What is all this stuff, these strange surroundings? Heavy fabric curtains cover large windows casting only a small halo of light on these unwitting soon-to-be humans who belong to the other side of the heavy fabric. Replacing our sleeping bags is a mountain of soft down with no limiting sleep sack to restrict movement; I test the temptation, yes I can move my legs to any limitless field. There’s no target town to reach, no altitude we need to be at and no road to pound in the endless surge upward, the world can stay the other side of the curtains for now as we sit in a world we feel we don’t belong to. We’re in Pokhara, so far from the sweaty dirty world of mountain wilderness, we’re fish out of water and ready to be dragged back into the socially more palatable world of bleached uniformity.
The curtains keep the world out for a time but not forever, oddly the Annapurna range greets us mockingly still, but this time as on a movie screen. Devoid of smells, sounds and a chill in the air the range is still stunning yet all together without the humbling intimidation of a closer encounter. Those more intimate glances forgave so much, as our eyes slowly come into focus we take stock of our situation and more acutely each other; we’ve lost ourselves in the mountains and right now our own mothers would barely recognise us. Smell testing the only clothes we have that can possibly be passed up as semi clean it’s time to get back to normal. The music lifts to a hopeful crescendo as a TV hosts beaming smile fills the screen; stylists at the ready; it’s another instalment of your favourite show: Makeover day!
First stop coffee and food, we’re two lukewarm corpses slowly accepting the reunion to our old selves in this town that is so uncommonly lacking in tourists. Streets laden with trekking stores, tour operators and hotels reveal barely a foreign face in this town that clearly relies upon the dollars associated with those faces. But wait, here comes a rare sighting; tourists in their natural habitat. Not surprisingly it’s Team America: Mike, Mike and Tim who we met on the trek; this hiking world shrinks to a shallower pool by the day. A quick chat sees Tim off back home early today and a double man-date with us and the Mike’s this evening, the stage is set for the dramatic final reveal later in the episode. Stay tuned; cut to a commercial of an insultingly stick-thin skeleton selling weight loss shakes she doesn’t need.
And we’re back from the fabricated need of laser hair removal advertising; over a green lake the dense jungle of this humid world bursts down to the waters edge, an apt metaphor for our unkempt faces. Step two in makeover day, wardrobe. We have no clothes other than our trekking gear which is noxious enough to keep bears at bay, we dodge forests of pashmina and cashmere to settle on two of the least offensively cheesy tourist T-shirts we can find. As the images of the photo shoot are played in slideshow the crowd ooh’s and aah’s as the transformation takes shape, we strut down the neatly swept footpath approaching something like the appearance of humans, this promising makeover still with a way to go. The transformation is balanced, will we turn our backs on our sinful unpresentable ways? Stay tuned.
Stage three, hair and makeup as the screen fades from a stupidly grinning woman flicking her artificially shiny hair across her naked shoulder. Clearly in this town there’s a market for people exactly like us with a huge array of salons that deftly skirt the fine line between offering a much needed scrub up and not dragging away the hard earned tough-points from our trek. Sitting down to our appropriately camp looking guy who takes delight in the beauty version of domestic violence we’re both lathered up, shorn, cut-throat shaven and given a head massage that somehow doesn’t leave any bruises. I can see the awe struck gasps in the audience now, a woman turns shocked to her friend and mouths inaudibly below the roar of the crown so unmistakably, ‘Is that really them?’
Back from the world of permissible child slave labour that is a fashion ad, stage four throws us to the lions quite literally, massage time. No trek of this size can pass without a massage and this town has options falling like fat fruit from bowing trees. Two small ladies walk all over us, literally treating our backs as a catwalk like in the previous ad break much to the crunching symphony of our vertebrae. We’re twisted, pulled and rubbed down with a series of unceremonious and dubious massage techniques. As a masseur myself I can confirm that placing two hands on the top of someones head and applying pressure down through the spine without consultation of potential previous injury is not recommended. Somehow we make it out not only uninjured but feeling great. With a confidence imbued to our postures the makeover is complete; cut to commercial on the ebb of diminished lighting.
The music builds tension, small snippets of cut away footage are replayed of our former selves to a salivating audience, our dates Mike and Mike have been kept in a sealed room secretly video’d pacing nervously all the while. The audience at home has flicked over to the news, surfed around the cartoon networks for a bit but the final reveal is upon us and no one can leave the screen. Kettles whistle in kitchens but no one can risk missing a moment willing for us to return to the plastic bosom of vacuous presentation. Arriving at Team America’s hotel we’re obscured by backlighting and strutting down a corridor with all the coached faux confidence of a plastic clothes-horse runway bimbo. The music alarmingly cuts as we enter the unambiguously lit room, every camera zooms in on Team America’s shocked faces. The crowd roars, our dates are suitably surprised, quite genuinely shocked to see two unrecognisably handsome devils enter the room.
And so the date goes off without a hitch. Through the very civilised gins and cocktails, onto the common language of beer and somewhere lost in the melee of cough syrup like jugs of sugary mess and horrid Aussie export wine the full circle returns to beer. Over a delicious meal we eat, we talk philosophy, politics, dissect the worlds issues and it looks like both couples are set for a second date even though no one has determined who is dating who in a potential late night PG version of a next episode. And so the credits roll thanking studios, salons, stylists, designers and the like silhouetted by happy snapshots of the newly impersonalised couple. Stuffed into one end of the pipeline we emerge out the other end to once again stare through the window towards the Annapurna range from our sheltered hotel room stamped with a watermarked thanks of a hotel sponsor.
The old selves revelled in being among those mountains but the new ones sink snugly into a warm bed at the end of a successful date. Through the barrage of advertising selling fear and insecurity along with the tools to make it all better we end the episode feeling uplifted and all brand new. It’s a happy ending to warm the hearts of the docile masses proving also that Team America does have a sensitive side after all; just don’t tell anyone.