18Jan2013

Mountain Madness

PInk flying pig with Love Me written underneath it.

Readers of a sensitive disposition might want to skip this post. How about reading the first post I ever wrote instead, or this lovely one about a tribal wedding in the jungles of Halmahera, Indonesia?


As I wander Lukla’s limited range of shops, purchasing menopausal fantasy items such as the balloons that Tenzing has been requesting, and searching for adolescent fantasy items such as razors, tweezers, moisturiser and mascara, I can’t help noticing a note of hysteria in the air.

And, strangely enough, it isn’t all coming from me.

The Aussies – Queenslanders, at that! – are demonstrating a remarkably unBrisbanian ability to give a shit, not to say panicking and flapping round in circles trying to get groups together for the helicopters, which are throbbing out of the mist onto the runway in a manner which would, I can’t help thinking, be hugely improved by Robert Duvall and Ride of the Valkyries.

Hell! What wouldn’t be improved by 1970s-era Robert Duvall?

But I digress.

On day three of being stuck in Lukla, I can already hear the difference between a helicopter and plane. Not, of course, that I have heard a plane for over two days now.

I can’t help noticing a note of hysteria in the air. And, strangely enough, it isn’t all coming from me.

Only yesterday, the Australians were sanguine. Getting the beers in. Ready to sit it out for three or four days until the weather cleared. Now they’re calling in air support like something out of Bravo Two Zero. Do we want to go on one of their helicopters?

Wha’?! I think. Has everyone gone mad? Lukla’s a charming little place. I wouldn’t mind another day or two here.

Strange! I mean, I know they need to be home for Christmas, but there’s over a week to go before that…

“I’ll see,” I say, in a ladylike manner. “But I think I might stick it out until tomorrow. We’re meeting up with some people we met on the mountain.”

I am in booty call  platonic date  midlife crisis bit-of-tits-and-some-snogging-but-definitely-nothing-more preparation mode. This is, when one has been up a mountain for three weeks, doesn’t have so much as a pair of clean knickers to one’s name, has to request hot water by the bucket and is, to put it kindly, somewhat above the median weight and height for this small Sherpa town, not remotely as easy as it might sound.

I am in booty call  platonic date  midlife crisis bit-of-tits-and-some-snogging-but-definitely-nothing-more preparation mode.

I mean, honestly, what do these people have to complain about, I think, as I endeavour to remove more than three weeks worth of accumulated body hair, wash two pairs of knickers and simultaneously avoid frostbite, armed only with a bucket of hot water, a razor and some face wash in an ambient temperature some way below zero.

While I’m not a fan of travel underwear, the great thing about all but the most expensive slutty underwear is that it, like travel underwear, dries quickly. And my underwear is both slutty and cheap inexpensive.

I wring a pair out and put it on damp. Sorted!

Classy as fuck! I mean, my jeans have only been on one day. That’s virtually clean! And my socks are only on their second day, as well.

I have a lipstick with me, that’s been in my camera bag for a while. I put that on. But without mascara, and with only windburn by way of coverup, I look less cougar than Coco the Clown.

It’s too cold to take the nail scissors to my hair, which in any case is likely to have a stinky, unflattering fleece hat over it.

The great thing about all but the most expensive slutty underwear is that it, like travel underwear, dries quickly. And my underwear is both slutty and cheap inexpensive. I wring a pair out and put it on damp. Sorted!

I am wondering whether it is Namche Bazar or Lukla that is the local answer to Oxford Street for the good folk of the Khumbu when one of the Aussies appears, looking strangely agitated.

Odd, I think, in between meta-analysing the Gurkha’s latest billet-doux with an intensity commonly found in exes engaged in Facebook stalking.

This charming calm chap we met in the mountains is, after barely three days in Lukla, teetering alarmingly on the edge of reason.

“We have a helicopter coming at 3!” he hisses, eyes blazing with a strange and disturbing fire, like a smalltime Hackney crack dealer who needs to shift just two more rocks before he gets his hit. “We’ve got two seats left. $350. You want them?”

“Nah,” I say. “Not today. The weather might clear tomorrow, and Lukla’s not that bad.”

I don’t mention the screenplay in my head, which now has a wonderfully dramatic scene involving Gurkhas and helicopters. Because I, despite having been stuck in Lukla for three days, am SANE.

I don’t mention the screenplay in my head, which now has a wonderfully dramatic scene involving Gurkhas and helicopters. Because I, despite having been stuck in Lukla for three days, am SANE.

