Almost at Everest

This tale is about the time I almost saw Mount Everest…yes, that’s right…almost saw. It isn’t a story of how I felt when I finally laid eyes on the huge natural behemoth – instead it’s the story of how I tried and failed.

I should point out that I didn’t ever plan on climbing it – I am not a fool, although I may look, and act like one; I know my strengths as well as my weaknesses – and putting one frostbitten limb in front of another as I take desperate drags from an oxygen tank is not my idea of fun, and most certainly isn’t a field in which I would excel…in fact I would probably have so much to complain about up there I would talk myself into an early grave. Because of this I had arranged to take the Mountain Flight from Kathmandu airport up to Everest to catch a glimpse (without all of that walking and heavy breathing)…don’t judge, come on, I had one day left in Nepal and I wanted to use it wisely!

After all, I bet an actual climb up Mount Everest entails a whole lot of inhumane practices – such as surviving on a diet of weird toothpaste meat energy capsules as there is no space to cook…if that is true, which I have promised myself it is – I can’t do that, I need my food. So, it was the only option to be a lazy piece of work and fly up there. I’ll climb next time…maybe…probably…errr…LOOK RON WEASELY EATING A SAUSAGE!

Eating Heavy GIF

Phew!

So I had booked the short tour flight just the night before, despite still being horribly sick (heavy duty industrial strength diahorrea) – it’s unfortunate of course, but it is for that reason that I will probably never return to Nepal…you know for fear of all of my insides falling out of my anus in a burning rush of searing pain…no big deal or anything. It was with this self-instilled no return policy, that I decided whilst I remained in the country I should do everything I can (to get my life’s fill of it all)!

So I popped a bunch of pills, drank some water, wore two pairs of underpants, and hopped uneasily into a taxi to begin the trail to the largest mountain in the world.

Obviously the taxi driver took the bumpiest fucking route known to man, so I was forced to clench harder than a crab claw’s vice grip – there were a lot of touch and go moments, but I held on, justI mean I had to! I am sure we all agree that shitting myself whilst looking at Mount Everest, may have taken some of the fun out of the experience! Anyway, after some jumbled directions about which muddy path I should follow, I trampled down what appeared to be a flooded building site until I found some automatic doors that had been jammed open with chunks of cardboard – I sighed my deepest sigh, trying to put it to the back of my mind…these guys can’t even grasp the intricate mechanics of the door mechanism but I am trusting them to throw me up into the sky in a tin can…smart John, very smart.

It’ll be fine, you won’t die…it’ll be fine. No one dies. It’ll be fine. 

After being vigorously molested by security, I spotted the desk in the distance and slowly waddled my way up to it, occasionally flinching due to what can only be described as adult nappy rash: if for some reason that sounds fun in any way then know that it is not…I don’t want to give too much horrifying detail, but to say that it felt like someone sandpapering your butt-hole, would be an outrageous understatement. It is more like someone…I’ll stop.

Despite the mess that was going on in my lower section, the lady at the desk still smiled cordially, she didn’t judge my diseased penguin walk, she didn’t mind the vague smell of sewage that probably clung to me…good for her…I couldn’t have did it. As I beamed back at her, I began to reach for my passport as I –

“YEAH, WHEN DO I GO ON THE PLANE?!” a strange sweaty man burst from nowhere to shove me aside, and instantly shared a “what the fuck?!” look with the lady, who appeared just as bewildered as myself!

Disgrace look GIF

The guy didn’t look at me once, I assumed out of sheer shame – I mean, know that if I was going on like an absolute prick I wouldn’t be mad keen on giving my victims eye contact, no, no – just do the crime and ignore those affected by it, that’s the code. I didn’t let this little incident get me down though and took perverse joy in listening in to the (pretty one sided) conversation…he kept demanding strange things, asking odd questions and becoming angry when the answers were not to his liking…to the point the lady looked altogether freaked out -he kept wagging his chubby finger and saying “YOU DO YOUR JOB – DO YOUR JOB WELL.” I mean who gets hot flaming mad about there  being no complimentary peanuts on the flight?! Who gets a little rage on because there aren’t two cushions on the seat?!

