I am just getting ready to go out to Bhutan. I’ll be away for a month, and for most of that time we’ll be camping and trekking in the Lunana mountains. Luckily we won’t be carrying on our backs everything needed for that length of time – we’ll have some big hairy yaks to do the work. But even a yak has his limits. His maximum load is 30kg, and that will be two trekkers’ bags. So my world for three weeks must weigh no more than 15kg, which isn’t a lot counting in sleeping bag and thermarest, layers of down and other clothing for 0 to 20 degrees, waterproofs and duty-free cognac and essential jars of Clarins. Physical books are out of the question of course, so I have luxuriously stocked up my Kindle with everything I might fancy, from the Lonely Planet Guide to a handful of Georgette Heyers (my lifetime comfort reading). I’m also looking forward to Zadie Smith, Howard Jacobson, Ian MacEwan, Alison Moore, Deborah Levy and Jon Canter. It is a long trip!
I’m also taking my iPod, all loaded and ready to go with every piece of music I own plus about a thousand podcasts. I LOVE lying in the darkness in my tent at night, with the wind gusting or maybe snow patting the fabric overhead, listening to voices. For me, free Radio 4 downloads alone are worth the licence fee. I’ve got everything from the Reith Lectures and In Our Time – excellent insomnia medication and no drug hangover in the morning – to all the New Yorker Fiction I can lay my hands on. Also free to download, these wonderful short stories from the magazine’s archive are chosen and read by present-day writers and afterwards pithily analysed with the magazine’s literary editor. The very opposite of soporific, they really set your brain pinging. If you haven’t come across them yet, I highly recommend.
I’ll have my camera, and there will be lots to photograph. I’m taking my iPad + keyboard too in place of a laptop, in case we find WiFi anywhere and I can write a post. And my mobile phone, although once we get into the wilds east of Thimpu there is no reception at all. Our trek organisers will loan us a satphone for emergency use (We’re using a new company called Guides of Bhutan, set up by my friend Phil Bowen with whom years ago I competed in the Peking to Paris car rally. Read about our adventures in my book Border Crossing…)
You will have noted the potential flaw in these elaborate tecchy arrangements. Yes, power supply for recharging. In camp there will be none.
SO – new gadget! This lovely charger will hang on the back of my rucksack all day, the miniature solar panels soaking up the mountain sunshine as I walk, and at night the battery will revivify my devices as I sleep.
This is the plan, anyway. What could possibly go wrong?