An idyllic situation you might think, dear reader, one of peace and harmony with nature, the gentle solitude of the mountain trail. But all is not well: my breathing is laboured, my head clouded and slow. I can walk only short distances before I have to stop to catch my breath and regroup my meagre physical resources. The dreaded effects of altitude sickness are clutching at me. I explain to Max, a laconic Stirlingshire gent, sometime journalist for The Guardian, and London School teacher, that I am confused and bewildered. I've never suffered from altitude sickness before, and I've reaching far higher altitudes. He nods wisely and with gentle understanding. I master myself again and we trek on, chewing the fat about a variety of topics, from building to Central Asian politics to the whys and wherefores of taking sabbatical years.
|Max - in hardy adventurer pose|
|Me - soldiering on bravely|
|The hotel at the entrance to Ala-Archa National Park;|
pleasingly pointy to fit in with the trees around it.
After a quick pre-game (for non-american readers this is a term meaning 'drinks before you go out', probably something to do with American sports) we headed out to the former embassy building; suited, booted and ready to bring the good names of our respected nations into disrepute.
|The cream of English, Scottish, US, Italian and Canadian society...no, really!|
and further the cause of international unity through the shared drinking of cheap Russian beer and the unifying art of dancing extravegantly badly to cheesy tunes.