Our hotel in Ledar was still under construction. The room had been painted very recently, apparently just before we arrived, and it reeked strongly of fresh paint. I became rather dizzy from the fumes while I was taking a rest in there. At first I thought that the mountain sickness symptoms I had experienced up near Lake Tilicho were coming back, but these went away when I came out to attend the cocktail hour a short time later. A little hot rum mixed with cloves and honey is very restorative at the end of a long day climbing steep hills in the rain…
Over in the dining room we met Soo Yun, an especially stylish and smartly dressed Korean girl who was walking the circuit with a Nepali guide. She was the quintessential picture of an outdoor-wear model. She had on a floppy, rainbow-striped, knitted hat, a tastefully arranged Kashmiri wool scarf, a top-of-the-line, turquoise windbreaker that fit her to perfection, equally made to order, navy-blue waterproofs, and dayglow yellow trainers. She was probably the most elegant fashion statement I have ever beheld on a trail.
However, Soo Yun was not feeling anywhere near as good as she looked. She was very much under the weather with some major altitude problems that appeared to be getting dangerous. She was quite sick and thoroughly disheartened, leaning dejectedly on her table, and was on the verge of abandoning her walk. Fortunately, I had lots of altitude tablets with me, far more than I needed, and gave her a handful. She took one, and what a change it made. Within an hour or two she was significantly better, cheerfully eating dinner with a solid appetite, and showering me with heartfelt gratitude in the effusive Asian manner. The whole house, especially her worried guide, was cheered to see this rapid and surprising recovery. I bumped into Soo Yun again a few days later just below the pass, slowly but bravely ascending. I do believe she made it up and over the top. Altitude tablets can really make a difference. One should not go walking in the Himalayas without them.
My mother comes from Switzerland, where she had a tribe of aunts and uncles living in the Bern area. This lot was into hill walking, and often went on hiking excursions in the nearby Bernese Oberland, as one does thereabouts. On one of these alpine rambles, my great aunt Hedi felt she could do with a staff, so when she came to a promising looking tree along the way, she chopped off a suitable branch and carried on. At the end of the walk, she decided it was still serviceable and took it home with her. When she got there, she jammed it firmly into the grass near the kitchen door, went in, and cleaned up. The following day she returned to work, got busy with other things, and forgot about it.
A month or two later, she was ready to go hiking again, and went out back to retrieve her staff. When she got there, she was met with a nice surprise. Her staff was sprouting leaves and little branches. It was alive. It had taken root in the ground during the interim. Ms. Hedi had inadvertently planted a wild plum tree. In time it grew to full stature, and provided them with a steady supply of wild plum marmalade for many years. That crew had an eye for walking sticks.