Friday 28 September 2012

Onwards and upwards

This is part of a series of advertisements that's been running for some weeks now to mark the recent transition of the NZ Herald, after 149 years as a broadsheet, to what they insist on calling 'compact format' - tabloid to the rest of us. I like the series: it includes the Springbok Tour, the anti-nuclear declaration, the February earthquake and a few other events when the country was, for one reason or another, united (or not - see above, Springbok Tour). This one seems to have been used the most; or maybe I just notice it more because 1953 was such a particularly good year.

I met both Sir Ed and Tenzing Norgay, and shook their hands, when they visited my high school as a favour to horrible Mrs Hardy, whose climber husband was good friends with Hillary. I had to give a speech and welcome them to Avonside Girls, and then sit without fidgeting on the stage while Sir Ed spoke, I presume now about climbing Everest and hard work and ambition and other suitably inspiring stuff. Mainly, I just remember how tall he was; and how quiet, Tenzing. It wasn't actually hard to imagine them both on top of Everest - it was clear they would have felt much more at home there than in our hall with the eyes of 1100 girls on them.

I saw Everest, years later when flying from Burma to Nepal, where we didn't do any sort of tramping, unfortunately - just spent a few days in Kathmandu. It was very crowded and dirty, but fascinating with its medieval-feeling narrow streets, dark little shops, wandering cows and rickety carved wooden buildings. I was amazed by the size of the loads that were being carried in bags hung from a handle passing round the foreheads of the wiry men sweating along underneath them. We hired bikes and went out into the countryside where it was really pretty, to visit a temple with prayer wheels, flags and monkeys, and more short, wiry men in baggy white trousers all carrying huge black umbrellas. I wonder if Kathmandu is still as vivid a place now as it was in 1980? Or whether it's been diluted by years of tourism. Blasted tourists, tch.

And now I'm off to stow my stuff in my trusty Kathmandu-branded backpack and head away to the airport this afternoon to go to Dubai (where it's 39 degrees) to make my own much less strenuous ascent of the world's highest building, and then continue to Lisbon; all to encourage more people to get in more planes and go to more places and dilute them too. Sorry.

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