Following the official formalities in Kathmandu, we drove to the airport and flew to Lulka (2800 m) then trekked to Phakding (2640 m). It was my first experience of regional Nepal. Signs of Spring were everywhere: bursting through the labour across the mud baked and dusty landscape, the delicate blossoms, tiny blooms, butterflies and people played. To my surprise, we passed pool tables, table tennis sets, and volleyball nets as high as Namche Bazaar (3446 m). Sherpas and yaks must have hauled them across the rocks and tracks we stumbled over. Naturally children played with water, fences, gates, dancing, swinging, clapping, running and kicking balls as we imagined ourselves doing with complete freedom. Adults – usually men – were often in the streets playing board games with dice, coloured shapes and various forms of chance, skill and gambling.
My colleagues at the Exertion Games Lab, Melbourne Australia would have noted the lack of digital technologies. In fact, many ‘smart’ device haves limited functionality here. Old, simple mobile phones are robust and reliable. Other gadgetry is too slow in the cold temperatures and the solar power and diesel generators used for electrical charging are unreliable at best.
Of course, my experience and survey of play in the Everest region was only superficial. As a tourist, a trekker, I am therefore passing through and not really engaging with the locals. I have no real insight into forms of play amongst woman, whole families, and communities for example, but the porters and expedition Sherpa were very playful – especially after they finishing guiding and working each day. I have to imagine as the seasons change and people are isolated by the extreme weather, there would be more time and need for forms of play to keep moral high and keep each other physically active over Winter too. Not sure why I need to over analyse: it is Spring here and the signs of joy, happiness and life abound in forms of play and celebration across this landscape, just as it should be.