'Whether we regard our situation as heaven or as hell depends on our perception'



Pema Chodron

Danba Kulung Rai copy

The bottom line is that it was tough...very tough, probably the hardest physical challenge I have ever undertaken. I had down days and I had days when I felt like jacking it in. I was sick, my feet got battered and I developed a nagging sore spot on the base of my spine from where the load rubbed on my sweat-soaked back. This is what it is like to be a porter.


Working as a porter is what thousands of people do each trekking season - right across the Himalayas - to earn some money to take back home. Although there are women that carry out the task it is mostly men who come from the lower lands to lug loads to make the dreams of the trekkers and climbers come true.


In the Everest region, where I was working as part of a crew of seven, porters earn about 1000 nepalese rupees each day (about £6.60), but from this they must pay for their own food and lodging. This may take up to a half of their earnings: many porters I met only had one meal a day to save money.


I had to eat lots more than I usually do, because I was starving, but I still lost 8 kilos in 18 days. I was probably the worst porter ever, having spent four times what I earned.


Still, I leant a lot about the porters, as well as myself.