I hadn't got much further than that on my around-the-world trip when I got a phone call. Three Canadian girls, daughters of friends of my parents, were organising a trip to Nepal. Their fathers wouldn't allow them to go unless they took a male along to protect them. Did I want to go?
I landed in Kathmandu some weeks later, proudly sporting my Kate Adie- style Banana Republic-photojournalist vest, its 321 pockets packed full with everything I thought I could possibly need (apart from the SAS Survival Handbook which I had returned to the library after having memorised its entire contents).
I fell in love with Kathmandu instantly. It was like London's Camden Town market on a Sunday only smaller and less packed. I browsed in the second-hand book shops, constantly being asked by geriatric hippies, who had come to Kathmandu back in the Sixties, what year it was.
I then took a cab to the Tibet Guest House, the hotel that the girls and I had arranged to meet in. The cab driver swerved respectfully around all the sacred cows that littered the main road, and promptly knocked over an elderly man.
Laura, Sisley and Karen were all 6ft tall. I, their protector, was 5ft 2in in my imitation Gore-Tex boots. The girls used words like "gross" and "neat" and had the Canadian flag sewn cutely on to their backpacks in the hope that they wouldn't be mistaken for Americans by terrorists.
I fell in love with all three of them instantly.
We decided to hire a Sherpa and some porters and handed over a wad of our traveller's cheques. Our Sherpa was called Kunda and he was tall and handsome and carried a very big khukri knife. He told us in broken English that he had climbed Mount Everest.
The girls fell in love with Kunda instantly.
We set off on our week-long trek around the Kathmandu valley. The porters kindly offered to carry my Kate Adie vest. Not wishing them to look cooler than me, I politely declined their offer and struggled under the enormous weight of the vest to keep up with the others.
For the entire week, utterly exhausted, I climbed mountain after mountain as, ahead in the distance, Kunda and the three girls flirted with each other.
On Tuesday, Kunda saved the girls from a poisonous scorpion.
On Wednesday he saved them from a marauding yak.
On Thursday he saved them from the attentions of an overly tactile Hindu holy man.
On Friday he found each of them a beautiful ammonite in a rock face.
On the last day of our trek, the girls and Kunda had set up camp high on a peak shrouded by a cloud. Kunda had offered the girls a bottle of locally produced rum and they were very drunk indeed by the time I caught up with them.
Shortly after I had arrived in the cloud, everyone stumbled off, drunk and exhausted, to the tents for bed in some considerable confusion.
I managed somehow to find my way into one of them and was just drifting off to sleep when the girl with whom I was sharing the tent (I couldn't tell who it was because a large part of the cloud had seeped into the tent with us) jumped into my sleeping bag. We communicated through Braille.
When it was all over I asked, "How was it for you?"
"Well, your English is definitely improving," she said.
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