Monument to a female Sherpa guide under construction in Namche Bazaar
WHEN we made our way back to Namche Bazaar after leaving Dingboche the next day, my guide said we should buy land together. And I said: “No Way!” Why would I?
In Namche Bazaar, we stayed at Tashi’s friend’s place, the Lasha Hotel, which was small and not used to putting up guides. I could hear my guide talking to the family all night and I thought: ‘Oh dear, what an imposition on them’.
That morning on the downward rocky path, full of people, yaks and porters, I told my guide that I wanted to finish the trip and that it was over with.
He somehow managed to get thirty porters agitated with his response.
I also said I would not have any congratulatory dinner with his family, and that I would not be going to his house to eat, sleep or be his second wife.
I thought I could get some money back but, no, I would get nothing back.
An Australian family came over and asked whether I was OK. They said that I could trek with them for the day. Thanks Tim, Edith and Jasper! You came to my rescue at a time when I did feel very much under siege. And after the 30 porters were agitated, I did feel very unsafe on that track.
My guide had screamed at me and said that I should finish the trip and I would not get any refund of any kind. I thought my guide was going to hit me, or that a porter would bump me off the track.
Later that day the monsoon which normally comes in summer, arrived early. The daily snows of an unusually protracted winter promptly turned into daily rains. The fine spring weather known as the climbing season never eventuated. Hillary and Tenzing wouldn’t have made it up Everest in these conditions! Was this a consequence of global warming?
I had tea in the porter house, though my guide said the porter had been busy and had four kids. He personally had only one kid and was not busy. I was free, and would I sleep with him? I said nothing but decided that this trip was definitely off.
That night, I got to Phakding and found my hotel. My guide stayed elsewhere and peered through the windows, which seemed rather weird. Though, I was getting used to weird by this stage. Once again, the manager of the hotel contributed his assent to the general judgement that my guide was weird.
My guide and the porter ‘D’ spent the day drinking masala chai which was normally quite expensive but provided for free by the hotel under the custom whereby guides get things free. Eventually the hotel manager chucked them out.
The Manager had only one guest and that was me. Flights from Kathmandu had stopped for about three days, which was serious. Because of the ruinous climbing season, hotels had next to no guests.
Is this a portent of things to come? Will the climbing season change to October and November? Last year it was warm then, and there wasn’t much snow.
This isn’t just a concern for climbers. If less snow were to fall in the Himalayas, the rivers in India and Pakistan would become less reliable in the drier parts of the year, affecting the agriculture that feeds hundreds of millions.
Next day, I put the fact that my guide had wanted sex on my Facebook page. I knew his wife and brother would be watching my page and I made it public. I got to Lukla by myself. It rained all day.
At 3 pm I went to the Danphe Café, where my guide had previously taken me on the way through and introduced me to a so-called owner (probably a friend of his), who had met us there and taken the permits, thus boosting my confidence in the climbing enterprise.
This time, on the way down, I discovered that the people in the Danphe had never heard of my guide (and they were all Sherpas).
So, it seems my guide had arranged to meet a friend there on the way through who did not work at the hotel; pretending to own it when he did not. What a web of deception. I could simply not keep up with it.
I found another hotel. I fell down the steps near the airport. Two Irish ladies picked me up and we sat down and arranged a plan of action. I was to get my own hotel and go to the Tourist Police.
My guide had gone off with my luggage. I texted him and said he had fifteen minutes to come over, or I would go to the Tourist Police. After fifteen minutes I went to see the Tourist Police. They checked the date we came through in a book full of tourists’ and mountaineers’ names. (I was surprised at how many seemed to come from the Ukraine!)
The Tourist Police officer who was helping me check the register had a photo of his son and his wife on his mobile. He said he was from another town nearby. Most men in Nepal love their family: just not my guide! That’s one thing I love about Nepal, myself. In the middle of a crisis we talk about his family and his people: just love it.
The Tourist Police rang my guide. He came down and started yelling at me. A crowd gathered outside the post. I had had enough of listening to my guides lies and yelled back.
The friendly Tourist policeman then called his bosses. About 4 guys came down and listened to me. They said they did not want guides like this in Nepal. My guide was drunk and smelt of alcohol, something the Police picked up on (they noticed it before I did).
They said the fact he took off with my bag and that I had no hotel meant they would punish him. I took them back to my hotel. The senior police officers, a guide a porter and a manager from the Namaste Lodge, who were all there, all said that some woman were even being raped by their male guides, and this had to stop.
All women deserve to be treated with respect. This sort of thing also happens in other countries. Do not get me wrong — I’m not having a go at Nepal.
The guide this story is about was my third guide in the Himalayas so far. I have had problems over warm rooms with others, and my second guide refused to take me up Island and Lobuche Peak after I paid a whopping $6000 US; he also stated that I did not know how to use crampons. I complained to the New Zealand embassy in India. Nothing was done about this nor the guide censured in that case. The details are in my book A Maverick Himalayan Way.
This time I was asked to get married, sleep with the guide, and buy property. The only answer as far as I am concerned is to have a female guide next time. Several guiding companies in Nepal offer female guides: you can go online and find out.
The most professionally advanced is Dawa Yangzum Sherpa, the first Nepalese woman to obtain a prestigious qualification from the Swiss-based International Federation of Mountain Guides this January after about fifty men from Nepal had done so. Other female guides are up and coming.
In addition to going to the Tourist Police, I sent a letter of complaint to the head of the Nepal Mountaineering Association as well.
I needed to get back to Kathmandu.
I had a ticket booked on a later fixed-wing flight out of Lukla. I wasn’t able to change it, and paid extra to fly out by helicopter.
The manager from the Alpine Lodge in Lukla most helpfully came to the airport at 7am and booked me onto the flight.
Video shot from the helicopter out of Lukla. It gives a really fascinating view of hills terraced for farming!
Amazingly, to top it all off, I then learned that my guide had used my fixed-wing ticket to fly to Kathmandu.
Eventually, before I left Nepal, I learned from the Tourist Police in Kathmandu that my guide had suffered the penalty of having his guiding license suspended for two months (he did have one, after all). He had to report to the Tourist Police once a week to discuss respect for his craft, his wife, Nepal, Buddhism and the Dalai Lama.
There are lovely people in Nepal, that’s for sure. People who do their best to make up for the failings of others. Things would be even better if they didn’t have to.
This is the fourth and final post in my series about ‘Mad Mountaineering Guides’. I hope you found it thought-provoking!