Part 2 of my virtual trek to Virtual Everest Base Camp, undertaken while my foot is all sympathy-inducing-poorly. Part 1 can be found here
It was interesting watching Bob haggle with our taxi driver, but annoying to have to spend so long finding another taxi. Still, we reached Swayambunath eventually, and began the long climb up the steps towards the temple complex. As usual, we were surrounded by monkeys hoping for tidbits and just generally getting in everyone’s way.
‘Oh, aren’t they cute!’ exclaimed Bob, reaching out to stroke one.
‘I wouldn’t,’ I warned him.
‘Oh, why not?’
‘Well, possibly rabies, for a start.’
We were seated in a taxi heading back towards Thamel inside half a minute.
‘For the last time,’ I said, exasperated, if you just leave them alone they won’t be a problem.’
‘But you said they had rabies!’
‘I only said possibly. It’s fairly unlikely, actually. You just have to be…careful.’
‘Well, you said!’ He folded his arms and stared sulkily out of the window. ‘I don’t think I want to do any more sightseeing!’
He brightened up when we got to the hotel and it was time to pay for the taxi. The driver had asked for 200 rupees when he picked us up, and I had just nodded at him, while Bob crammed himself into the back of the taxi, casting nervous looks outside all the time.
But now Bob decided it was time to haggle. I watched them for a moment, then went to get a drink in the garden. Bob joined me about ten minutes later.
‘What did you pay?’
‘Three hundred,’ he said, triumphantly.
I left him at the hotel and went off for a couple of hours, wandering around the backstreets taking a few photos, visiting shops and cafes, and generally building up my strength for an evening of Bob’s company.
But, in the event, he wasn’t too bad. He seemed to take a liking to the Nepalese beer, and was delighted to find he could get pizza in the hotel restaurant. We had quite a pleasant evening, and turned in early since the following day would be busy.
After breakfast, we walked out into Thamel. I had planned to indulge myself by taking the bus up to Jiri, a trip of one day, and then walking from there, which adds an extra week onto the trek, but is very much off the beaten track as far as regular trekkers go, but since I now had Bob with me, I supposed we’d have to fly into Lukla like everyone else, and leave the Jiri leg of it until another virtual time.
The first thing to do, though, was get him kitted up. Fearing the worst, I asked him what clothes he’d brought with him.
‘T-shirts, shorts, sandals.’
‘Is that it?’
‘Oh, I’ve also got a sunhat!’
‘Right, you’ll need quite a bit, then.’ There are scores of shops selling all sorts of outdoor clothing in Thamel, and I wasn’t worried about being able to find what we wanted. What did worry me slightly, was that Bob is quite tall, and he is also somewhat overweight. The average Nepali is neither, and my fears that the clothing could be a little on the small side for Bob were soon borne out. By lunchtime Bob was the proud owner of some very smart looking trekking trousers that came down no lower than his shins, and a couple of jackets that came down just to the top of his trousers, and the sleeves of which were a good six inches too short.
Still, he seemed happy enough.
‘How are the shoes, Bob?’
‘Well, a little tight, but they’ll do. It’ll only be for a few days, anyway. It was a good idea of yours to cut the holes in the toes.’
‘Um. Well, no one seemed to have anything your size, Bob. Think of them as a type of, er, mountain sandal. And…a few days? No, the trek takes a couple of weeks.’
‘Weeks? I need to get back for work!’
‘Oh, that’s okay. You needn’t come with me. You can stay here at the hotel and then get your flight home.’ He stared at me in a way that made me feel wretched. ‘Look, I’ll change your flight,’ I said at last.
‘Can you do that?’
‘Yes, it’s my virtual trip, this, so I suppose I can.’
I changed his flight, and then booked us both on a flight up to Lukla. The next morning, we were at the airport ready to fly up into the mountains.
‘Is that what we’re flying on?’
Personally, I love the little twin engine planes that do this journey, and hundreds like it all around the Himalaya, but Bob declared he’d only feel safe on a ‘proper aircraft’ – in other words a jet liner.
‘They can’t land in the tiny airfield where we’re going, Bob.’
‘Well, it’s, as I said, tiny.’
He was airsick all the way.
Thank heavens it was virtual sick.