Our guide was waiting for us on the edge of the airfield, with a porter who would load our bags into a large basket on his back.
‘Let’s go to our hotel and settle in,’ said Bob. ‘Then we can go and look at some sights, maybe after lunch.’
‘I’m afraid not, Bob. We’re not staying here. Tonight we’re staying in a little place about six or seven miles up the trail.’
‘Oh, alright.’ He looked a little miffed, but then brightened as a thought seemed to strike him. ‘We could have a second breakfast when we get there.’
‘We won’t be there until mid afternoon.’
‘Huh? Why on earth not?’
‘The paths are pretty steep in places, it makes for a long walk.’
‘Yes, walk. We’re trekking, Bob, remember?’
Walking up the path with Bob was a pleasure I can only compare to dancing in a deep sea diving suit. Every few steps I took I would hear a plaintive ‘Mick…wait for me…’ from behind.
By lunchtime we had covered approximately half a mile and could still see the buildings of Lukla. Our guide, the impassive Pasang, calmly directed us to a nearby teahouse, and then left us as we ordered.
Bob wasn’t terribly impressed with the menu, though.
‘Do they have pizza?’
‘Is it on the menu?’
‘I can’t see it.’
‘What are momos?’
‘Yuk. Dahl baht?’
‘Rice and lentils.’
We had fried vegetables. At first, I thought Bob wouldn’t eat his, from the face he made when it arrived, but walking half a mile that morning had clearly given him an appetite, and he managed to force it down.
As we ate, Pasang reappeared with another Nepali. They stood in the doorway for a while, looking at us and talking in low voices. The other man seemed a little upset and kept shaking his head, then they both left again. After about ten minutes, Pasang was back, this time with a much larger man. Again, they talked in low voices, with a lot of head shaking from the stranger, but they eventually shook hands, although neither looked particularly happy, and went back outside.
After we had finished lunch, Pasang took us outside where our porter was waiting, as was the large stranger, who also had one of those huge baskets on his back.
‘You will sit in his basket,’ he said to Bob.
‘What? No fear!’ He looked horrified. Pasang was clearly struggling to keep up his ‘impassive’ image.
‘If you do not,’ he said, sharply, it will be midnight before we reach the guest house. And,’ he looked at Bob meaningfully, ‘you will miss supper.’
Reluctantly, Bob did as he was told. I may have mentioned this already, but Bob is not a slightly built chap. His love of pizza and his fear of exercise combine to produce a body guaranteed to strike fear into the heart of any fitness instructor.
I looked at the stranger with a deep respect.
They carry large loads, although not usually as large as Bob.
We set off. Pasang led, the two porters walked just behind him, with Bob peering unhappily over the top of the basket, and reminding me strangely of a cat in a basket going to the vets.
Which led to a few unkind thoughts, I’m afraid.
However, two hours later we were at the tea house where we were to spend the night, with no further mishaps. The afternoon had been lovely, and I had wandered along happily at the back of our little group, taking a few photographs but mainly just enjoying being there.
Bob clambered out of his basket and looked around. Then he whipped his phone out of his pocket. ‘We’ve done really well, haven’t we? Let’s take a couple of selfies!’
The following morning we were woken at six o’clock for an early start, but Bob wasn’t feeling well.
‘I think I’ve caught pneumonia,’ he moaned hoarsely.
‘Oh, it doesn’t look that bad,’ I replied, brightly. ‘Probably just a bit of a sore throat due to the altitude. Let’s see how you are after breakfast.’ He dragged himself out of bed and shuffled wearily to the dining room, where he managed a light breakfast of porridge and banana, omelette, bread, toast, jam and coffee.
‘What do you think?’ I asked Pasang.
‘It is definitely best he stays here until we return,’said Pasang firmly. ‘We should not take the risk of him getting any worse.’ I was about to say that it was only a slight cold, but I saw the wisdom in what he was saying, and so I agreed.
So, it was a shame, but we had to do the rest of the trek without Bob.
Silver linings and all that…
Everest is the one in the middle!