FOLLOWING a recent expedition in the Himalayas with his wife and six others, retired Morpeth teacher and charity organiser Simon Foley gave an illustrated talk to Morpeth Rotary Club.
The trek was in Nepal between India and China, going in via Kathmandu. Everest is to the east of Kathmandu and Anapurna is to the west.
Nepal is lively and energetic, with many temples but poverty on the streets. The leader of the group was a Sirdar and they agreed to camp instead of using lodges and tea houses.
Transport was provided by a 35-year-old Mercedes minibus starting with a 12-hour drive over very bad dirt track roads with potholes and steep drops. There was also a service bus where passengers crammed on board and another 30 who could not get in climbed onto the roof.
There were 29 in the party – including Assistant Sirdars, cooks, cooking assistants and porters. The porters carried up to 80kg (12-and-a-half stone), and the trek was from 4,000ft to 20,000ft past lemur monkeys and red pandas.
Travellers are advised to take their own supply of antibiotics and altitude sickness tablets. The scenery is breathtaking, although it was sometimes -5˚C overnight.
If a fully-laden porter is met when walking across narrow bridges over gorges, the etiquette is for the unladen to lie at the side of the bridge to give the porter right of way. The country is close to Tibet and many local people were from that region.
Entry for trekking is controlled by permit and groups have to check in to Army posts on the way. There are many prayer walls, stones engraved with prayers, prayer flags and shrines.
At 13,000ft there were fierce looking yaks but they were docile and their milk is used to make a sweet, mild, hard cheese.
Dry yak dung is used for heating and yak hair is spun to make to make colourful hats and clothing – one Tibetan lady had her own website. She had a permit from the Chinese to cross in and out of Nepal.
The people try to save enough money to send their children to school in Kathmandu and then to college in Australia or New Zealand. Some Western climbers have set up charities to support medical care and education.