Well the answer to both of those questions is that guy. I thought I was having a shitty day, but I would take toilet woes to dealing with him any day of the week! The lady had to maintain the classic professional smile throughout the whole torment, I was half expecting her cheeks to spasm due to over use and peel off. She held on. 

When we got through to the main waiting gate area (it was all one large room) I made a sprint for the toilets for reasons which should be obvious by now. I was not disappointed, the smell was just as rank as I had come to expect, there were rusty brown splodges that were presumably a homage to the thousands of people who had entered and pissed on the floor rather than use the disease ridden cubicle. Bizarrely there was a mop in the corner of the room…which was weird…I thought that must be some kind of joke by the staff, like a funny thing which further exemplifies just how unnecessarily putrid the place is. But anyway, joke or not – I had assessed long ago that this wasn’t a place anyone could use for toilet time, so I washed my hands (probably making them even more dirty than before by turning the tap OFF) and then headed back to the main big room. The angry man was shuffling about, still irate, barking at people as he went on his way…I sat down in a far corner well out of his path…ah..no…he then performed an unexpected U-turn and…oh…oh, my…he was heading straight towards me…I tried to look a little bit strange, unhinged even – like the kind of guy you would just think hmmm, not sitting next to him…he may try to sell me cheese he keeps in his pockets, or ask if he can lick my gloves or…it’s not working, he is still coming – do something weird, why is it not working?!

“PLEASE DON’T SIT DOWN HERE – PLEASE DON’T SIT DOWN HERE – PLEASE DON’T SIT DOWN HERE!”

Dont SIt GIF

Naturally he sat down right next to me despite there being ample space literally everywhere else – I felt the violent surges of red creep up my neck, past my cheeks and up to my ears…the anticipation of being put on the spot and screamed at about the lack of peanuts, or whatever other mad crusade he would crazily ramble on about this time. I sat there tensely, wishing I had put the second earphone in when I had the chance…now if I put the other in it would be too obvious a don’t fucking talk to me kinda tactic…which is just not socially allowed for some reason, so yeah – just had to sit there staring at my hands, hoping maybe they may fall off…so that I could have a decent enough excuse to return to the bathroom…but they didn’t, they just stayed there, shaking a little…I looked off into the distance, itching my neck over and over…I started to tell myself that maybe he would just leave…maybe he wouldn’t want to shout at me…maybe he –

“WHERE ARRR YOU FRUM?”

Argh, fuck. I turned slowly to face him – as much as I would have loved to ignore him, or just get up and shoot myself in the head,  for better or for worse – that isn’t me. Strangely, we ended up speaking for some time, at first I gave him limited responses, as it was the usual who, what, where kind of interview, it also irritated me that he kept referring to Korea as Japan…so much so that eventually I just shrugged and started doing it myself. Yeah, yeah – Korea do great sushi, don’t like Tokyo though, far too crowded…mhmm me too…

He asked me what I enjoyed doing, what my passion was – he assured me that you have to have passion in life or you may as well be dead. I said I loved to write funny stories, and make people laugh if I could – naturally, he immediately asked me to tell a joke, which is always horrible – I don’t really do one liners…but he wouldn’t take no for an answer, he just looked at me with these expectant eager eyes until I finally caved…what happens when you drink food colouring? You dye a little inside! It was a little bit like Slumdog Millionaire, as a random memory of a Penguin chocolate bar gag slipped from my memory vault, perfect for this occasion. There was an awkward pause…I was about to apologise for inflicting such a bad piece of cheap humour on him, but he then started raucously laughing, and slapping his thighs – “GOOD ONE! DYE LIKE DIE…DYE IS…AHHH!” 

Funny Laughing GIF

He was impressed that I had thought it up by myself…so was I. There was an announcement that the flight would be delayed, they needed to wait for a weather safety report. But we didn’t particularly care, we carried on chatting about this, and that. He asked me about my family, friends…you know, the usual introduction stuff – when I reciprocated he began telling me an unexpected tale of woe that really gripped me, and has been on my mind ever since…

He was originally from Syria, and had once been married…with one son. He was so proud of him, that much was obvious – he told me he had studied day and night without any pushing, easily passing all of his exams and becoming a doctor – which was the only path he was ever destined to be…he wanted to help people, and had been the same way even as a young boy, always fixing up animals and doing things for his Mother. He then spoke fondly of his wife…the most beautiful woman you will ever see, clever and witty – someone he could talk to deep into the night, never to tire of the conversation…it was the perfect life he said. Was. 

