hushed, cameras stood ready, and expectations grew. Gradually the rim of crested peaks bled crimson under a velvet sky. Little by little colour flooded over the mountains until they blushed pink, like something half-dreamed. Well-travelled and worldly we might be, but this was nature at her most majestic. We were awestruck.

That evening we decided to celebrate our experience and were tucking into a traditional thali meal when this small determined hand reached through the open window. Turning round to look I was surprised to find the smiling face of a local boy who, I guessed, was no more than ten years old. He didn’t look like a beggar. His clothes were shabby but his eyes shone with happiness. My friends laughed at his impudence.

I handed him a bowl of vegetable curry and he drank it down in one gulp. I’d never seen anyone so obviously hungry. When he handed me back the bowl he nodded his head. The beaming smile never left his face.

My friends passed over another bowl which disappeared as quickly but then a second boy, so alike he must surely be his brother, reached up on tiptoes, doe-eyes shy and frightened. We gathered everything that was left from our feast and handed it through the window all the time worried a waiter might chase the boys away. But when the waiter eventually came to clear our table he commended us on our excellent appetites. By then the boys had ducked out of sight. On leaving the restaurant we were given a handful of lollipops and catching sight of the boys a few streets further down the road, we handed them the sweets.

They were the only beggars we met in Nepal and their beautiful smiles still haunt me.  I wished I could bring them home and mother them. Later, when we told the story to our local guide, he explained the boys were probably not Nepalese but Tibetan. There are many communities of Tibetan exiles in Pokhara but they struggle to support new refugees who make their way through the mountain passes.

News reports of the earthquake last week pricked my conscious. As a tourist, being able to travel to Nepal and witness the highest mountains in the world is amazing, but this awe-inspiring scenery also makes it one of the harshest environments on our planet. And therefore one of the most dangerous.

Himalayas

A friend, Angela Locke, travelled to Nepal in 1992. She wrote a beautiful book about her experience – On Juniper Mountain – and inspired by the people she met set up a grass-roots charity called The Juniper Trust. www.junipertrust.co.uk  If like me you want to help in some small way please consider donating to them, much of their work is achieved by volunteers.

High mountain passes

High mountain passes

Advertisements

2 Comments

Filed under Disaster, Experiences, Himalayas, Refugees, Surviving, Tourism

Love Affairs – Part 2

Image

English mountains and hills possess a rare form of grace. They dominate the landscape of Cumbria like gigantic beasts, asleep and content. The prospect of rolling hills and soaring mountains arouses deep emotions and, to my mind, encapsulates the perfect rural habitat. When times are bad we are told to look upwards, to seek inspiration from beyond our confines, and perhaps that is why some people are drawn to leave cities and towns to make the countryside their home. I know I am privileged to inhabit such a landscape.

 

The lane passing my house leads to a viewpoint where I can experience the full drama of the Caldbeck Fells, hills once claimed by Queen Elizabeth I to be ‘worth all England else’. On fair weather days I even have the bonus of Skiddaw’s peak piercing the sky behind. And when I turn back towards home I see an opposing panorama of patchwork fields spread wide across the Solway Plain. The scene is bounded to the east by a sweeping profile of dome topped Pennine’s and to the north, rising above the tidal waters of the Firth, the span of Scottish hills the Scots call Lowlands. My heart soars at this view. The plain overflows with history and makes me mindful of those who came before me, the generations who survived Romans and Reivers. This land has long been home to a race of free-thinking, independent souls. It encapsulates the breath of Borders tenacity. But ten years ago this complex, beautiful countryside was ruined by an arrogant line of industrial white turbines which stretch their mechanical wings like bunting across the plain. And because they stand barely a mile from my viewpoint they intercede with the horizon. A perspective broken is a perspective spoiled, ask any artist.  

 

I’ve only recently discovered that a large wind turbine has now been approved in the next village, Thursby, named by the Vikings for Thor. I wasn’t given any opportunity to raise my objections because it falls outside the boundaries of my ‘parish’ and the authorities are not obliged to make me aware. However this turbine will stand barely three fields from my home and cast its long shadow across my neighbour’s land. Those who cannot live with this monument to ‘progress’ have already begun their exodus; they refuse to endorse the spoilage. It seems to me The Reivers are back, except they are wreaking a different kind of chaos, one that attacks our ideas of what countryside represents.

 

And so to my real concern. There is a new proposal to build three of the largest wind turbines yet constructed ‘on-shore’ in our village, at a farm called Carwath. Even the title has been invented to deceive because the village is called Rosley and even locals fail to recognize the location of this project. These 150 metre turbines are to be sited in the heart our village, less than 1000 metres from the village primary school, community centre and church. They will stand a mere three fields from my home in the opposite direction to the Thursby turbine. When considered alongside a smaller turbine at nearby East Curthwaite and a wind farm being proposed in a village further east there will no longer be an unsullied view of the horizon whether you look north, south, east or west. We are able to raise objections to the proposed site but apparently, in the twenty-first century, the council have no authority to prevent a wind farm on the grounds of desecrating an unblemished panorama. Me….I blame the national curriculum. Thirty years of educating the mind without engaging the spirit and we’ve nurtured a generation of vacuous number crunchers. Do they even comprehend the concept of beauty?

 

“I love all beauteous things, I seek and adore them,

God hath no better praise, And man in his hasty days,

Is honoured for them.”

Robert Bridges

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized