Thrill to be Back


Our family holiday was a disaster – at least in terms of harmonious togetherness. And this was no fault of our teenage dsc08014daughter.


Yes, we did go to the Himalayas after all. Not to Ladakh as planned mind. Following the flash floods in the North of India, we rebooked to the Spiti Valley – a destination in the Southern Himalayas right on the border with Tibet.


We decided to take this ad hoc trip in the spirit of adventure. At first that attitude served us well. We flew to Delhi to connect to Manali. Only the plane to Manali never took off. So we journeyed by car and what was supposed to have taken an hour took two days. Moods were good. We slept in an amazing – albeit run down – Raj palace from the 16th century – and found the best Indian road side caf at the foot of the Himalayas. It featured toothless waiters and heaps of flies stuck to the windows but the most delicious curry in the world. My husband is now planning to celebrate his 50th there – no kidding. All welcome.


In order to get from Manali to Spiti you have to drive over a 4900m high pass. It was there that my head went into a spasm. I ended up on a drip and eventually had to be driven back the way I came. Husband and children went on the eight day trek under blue sky and up to 5000m. In the meantime I loitered in a Monsoon battered, foggy town, drowning in self-pity. I eventually got my act together, organized another (low altitude) hike for myself and off I went with a guide, a cook and a horseman for three days into wet Himalayan jungle. A tiny compensation for the Spiti Valley. I also missed my family.


By the end of this little private walk-about, though, I was fully acclimatized. Only, the holidays were over. In the plane I admired my daughter’s stunning photos of THEIR trek, biting my tongue and trying not to point out that I didn’t have such a nice time.


Back in London, Peirene’s latest earth shattering moment, the publication of No 3, had taken place. The book received some lovely reviews. Upon my return, I proudly sent them around. A radio producer emailed me. “Would have loved to do something about the book but off on a three months assignment to Asia in a couple of days.” The word Asia was my cue. I poured forth my love for trekking in that part of the world. We had a delightful exchange. It was only when he asked for a review copy of “Portrait of the Mother” and added “I see what I can go” that I realized that even problematic  holidays can be useful after the event. After all without my adventures at high altitude my nymph would be lacking an opportunity for another review.


I have however learnt one lesson – next trekking hols I will set off a week before my family, book myself into a nice hotel somewhere at about 3500m and acclimatize in comfort. Truth to tell, I’m quite keen on the idea.


I haven’t mentioned this little extension to my husband yet. I’ll give him a break for the moment. But I am sure it’ll be just fine.

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