That’s when he told me…his son had been on a bus, on his way to start his first job since graduating, when a bomb blew up, causing the vehicle to fly off the road, and kill every person unfortunate enough to be inside. His wife, once the happiest lady you would ever meet, instantly stopped working and would lock herself in the bathroom every day…after a few agonizing weeks she was found dead, she had shot herself in the head – so as not to deal with the worst possible heartache imaginable. He gestured the gun shot to the head, and began to form tears in the wrinkled cracks of his eyelids.

But he didn’t want my sorrys…he didn’t want my sympathy – instead he made me promise I would live out everyday in as full a way as I could, he held on to my hand and squeezed tight – after all, he said – that is what he is doing. I wondered what he meant, and it was then that he revealed a tattered map, once owned by his son, and told me that he is visiting all of the places he once heard him speak of, all of the places he had promised his Father he would see one day.

Everest had been on the top of the list.

There was an announcement that the flight would be cancelled, and a full refund would be available. You’d think I would be disappointed, as unlike my new friend – I didn’t have the option to try again tomorrow – as I would be returning home the next day. It seems like I had just wasted three hours of my life in an airport for seemingly no reason whatsoever…but the truth is I had learned a lot from this strange rude man, that had barged into me just earlier that day…at the risk of sounding cheesy let me just say this – I walked out with a different appreciation for what life is that day, it’s a flickering flame that can go out at any moment. So you have to make the most of it.

Go on…

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Taxi Stand Off

I don’t cope well with heat…searing heat that is…maybe it’s because I am from the North East of England…maybe it’s because I have a heart of ice…but whatever the reason, I can’t stand hot weather. It completely confounds me that anyone can put up with (let alone enjoy), standing under a giant ball of fire for a sustained length of time. I mean, it sounds just totally mental to me – the theory is you’re supposed to just lie back and marvel as your skin transforms itself into more radiant hues, like some kind of diseased chameleon…slapping on lotions and potions to help with the ordeal, which you could actually just avoid altogether by staying indoors and streaming a movie on your laptop, whilst eating ice cream that won’t turn to liquid instantly…

I’m a certified Grade A burner…so I am probably just very, very jealous of all you tanners out there.

Anyway, Nepal is a place where this sphere of flames appears to be approximately three times as pissed off as it is anywhere else. It is completely and unfathomably, unbearable. I felt like screaming “I’M MEELLLLTINGGGGGG!” every second of every day, even indoors (I know, I KNOW! WHAT WITCHCRAFT IS THAT?!), where the WIFI was often unreliable – so therefore using my own solid gold advice was well and truly out of the window. Dammmit.

So invariably you venture outdoors, but the sheer abrasiveness of the heat leads you to becoming slightly insane, and making ridiculous impulse decisions when out wandering – “IT’S THIS WAY!!! NO…THIS….YES, I AM SURE IT’S THIS WAY, COME ON, COME ON, ARGH – WHERE AM I?! I HAVE LITERALLY NO IDEA – AH, I THINK IT’S THIS WAY…COME ON, COME ON, I’M SURE I SAW A – ARGHHH!” you twist and turn, wriggle and writhe, pulling yourself through the unfamiliar maze like streets – that all tend to look identical, but just appear to have different names…often very similar names actually, probably just to make the whole process even more confusing for you.

To make matters worse, the suncream I had lathered all over myself had met with the heavy amount of sweat that was now leaking from my body – making for a hot, sticky nightmare. I rubbed my brow, cursing the sky as it beamed down with an unforgiving intensity – that’s when I felt the first sting of suncream run into my eye sockets – “YOWWWW! ARGHHH – FACK, SHI! IT’S IN MY EYES!”

