A Port In The Storm
I've been in Ladakh for over a month and, as great as it's been, I really can't wait to get back to my loving family in a few days. Tonight I'm lying in my tent at Stok Kangri base camp for the last time on this trip - tomorrow we leave for the comforts of Leh. After all this time, despite their life affirming beauty and memories of two great expeditions, I'm looking forward to leaving the Stok mountain range. This tent has been my safe haven for more hours than I can calculate right now, but this prisoner is ready for release.......
There was the time when the wind whipped across the barren site and so much dust was blowing in through the joins in the zip that I had to seal it with duct tape. The evening I lay worrying about the sick client in Leh and another when a team members raspy breathing in the tent next door almost had me reaching for the oxygen cylinder. Inside this tent I've snacked on crisps and chocolate, biscuits and too much other junk. At times I've shivered despite wearing every layer of clothing and at others I've opened the door to dazzling blue skies guaranteed to leave me sweating within minutes unless I escaped to the shade of our mess tent.
This tent has survived snow storms and the trampling hooves of pack mules. I've sat in here offering support to the homesick and administering drugs to the travel sick. I've applied creams and drunk mugs of bed tea, washed in warm dusty water brought from the cook tent and smiled every time a satellite message came in from home. I've sent word of summit success and failure.
These nylon walls have born witness to tears and sleepless nights. Nights when I've slept like a baby and afternoon baby wipe body scrub downs to scrape off days of trail grime. In here I've drank litre after litre of water and listened to iTune play lists put together by my children. I've chased out spiders and lay listening to the neighing of mules and the cheer of returning summit teams. Our staff teams impromptu singing has drifted calmly in through the open tent flaps just as the squawks of noisy westerners had me reaching for earplugs.
I've written and read, counted money and played cards. The chaos of my duffel bag has been transformed in occasional tidying frenzies just as I've sometimes clawed exhaustedly through the junk to clear a path to the welcoming downy warmth of my sleeping bag. I've popped paracetamol and shaved, watched cached TV junk and trimmed nails. My safe haven has been rained on as I've prepared notes for team meetings and I've dreamt of the summit and edited photos showing we got there. My spare clothes have been my pillow and I've peeled off socks that have been on my feet for far too long. The aerosol cloud from my deodorant has made me retch and I've woken with chapped lips welded together with dried spit.
I've daydreamed and dreamed. Written a journal by head torch and watched a cheeky Marmot creep past my open door. I've knocked over my pee bottle and seen the moon rise in a darkening sky. I've watched the long hours of darkness give way to the broadening glow of dawn. Many teams have come and gone and I'm still here.
It really is time to go home and yet, little tent, I'm going to miss you.
Posted by Paul