I wander around town failing to find mascara for a while. It seems that the women up here are blessed with such dazzling long lashes that they just use eyelash curlers. Either that, or a yakload of eyelash curlers came up to Lukla at some point in the mid-90s and they’re trying to pass them off on tourist while keeping the real deal under the counter.

My phone almost leaps out of my pocket with a flood of texts from the Gurkha, who is not a happy bunny.

It appears they may not be flying out as planned, because someone has fucked up their tickets.

“Well,” I text. “There aren’t any planes ANYWAY because the weather is bad. Like I said, lots of people here are taking choppers.”

Gradually, it begins to dawn on me that, when it comes to planes, this man has no more Moses power than I do. The planes will fly when the weather is clear in Lukla, Kathmandu and all points in between. And that is the end of that.

I delete the helicopter rescue scene from the screenplay in my head. I’m sure I can come up with something equally rom-comesque to replace it. The guy IS a soldier, after all.

I delete the helicopter rescue scene from the screenplay in my head. I’m sure I can come up with something equally rom-comesque to replace it. The guy IS a soldier, after all.

Back at base, Zac, whose blissful relationship with Tenzing deteriorates markedly each time he has custody of the computer and has to fend him off it, favours me with the death stare.

“The Australian guy came past,” he says. “The one who lent me his cable in Gokyo. They had two seats on a helicopter and you missed it because you were wandering around town.”

As anyone who has ever made a single bucket of hot water stretch to as much grooming as I have will appreciate, I have now got quite a lot invested in tonight’s assignation, but I decide not to explain that to my spawn.

“There might be flights tomorrow!” I say.

“There had better be,” says Zac. “If we don’t get out of Lukla tomorrow I will tear your throat out with my bare hands.”

“No more helicopters today,” says Nir, looking out at the lowering gloom. “Maybe tomorrow we walk to Jiri?”

“No,” I say. “We’re not going to walk to Jiri now. We won’t get our visas for China if we walk to Jiri. I think you should go home to Jiri and I’ll take over at the airline office. And if we can’t get out by Friday, we’ll take a helicopter.”

“Seventh flight,” Nir says, lugubriously. “Seventh flight. Helicopters very expensive.”

As I try to catch up on a bit of work with Tenzing sat on my lap jabbing at my computer and my spawn bitching at him for doing so, I start to wonder whether I am ready for adoption right now, or whether one child and one pathologically immature adult is enough for our family.

“There might be flights tomorrow!” I say. “There had better be,” says Zac. “If we don’t get out of Lukla tomorrow I will tear your throat out with my bare hands.”

The Gurkha announces his arrival in town. “I’ve got about forty-five minutes more work to do and then I’m free,” I say.

His radio silence sends me spinning into a pit of utter neurosis. Oh fuck.

Wha’?! He has other things to do.

WHA’?!

Could it conceivably, possibly be the case that the hawt-as-hell just-walked-in-one-day-what-took-us-three-days 20-something half of this assignation has less invested in it than the neurotic rising-40 already-on-day-three-in-Lukla half?

Not in the screenplay I am writing in my head, it doesn’t.

Outside the screenplay, I would rather like to bounce around Lukla’s very limited bar scene getting hideously drunk. He’s tired, would rather not. But will if I want to.

Oh fucksake, I think. At least let’s go for a token fucking beer. Jesus!

Could it conceivably, possibly be the case that the hawt-as-hell just-walked-in-one-day-what-took-us-three-days 20-something half of this assignation has less invested in it than the neurotic rising-40 already-on-day-three-in-Lukla half?

Even as I explain to Zac that I will be back late, perhaps as late as 4 so not to worry if I’m not there when he wakes up, and that he’s to put himself to bed by midnight at the latest, and to Nir that the lodge should leave the back door open for me, I’m still trying to convince myself that I’m not putting out.

Despite the fact that I’m not even meeting him in a bar but at his sodding trekking lodge.

Or, as he has romantically put it: “I’m finished now. Come to my place.” “I’m finished now. Come to my place.” “I’m finished now. Come to my place for beer.” “I’m finished now. Come to my place for beer.”

That’ll be fine, I think.

I have self-discipline! Hell, I’ve given up smoking! And, if I don’t put out now at least I get to go out on the lash in Kathmandu with a hot soldier and THEN put out.

I am, I think to myself, every bit as self-controlled as I am calm in a crisis.

But, yeah, maybe a bit more than tits and snogging. Be a shame not to after all that depilation. Definitely not all the way, though.

