Friday, July 15, 2011

Actually Yes. They Can Carry Six Times Their Own Weight

Life along the Annapurna Circuit is hard.  Most of the towns are accessible only by foot, and everything must be hauled up by donkeys or more commonly, porters.  Able to carry more than their own weight in freight these young (and sometimes old) men haul all the food, drink, and supplies that is available in each small town.  They impressively carry outrageous loads of wood, metal, and other building materials (one time we saw a man hauling a western toilet in a wicker basket, although unfortunately it never made its way to any bathroom we encountered) with some ropes and burlap sacks.  Outrageously, they are paid so little that they perform their jobs without even the most basic equipment, including shoes, warm clothes, or rain gear (though at times the goods themselves are covered).  We paid our porters what we were told was living wage - $15 per porter per day to carry approximately 15 kg (33 lb).  This was dream job compared to porters outside the tourist trade who are paid by weight and distance, who carry as much as 70 kg (154 lb) to earn a living.  It's a tough life, and we can only imagine that these jobs will be made obsolete by the new road.  Here are some of the best porter photos from the trek.

Rough cut timber
Hundreds of feet of plastic-wrapped coiled wire.
And he even gave it a cut hat!
Rolled corrugated tin - without shoes
Finished timber, carried with a single strap around the forehead.
PVC piping
Giant loads of kindling
And full size firewood
The tourist porters were better off:
Here, I teach Mila how he could have rolled Twinny-Brown for the past ten days.
He preferred to use it in backpack mode.
They usually had proper footwear
Though the Indian tourists had no problem loading their porters up.
One couple gave their porter two large duffels, a brass and leather train bag, and their ballistic nylon laptop case!
Mila carries Twinny-Brown in a rain cover.
The general purpose porters just loaded up whatever needed shipping into a wicker basket and off they went:

This man hauls a bridge slat over a bridge no problem.
When I tried to haul a single slat I could picked it up, but walking with it, let alone for tens of miles, was totally out of the question.
See how I got down into the deep squat?  Nice form right?

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