Keeping up with the Herd!
I once swore I’d never be last . I don’t need to be first but I’d be damned if I’d be the last one: I would never hold up the group. Well I don’t think I’ve held up any group, but I have sure slowed it down on occasion. Twice I can drum up valid excuses but there have times I simply ran out of steam.
First, the excuses: Altitude in Tibet. Several years ago I, along with two Tibetan guides, were climbing up to visit various monasteries and temples - often, I was out of breath despite my use of altitude meds. While the guides went up like a couple of mountain goats; I was taking as long a stride as I could, monitoring my breath and was still way behind. All the climbs were well worth the effort, but one was exceptional: on a path far above one of the monasteries I was taken to meet a nun, living alone in a cave with a kitten and a photo of the Dalai Lama placed on a make shift altar. While I was chatting with her, via my guides-interpreters, several people came by, to bow and make “namaste” before the photo. It was one of those truly memorable occasions.
The other excuse: Helping another. A year or so ago I was in Bhutan. Several in our group volunteered not to climb up to Taktsang or Tiger’s Nest, the mountainside monastery that is often featured on travel brochures. I was game to go but another woman, who wanted to go, was sure she couldn’t manage to the hike. I offered to stay with her the entire way and make sure she succeeded in the climb. We were more than last; we were compound low. She did have trouble with the climb and I did have to guide and encourage her on up to a tea shop, just below the monastery. Several others had given up at that point., including our leader. The rest had scampered on up but I was leery of going the rest of the way without someone to spot me. My friend and I were also among the last down (which I never am!). At the end both guide and leader helped her navigate.
But there is no excuse on the others: At Kasbegi In the Georgia High Caucasus, half of the group chose to take a jeep to the Church of the Holy Trinity, which was on a hill’s crest, overlooking snowy peaks; the rest,including me, elected to do the three hour “walk” through the village and then on up the muddy dirt and rock road (I would call it a two track trail) to the top. I was behind during the steep incline through the village but did manage to keep up on the zigzagging road up. It was advertised as a three hour walk; we did it in two hours up and a hour going down. Really, I did respectably well.
There was another time, maybe in Georgia, when three of us decided to climb up some old trail to reach a church we had noticed via field glasses from the roadside. What I didn’t know, the two other women were experienced trekkers. But off I went. I was soon in the rear even with regular pit stops so I could catch up. We all got made it to the church, which was deserted - I guess the locals didn’t want to climb that path regularly for services. But the view was splendid.
I did have trouble last Christmas time in Turkey, going up Mt. Nemrut to see the gigantic fallen statues as well as enjoy the magnificent view. Because of the weather - wind and snow and ice - there some question whether our transport could get us to the place where we would start walking. It did and we did. And I was certainly the caboose. Periodically, the group would take a break; I would chug up just as they were ready to move on. A no win situation. But everyone was cautious given the weather conditions and we all rejoiced at achieving the top; it was all worth it.
Otherwise, I manage to keep up pretty well and haven’t opted out of any hikes-walks-climbs. Granted, I haven’t signed on for an Mt Everest trek (or even going to base camp as my neighbor is doing). I’ve done OK and held my own climbing up steps to temples along the Yangtse and hikes in the Simien Mountains, around Albanian farms, through Macedonian hills and all that good stuff.
I try to stay in shape. When I travel, I usually do a couple of slow Sun Salutations and then, several Warrior poses each morning. At home, I work out with Pilates equipment twice a week and I am in ballet class twice a week. Ballet is a forty year passion of mine; I once did daily classes but there was little improvement in technique. At least, once a week,Ido a 90 minute aerobic hike back of Stanford at a fetching place called The Dish which is essentially a large outdoor track. In fact, today I tried adding some dogtrotting to my routine. When a friend is available, we go hiking at a lovely park near her home, choosing the steepest paths we can find. Come winter, I’ll add some Modern Dance classes. If I ever put air in the tires, I could do some biking. However, until then, I walk to where ever I can.
If worse comes to worse, it’s off to Boot camp: run up and down the bleachers at Stanford for a couple of hours and the Air Force Physical training routine. I plan to stave off that one by all means possible.