Trekking up to 4,000 metres high above the Khumbu valley in Nepal, I came across a curious sight. As I rounded a corner on the precarious path that I had taken from Namche Bazaar, I got a fantastic view of Everest in the distance. But it wasn't this that caught my eye. It was a low-slung, rather tasteful stone building nestled in a forest of eucalyptus and stubby juniper trees. It stood out because it was very different from the traditional Sherpa homes clinging to the steep slopes that surrounded me.
Somebody had chucked a lot of money at this place and I was intrigued. I climbed the impressive stone steps to the entrance only to find that I was suddenly in a luxury hotel. It is called the Everest View Hotel and was built so that rich Japanese tourists could be helicoptered in from Kathmandu, get a truly impressive view of Everest from the huge balcony, spend a night and then be helicoptered back down into the valley. Unfortunately, it turned out not to be the best business idea. To drop straight in to somewhere 4km above sea level tends to bring on Acute Mountain Sickness rather rapidly.
On the beautiful stone viewing balcony which reminded me of archive footage of Hitler's Berchtesgaden (his Eagle's Nest in the mountains of Bavaria), was a group of very ill-looking Japanese tourists. They had just been flown in and were feeling the full effects of AMS. To give them due credit, they were trying their best to pose for their cameras and to strike those faux gangsta poses that Japanese tourists so love to do – but their hearts just weren't in it. One man vomited over the edge on to a rather startled Himalayan dog that had the misfortune to be having a snooze at the base of the wall. I bought a very expensive cup of coffee before moving on to my destination – Khumjung.
I was here to visit the local monastery that has what it claims to be the skull of a yeti. I found "the keeper of the skull" asleep in his room and, after an exchange of pleasantries and finance, he was persuaded to unlock the room in which the skull is kept. I entered and found myself in front of a lime-green metal cabinet that was also locked.
I was shown a little slot on the right-hand side where further "donations" were to be inserted. This done, the cabinet was opened and there was the object of my voyage. It was a cone-shaped thing, partially covered in reddish-brown hair and displayed in a locked glass box. I stared at it for quite a while in utter fascination. I'd first seen it on a television show called Arthur C Clarke's Mysterious World when I was a schoolboy, and I had promised myself that one day I would go and see it.
I asked the keeper of the skull whether he could get it out of the cabinet so that I could see it better. He hinted that $200 (£125) would make this possible. The yeti-hunting business is an expensive one. I had already been told that it would cost me $6,000 to speak to a local woman who claimed to have been attacked by a yeti and thrown into a river. She played dead and watched the beast kill her yaks. A Japanese television crew had paid this sum for an interview with her and she now felt this was the going rate. Apparently the Japanese crew had also brought along a yeti costume so that they could recreate the attack. They had not told the poor woman that this was going to happen and it triggered terrible flashbacks.
I'm now off up into the snow zone to try to find some footprints.Reuse content