Sunday, October 12, 2008

Crime and Punishment DOBANG 2,500 metres

The afternoon drizzle had begun as we climbed steeply up through the jungle. We had had a magnificent morning descending into an improbably steep valley alive with the noise of the rushing river and the ever present clamour of crickets. Along the way we had seen honey combs on a rock overhang above the steep path and were watching out for the monkeys that group 1 had spotted the day before. Lunch had been at a tiny clearing with a solitary hut and a few impoverished residents.


By the time Sally & I reached Dobang the rain was falling steadily and we moved quickly into one of the few tents that had arrived before us. The heavens then opened with a huge thunder storm that sent flash floods through the campsite and caught those that were plodding up the path behind us. Over the next few hours porters and members arrived all chastened by the violence of the storm. Late in the evening, Chomba, our Sirdar, became very agitated when he realised one porter load had not arrived. The porter apparently knew the way and Chomba quickly jumped to the conclusion that he had taken his advanced payment and done a runner. Chomba set off into the night and the storm with a head torch and a radio to hunt down the culprit and the missing load. We were left to spend and an anxious night contemplating the loss of the Expedition’s Gammow bag (an essential piece of safety equipment) and all of our communication equipment. The radio crackled unintelligibly through the night as Chomba searched the jungle.


By dawn Chomba had paid a hefty ransom to the villagers at the lunch stop and had found the gear stashed in the jungle. Sherpas were sent down to effect an arrest and by lunchtime two bound and bedraggled locals were led, on a rope, into Dobang where they were roped to a stake for some ritual humiliation. Allegedly they had stolen the load and the porter had then fled in terror. We will never know the truth but the crime was reported to the local official and all equipment was returned.

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