- 1 - Besisahar to Khudi: Most People Walk Further to Work
- 2 - Who Says Trekking in Nepal Has to Involve Lots of Walking?
- 3 - Conquering the Annapurna Circuit’s First Hill
- 4 - Trek to Jagat and a Rant Against Guides on the Annapurna Circuit
- 5 - Jagat to Tal: Our First Real Day of Trekking
- 6 - Tal to Chame: Falling into a Trekking Routine
- 7 - Chame to Pisang: Just Takin’ the Goat for a Walk
- 8 - A Well-Deserved Day Off in Upper Pisang
- 9 - Pisang to Ngawal: A Hard Climb to Beautiful Views
- 10 - Drinking Yak Sewage in Ngawal
- 11 - Arriving In Manang…Two Weeks Later Than Most
- 12 - Trekking On Our Day Off From Trekking in Manang
- 13 - Annoying Trekker Abuses Friendly Guesthouse Owner
When you travel, you meet a lot of annoying people, but one tops them all: the person who won’t stop bragging about how little they’ve been spending. Now, the bragging itself is annoying, no question, but the way these people go about saving money is far worse. An example could explain this better than I. As luck would have it, I ran into the perfect example at the Tilicho Base Camp.
The camp sits at 4100 meters above sea level, 800 meters below Tilicho Lake itself. It consist of two hotels and an ice cold stream, known in the local language as “shower.” When I arrived in the afternoon, one hotel was already full of ‘super-trekkers.’
I recognized these gods of the mountain instantly by their gear: they had every single useless trekking-related item some fast-talking kid in Kathmandu had convinced them was absolutely essential to their survival in the wilderness, like extra strength, glow-in-the-dark faux-Northface shoelaces and countless other less useful items. Many of them looked like walking Northface billboards. The rest were advertising for Columbia. Naturally, I went straight to the other hotel.
I found the owner—with a face so wrinkled and abused by the elements, he looked like he had been born some time during the 19th century and had spent all of the 20th in a tanning bed—and I asked about a room. He was friendly; much too friendly actually, since he spent the next twenty minutes explaining the various functions of the room.
I’m glad he did though, because it had both a bed and a door. It even had a light switch, but with no power it was little more than a decorative touch added to make us westerners feel at home. Thanks to the thorough explanation, I was able to both open and close the door and when the time came, I even managed to lie down on the bed correctly.
While I wrote that his explanation took twenty minutes, he was actually interrupted after a few by an angry voice from the dining room below. The voice wanted to leave and insisted the owner come downstairs immediately or he would take off without paying. When I say insisted, I mean he screamed and shouted, peppering in what English curse words he knew.
He was Israeli, but he knew a lot. He didn’t know how to correctly use any of them, though. This only made him sound more deranged. I couldn’t understand much of his ranting, but it seemed he had already been severely overcharged for his room and now the owner was holding him up on top of it all.
The old man later told me he had charged the guy the standard 100 Rupees (about one Euro at the time) for the room. All along the Annapurna circuit, you can generally get room prices down to 100 Rupees, but that comes with the understanding that you will eat both dinner and breakfast at your hotel. Hotel owners rely on us eating their food to make a living and while the prices for food are very high for Nepal, they are actually quite reasonable (with the exception of Manang and one other town I can’t remember), especially considering the remote locations.
Apparently, everything got worked out, since the screaming soon subsided and the old man returned to demonstrate the door’s various functions some more (‘open’ and……damn, what was the other one? I should have paid more attention). About an hour later, I went downstairs to order some dinner.
Who should I find in the dining room but the same guy who an hour before absolutely had to leave that very second. Instead of being on the trail somewhere, he was sitting in the dining room eating muesli. His own muesli.
After complaining about the slow response and the one Euro room charge at length, he was now taking his time eating a bowl of muesli he had brought with him using milk he had made himself with milk powder and his little propane stove. Not only had he done this right in the dining room, he had also made a huge mess in the process, spilling grains and milk everywhere.
The owner later informed me that the guy hadn’t ordered anything for dinner or breakfast either. If you’ve read the other parts of this long series on the Annapurna Circuit Trek, you may have put two and two together and realized this was the same guy I ran into in part 8. As such, I was already very familiar with his modus operandi.
When trekking you pay a lot for the food, as I said, but you also get humongous portions. This guy would take advantage of that by being very friendly to everyone in that smarmy way people like him have perfected, so that he could mooch leftovers off other people’s plates.
I also overheard a lot of his conversations and here is where we get back to my original point. Every one of his conversations quickly turned to him bragging about how little he was spending. His (and every person’s like him) dirty little secret is that he does not save that money by getting better deals on bus tickets or getting a good price from the hard bargainers.
Instead, he saves his money by bullying the nice people, people like the ancient owner of the Tilicho Base Camp Hotel, people who give everyone a fair price and people who are too nice to take advantage of the fact that there are no other options up there for travelers. They could easily charge whatever they want, since the alternative to paying is a few freezing hours outside followed by a cold death.
If you do any traveling that involves hotels without doormen, you’ll encounter this annoying tourist. I’ve run into them far too often and they’re almost always engaged in a game of one-upmanship over how cheaply they’ve done something. Wanting no part of this, I planted myself in a far corner of the room and buried my face in a book.
The other guests were all quietly busy with their own things, too. It seemed everyone knew exactly how to handle guys like this. The room stayed silent for the next 30 minutes, apart from our annoying subject’s continuous complaints about the unscrupulous guesthouse owner. Then the Israeli left and less than a minute later, everyone gathered at one table and began talking. And no one talked about money.
That is how you deal with this particular annoying tourist. The next time you find yourself in a conversation that enters the “I’ve only been spending…” territory, don’t counter with your own figure, don’t act impressed, don’t do anything but chuckle to yourself and walk away. If everyone does that, these guys will change, because their other little secret is: they don’t work so hard to spend so little for lack of money—they do it simply to brag. And if no one listens to their bragging, their saving suddenly becomes pointless. More importantly: they leave.
To be continued… as this was a long trek, I’m not writing about it all at once. I’m just adding pieces to the series here and there as things pop into my head.