Two weeks ago I had a delivery to my flat. I live on the second floor, and it definitely isn’t a difficult staircase to negotiate. Despite the package being not that heavy or awkward, the delivery man refused to carry it up the stairs (in the end I did). I think the total weight was about 15kg, and he parked his van within a metre of the door to the flats.
I wasn’t happy and asked if it was the standard policy of that carrier (I had paid for 2nd-floor delivery). He said no, it was just too heavy for him. It was at this point that I decided to show him a very poignant photograph that I took on my travels. At the time I took the photo, I had taken a short-cut for that day as I was struggling to overcome my chest infection, and the more vigourous route to our evening’s tea-house might well have finished me off. Our excellent leader had suggested that two of us do the more leisurely two-hour route that was flat (the same route we would take on the descent). On a ‘sugar-viewpoint’ break, two young boys overtook us and then decided to stop to drink some water and relieve themselves of their load for a few minutes.
Our accompanying deputy-leader asked them some questions in Nepalese on our behalf. Both of these boys were fifteen years old and had withdrawn from school after the earthquake had taken family members. They were now the ones responsible for earning for their family and had become couriers. As relatively new couriers, they were at the bottom of the hierarchy when it came to queuing outside Lukla Airport to ‘win’ cargo to carry. It meant that now both of these boys were carrying fridges on their back for the next 4 days up the mountain. That’s right. Fridges.
One could query as to why a fridge is needed at the higher altitudes in the -15C temperatures, but in the daytime, it does get above freezing, and so many tourists these days expect western foods.
At an estimate, each fridge weighed about 50kg. Here was the worst part – neither boy could carry anything more than water, and for the whole 4-day journey they would earn no more than the equivalent of $15US, and they had to pay for all their overnight lodgings and food. They were hoping that they would get a return job back to Lukla carrying rubbish or handmade items back, but that would be unlikely – making the whole earnings likely to cover a whole week. Considering the price of accommodation and food higher up, even though they would have access to non-tourist prices, it still looked likely that they might clear $5 each for the week.
Sadly the photograph didn’t really stir much empathy in my delivery driver, and I promptly showed him that I was a much stronger, and better, person than him by picking up the delivery and marching up the stairs with it. We really do have it lucky in this country.