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"About 60 pounds," said the warden unhappily. "We stopped a 40-pounder here last week."
It was cooler coming back up the trail from the gorge. We wound high into the mahogany trees and rhododendron thickets, and passed several bearers carrying a wild goat and a large burden wrapped in jute. The jute was dripping and encrusted with sawdust.
"Ice," explained the colonel. "The tiger camp got a bullock cart of fruit from Lucknow today, and the shikaris have sent us some of the ice for our drinks."
"Thank God," I sighed. "Camp meat?"
"It's a young goral from the gorge," he answered. "You'll like the way the Sherpas cook it."
"Is there any beer left?"
There was still one can of Tuborg. We chipped the Lucknow ice into a huge brass water jar, layering it carefully around the precious, single can of beer.
The bearers and boatmen gathered around the cook tents to collect their wages in camp meat and flour. They squatted almost naked in the darkness, smoking gaja in straight clay pipes cupped in their hands. They inhaled between their thumbs, like boys making leaf whistles, and held the smoke lazily in their lungs. They passed the pipes among them, and the sweet marijuana-like odor drifted through our camp, mixed with the smells of cooking meat and fresh biscuits. When the can of Tuborg was chilled I punctured it with shivers of anticipation. There are times in the jungle dry season when the canteen water gets almost warm enough for shaving, and perspiration evaporates so quickly it never collects on your skin.
I rolled the cold beer across my tongue like a fine Chablis. "It's perfect," I sighed. "It's the first time I haven't been thirsty since Katmandu."
Supper was superb. The colonel worked with his Sherpa cooks, rolling dough with a length of bamboo on a board surface hacked from a mahogany log. The Sherpas sliced the goat tenderloins partially through and sprinkled pepper, crushed bay leaves and curry into the diced meat. The colonel chopped and rolled the richly spiced goat inside tiny meat pies, which were baked in the reflected heat of a huge boulder, and the Sherpas carried them bubbling hot to our open dining fly. Roast wild chicken and peacock followed as the Sherpas served us to the music of the Karnali rapids below camp.