Eventually it comes down to this; you will either pull your eyes out and use them as makeshift ear muffs (two birds one stone!), jump on the next motorcyclist who honks his horn and tear him limb from limb, or you will get a taxi and be transported to your destination with relative ease. Naturally your mental state is somewhat altered by the intense heat, so this decision takes a little longer than it normally would…but you opt for the taxi ride eventually…well this time anyway.

Taxi Driver

Once inside, despite the dirty interior, you start to relax a bit – you know take in the sights “…ahhh, look! A man coughing his guts up as he stirs a huge pot of curry! Oh, wow! Look! That woman is being sick directly into the gutter! Jesus Christ – are we nearly there yet?” You have no idea…but you do know you will get there eventually, so that is a vague comfort, and the slight breeze the movement of the car produces is somewhat refreshing on your reddened face. It certainly beats your situation five minutes ago. That was a version of hell.

After ten minutes or so the car stops. “HERE IS THIS!” announces the driver…it doesn’t look like the pamphlet you have in your hand…you are quite certain that it can’t be…wait, what? So the taxi driver has not taken you to the palace that you had pointed to on the map, but instead decided you would enjoy the museum of aviation a whole lot better…fucking hell, and to add to this absolute MESS, the sun cream I had applied previously was still stinging the shit out of me, forcing me to squint uncontrollably, in between vigorous rubs, to try and alleviate the pain.

Arghhhh, just pay the man regardless, and get into another taxi as soon as possible.

“How much is it?”

A creepy underhand smirk forms in the corners of his mouth –

“Errr…500?”

He rubs his hands together as if he is the Nepalese version of Fagan…this is completely normal unfortunately, you should just take it for granted that people will try to rip you off at every turn. You are the clueless tourist, and they attempt to bank on that fact whenever possible.

“500? Naaaah-no, no, no -”

“Okay, okay – 400.”

“No way! I paid 200 for a journey that was twice as long yesterday!”

He stared back at me blankly, I was suddenly aware that I was massively pissed off, not sure where that had came from – as although this guy was ten a penny, he had just became a manifestation of all that was crooked and wrong with certain parts of Nepalese culture towards visiting foreigners…the sun was still unrelenting, the heat horrendous, and the cream began to sting my eyes until they were reddened and crazed beyond all comprehension.

“Okay, okay – 300.”

“YOU HAVEN’T EVEN TAKEN ME TO THE RIGHT PLACE! THIS IS THE AVIATION MUSEUM!”

More blank stares. I tried my best to reel in the Mr. Hyde side of my personality that seemed to have burst off the leash without my consent.

“Right, listen there’s 200, thanks very mu-”

“NO!”

As I placed the money into his hand he immediately pulled me back – attempting to stop me from leaving…despite the fact that I was overpaying him for taking me to the wrong location…madness.

“300.”

I stared back at him – completely and utterly enraged.

“Naaah…nerr…NO. LOOK – (taking one of the 100 notes back) – do you want 100, or 200? Your choice…”

This was fucking MAD. What the fuck was I even doing? I don’t do this, this isn’t me – I don’t really stand up to people in this way…even if I am definitely being wronged…I usually just do the very English thing and apologize profusely and complain about it later to a close friend…perhaps he would realize that and beat me to death in the street for attempting to fool him…I had to stay strong, remain in this Mr. Hyde character no matter what.

“300.”

“Okay…your choice…100 it is.”

I began to walk away with a faux manly confidence – he immediately stopped me again.

“WHAT?!”

He stared at me, clearly weighing his chances, testing my mettle…I stared back straight into his, trying in vain to look as close to Wolverine as humanely possible; but my eyelids were still red with irritation, and out of nowhere tears started to flood down my cheeks despite my best efforts to squint them away…not very errrr Wolverine-ish…I stood my ground regardless….who would give up first? That’s really all this would come down to…usually it would be me, but not this fucking time.

He grabbed the money and drove away. It was a minor victory, but it felt HUGE.

The joke was on me though…I then had to walk all the way back to the hotel (fearful of more taxi driver stand offs) in the searing heat. Absolutely gross.

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More from this country below:

https://storytimewithjohn.com/2014/07/24/wacky-races/

https://storytimewithjohn.com/2014/07/18/blood-sucking-leeches-nepal

 

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