as a Pregnant Camel
In all my years backpacking around the world, I’ve never once hired a porter. A mule or two – sure. A horse. A yak. But ask another human being to haul around my stuff? Whatever it is – toilet paper, that extra pair of underwear, waterproof matches – I’d rather do without.
But when it came my turn to assemble all my gear, I was in for a rude awakening. By the time I piled up my video equipment, batteries and tape, still camera and lenses and film, cables and filters and yes, that extra pair of underwear – my backpack tipped the scales at 88 pounds. That’s almost three-quarters of my bodyweight. And that was without the backup Sony and the non-essential odds and ends that I planned to store somewhere in Tokyo.
I split my gear between my back – for stuff I probably wouldn’t use until that night – and a belly bag – for lenses, batteries, and more immediate needs. I crazy-glued my video camera to one hand and usually had a grammar book clutched in the other. I got to where I could walk eight miles fully loaded, or all day with the occasional sit-down break. But I looked like a pregnant camel and was about as graceful as a pot-bellied pig. I didn’t fit anywhere – on trains or buses, or sometimes even through doors – and stood out like a sumo wrestler next to the petite Japanese. So much for blending in.