I have self-discipline! Hell, I’ve given up smoking! And, if I don’t put out now at least I get to go out on the lash in Kathmandu with a hot soldier and THEN put out. I am, I think to myself, every bit as self-controlled as I am calm in a crisis.

Despite the noticeable absence of beer and an ambient temperature one could charitably describe as bracing, it takes him approximately twelve minutes to get my knickers off. They have, at least, I am pleased to note, dried.

Rather sweetly, he asks permission at each stage.

Is this part of the training? I wonder.

And then, yeah, if you’re going to take the best and strongest sixteen-year-old boys from villages across Nepal and dump them in suburban English nightclubs full of scantily clad slappers, it NEEDS to be part of the training – go British Army!!!

“Would you mind,” I say, in the manner of a Victorian maiden, only not. “If we didn’t go all the way?”

“Yes,” he says. “I spent two hours walking around Namche looking for condoms.”

And, in the manner of some Victorian maiden, only really not, I submit to my fate.

I can’t help but notice he’s not particularly interested in conversation. Strange, I think. Conversation is my strongest suit.

And there’s absolutely loads of it in the screenplay I am writing in my head.

In the manner of some Victorian maiden, only really not, I submit to my fate. I can’t help but notice he’s not particularly interested in conversation. Strange, I think. Conversation is my strongest suit.

I remove myself at 6am, before the all-too-literal witching hour at which a lady of advancing years deprived of a full night’s sleep ages two decades with the dawn and turns into a hagged, haggard creature with, in my case, prominent facial scarring to boot, and embark on the walk of shame that is extricating oneself from the wrong lodge in a very small Sherpa town and returning to the right one.

On the plus side, this being Lukla, I’m not exactly in last night’s gladrags.

On the downside, this being Lukla, I’m guessing it will take about fifteen seconds for my maidenly decorum, which will not be winning me any awards for mother of the year, to be all around town.

If it isn’t already. I made the mistake of asking one of the Sherpas directions to the Gurkha’s lodge.

Poor Nir, who, rather as I did when discussing his marital plans for his daughter, appears to have desperately hoped that my plans to stay out all night were somehow a translation error, actually rang me to establish when I’d be coming back.

And the quiet one managed to knock on the door mid-coitus, as well.

Fuck, I think. It really IS time to leave this town.

Then, well, it’s done now. Onwards and upwards! It can’t get any worse.


I’m in two minds about whether to consider this story which, unimaginably and hilariously, goes quite a long way downhill from here. What do YOU think? Draw a veil here and do a helpful post on Everest Base Camp? Or carry on? Drop me a comment and let me know.

24 Comments

  1. WOOT WOOT! Reading this like I would a wonderful semi-porn site!

  2. And cheering for you like you’re my bestie! Sorry, I clicked post too soon on the other post.

  3. Great post! I want more!!!! – When you sign that book deal, dear?

  4. mb says:

    ‘s better than downton abbey, i’m addicted, please continue!

  5. Alyson says:

    More more more! Don’t suppose you got a photo of his hotness that you can share with us?

  6. You sure do know how to tell a story! This is better than the trashy romance novels I snuck from my mom when I was a kid. Hope the deed was worth all the grooming!

  7. petra says:

    ….more, more, more…of course :D

  8. Anisha says:

    I’m so hooked! Don’t stop!

  9. CARRY ON! CARRY ON!
    I’m loving this personally. Makes me feel like im not alone with some of my awesome decision making skills.

  10. Rob says:

    Thea – a brilliant post. If you stop writing, do not come to Africa, cause we have BIG beasties here!
    You are a star – keep going sunshine.

  11. Catherine Hartmann says:

    Write faster!! All this waiting between posts is unbearable.

  12. Mary says:

    Carry on, please!! I love it, cracking me up! I want to know what Zacs reaction is when you return, lol!

    Oh yes and a photo is a must, come on you must have one…

    • Theodora says:

      Sadly, no photos, and, if there were, it would be unethical to share them…

      And… I’m trying to write faster! But there’s other hilarities to share as well. Let me see if I can get the next installment up before we get on our 22 hour train ride…

  13. Of cours we want more!! It’s better than any reality show up there and you humor is so much wittier!

  14. Flora says:

    Utterly hilarious. Can’t wait to read the next installment!

  15. Sarah says:

    First post I’ve read and I think I’m hooked!

  16. Nonplussed says:

    Entertaining the troops like Marlene Dietrich and her musical saw. Joanna Lumley would be proud of you. I am.

  17. Izy Berry says:

    You are great with words! Your writing style it’s fascinating. You should write books! I would read them :)

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