Powertraveller Powermonkey Discovery

[Short of time? Read the haiku instead]

Power corrupts: it’s true. Give someone the power to recharge their phone in the remote Himalaya and they’ll use it to ruin your enjoyment of a beautiful trek in the mountains. Watching movies in their tent, telling everyone what’s going on back in the real world or, worse still, trying to make calls at the top of any mountain which might be in range of some signal tower, somewhere.

And it’s easier than you might think – cell phone coverage is now available all the way up the Khumbu Valley to Everest Base Camp! Whose idea was that? Come on! Who wants some stressed-out businessman, who’s probably just here to impress his boss anyway, shouting into his phone in a remote Nepalese village while you’re trying to enjoy a dal bhat or take a photograph of a skittish Himalayan tahr?

Sorry. The Khumbu is a bad example because the tea houses all have solar panels and offer device-charging services anyway, but you get the idea. The Powermonkey Discovery is a portable battery that stores enough charge to fill your smart phone twice, or give your iPod 120 hours more play time, and can be charged via USB in 7 hours. Once full, simply plug your electronics into this sleek, silver box and you can be annoying everyone around you instantly! There’s not much else to it really – it works well.

The Powermonkey Discovery charging a turtle, or is it the other way around?

The Powermonkey Discovery charging a turtle, or is it the other way around?

Power corrupts: it’s true. Give someone the power to recharge their phone in the remote Himalaya and they’ll use it to ruin your enjoyment of a beautiful trek in the mountains. Watching movies in their tent, telling everyone what’s going on back in the real world or, worse still, trying to make calls at the top of any mountain which might be in range of some signal tower, somewhere.

And it’s easier than you might think – cell phone coverage is now available all the way up the Khumbu Valley to Everest Base Camp! Whose idea was that? Come on! Who wants some stressed-out businessman, who’s probably just here to impress his boss anyway, shouting into his phone in a remote Nepalese village while you’re trying to enjoy a dal bhat or take a photograph of a skittish Himalayan tahr?

Sorry. The Khumbu is a bad example because the tea houses all have solar panels and offer device-charging services anyway, but you get the idea. The Powermonkey Discovery is a portable battery that stores enough charge to fill your smart phone twice, or give your iPod 120 hours more play time, and can be charged via USB in 7 hours. Once full, simply plug your electronics into this sleek, silver box and you can be annoying everyone around you instantly! There’s not much else to it really – it works well.

Oh wait, there is. If you’re going into deepest, darkest hinterland where you may not see a mains outlet for like, weeks, you can charge this baby using a solar panel, which converts sunlight in electrickery and stores it in the unit. Pretty clever, although relatively inefficient. I mainly use mine to charge my iPod and X-mini speakers so I can go for a while without requiring a zap, but techno-junkies who want to use their phone every day as a GPS or something might want to consider the panel, or use a bigger, more powerful battery like a PowerMonkey Extreme or a MiniGorilla (I’m not making this up).

Unfortunately this baby didn’t exist back in 2003 when I made my epic journey up the Amazon River, by boat from the mouth right up to Brazil’s tri-border with Peru and Colombia. We stopped a couple of times, at Sankaber and Manaus, but actual travel time was at least nine days, most of which was spent swinging in a hammock, playing dominoes with Brazilians, or simply watching the river glide past while listening to tunes on a portable cd player (fortunately we took plenty of batteries).

We also got addicted to a fantastic Brazilian telenovela that was on every day. It was incredible the amount of scenarios that were possible between just two hysterical ladies and one hunky guy. Loving, fighting, cheating, forgiving, re-cheating, crying, loving, re-forgiving; the variety of scenarios was endless and ridiculous and kept me transfixed for an hour a day.

The other thing that got to me was the turtle. At one stop a woman embarked with a large trussed-up turtle that she’d obviously bought at market and was taking home to feed her family. The poor thing just lay on its back for the next two days, waving its legs around. All Amazonian river turtle species are endangered, but the local indigenous tribes have been eating them for centuries.

Should I have said or done something? I could have mentioned the turtles protected status but likely the other passengers would have laughed at me. I seriously thought about sneaking over one night and setting it free, but I would almost certainly have been caught. I could have maybe offered to buy the condemned reptile and set it free, but how much would that have cost? I didn’t ask but I reckon it would have been several days budget, and they would have thought me mad. In the end I did nothing; it’s not for me to interfere with a thriving culture thousands of miles from where I was brought up, or so I told myself.

On our last morning we transferred from the main river boat to a smaller launch that would take us to Tabatinga. I was already in my seat when the turtle lady appeared and without hesitation handed me her luggage while she clambered across. The half-metre long tureen remained on my lap for the short journey, clicking its beak and staring at me balefully, fingering me for the coward I was. I stroked its chin and cursed my impotence. At least I was seeing some wildlife, I thought, mournfully.

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