Good Energy

The guys at Good Energy have been really supportive and excited about the expedition, so much so that they have made a contribution which allows me to keep the blog regularly updated during the expedition, so they and everyone else can follow the journey. Good Energy supplies 100% renewable electricity sourced from wind, water, sun and sustainable biomass. CO2 from coal-fired electricity generation is one of the largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions in the world. Switch your electricity supply to Good Energy using this link and not only will you be supporting the pioneering community of independent green generators, but for every sign up they get they’ll make another donation to help get the bus around the world. It helps you cut your personal CO2 emissions, helps them grow a great business, and helps me get round the world.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Gulliver's Travels

A moment of self congratulations if you’ll allow me; I’ve taken a scrapyard bus and driven it from Croydon to the Himalayas on waste. Reason to be proud, for me and for the many people that have helped me along the way.

If you’ve never met me you wouldn’t know that I am almost two metres tall. Here in Nepal I feel like Gulliver arrived back in Lilliput.

Nepal is fantastic. Calm and clean. Compared with India, there’s no litter along the streets, and grassy meadows butt up to the road. It took me a while to realise the sound of incessant truck horns are missing from the air, and the two day drive from the border I’ve only been run off the road once by oncoming trucks. Believe me that’s very good stats.

I was told before I got there that Indian women were beautiful. I think they can be, but only on the rare occasion they smile. Here in Nepal the women are stunning and it’s the second happiest country after Bhutan, so they, and consequently I, have a lot to smile about here in the land of the little people.

It’s strange to think that from here to the North Pole, it’s all communist. The country is potentially only a few days away from civil war. A deadline for integrating Maoist militia into the army is about to pass, but seeing as only a few months back they were killing each other, it’s hard to see how they will reconcile their differences. If the deadline passes without an agreement there’s a chance the country will descend back into fighting.

Pokhara is a little removed from the troubles, at least I’m counting on the fact it will be. If it does go bad here in paradise, the Indians will take 10 days to issue a visa so I can exit. So once again I’ll be screwed by the pace of Indians doing their work so diligently.

I was in Niger in 1999, while the government was violently oppressing a student uprising. A couple of the friends I’d made there worked for the UN and together we’d gone for a drink at the local five star Hyatt hotel. Sitting by the pool we had a view down over the river, and on the opposite bank was the university campus. Leafy, green and lit up by the occasional thunder flash and the sound of Kalashnikovs.

We’d unwittingly got front row sun loungers to the end of the revolution, with the waiter bringing us gin a tonics to wash down the show. If the fighting does come to Pokhara I half think it will be comparable. I’m parked in the tourist suburb, and the fighting isn’t likely to spread to this end. Being 21st century Moaists, they don’t want to jeopardise the country’s biggest foreign exchange earner. And even though the season is at an end, it’s still busy.

From here you can take the Annapurna trail, and this is where the climb to Everest starts. The reason I’m here, is that it’s also a mecca for paragliders, renowned for being one of the best sites in the world. Today I had my first flight. Amazing. At one point, as I was in the air tightly circling up on a punchy thermal with 2 other pilots and an eagle, the clouds parted to reveal Annapurna, the towering snow peak camouflaged against the fluffy cumulus clouds below it.

The tandem pilots here are world champions and world record holders. They lead a romantic life moving around the world, following the seasons like migrant workers harvesting the winds. They fly tandems to earn money and then spend it on adventures to fly outrageous peaks or on competition entry fees. In my eyes they are the real giants of Pokhara alongside the mountains.

In the sky they are very professional, but the pre-flight preoccupation amongst them is who’s going to fly which girl. Patrik, a handsome French acro pilot who speaks like the shellfish in the dentist’s tank of Finding Nemo, charms some Spanish girls into his tandem harness to whirl them round the sky. I land after him and we cross paths as I am walking back to the bus in town. I’m short of breath and drenched in sweat. He’s all smiles and relaxed on his moped, with the cutest Spanish girl on the back riding out to show her a “leetle playce” only he knows. Surf-bums of the sky.

I hear myself muttering, “if I was 10 years younger” which is quite a scary thing to catch yourself thinking. But even quicker I’m wondering what happens to these guys when they turn 40? Are they still eeking out a living flying tandems, or do they end up in a job selling photocopier supplies?

Unlike 5-year-plans would have you believe, life’s options aren’t that polar. Pero, a Macedonian pilot is thinking of going back to finish his degree, but he’s worried about joining the rat race and giving up this life. Tom the oldest pilot on the hill, who retired from his career several years ago and can still pull the splits in his late 50s, has given Pero the sense that this life is something he can always come back to.

Like Pero, I’ve always been petrified of what the future holds, planning and working towards a goal and anxiously worrying that I won’t achieve them. But then in a revelatory moment a while back I realised that I’d been worrying about, and then successfully achieving, or failing in those goals since I was at school, and the only constants was the anxiety, and the unshakeable fact that things always work out OK in the end, even if the plan doesn’t.

It’s a philosophy at odds with my pessimism over the environment and this sustainably fuelled experiment I’m carrying out, but ironically if I was worried about my personal future I wouldn’t be here, and I’m sure that destiny will provide after this journey and something will work out.

1 comment:

  1. I would really like to see some images... each can tell a thousand words so I'm told...


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