I blame the goat.
Camped at Sikklis in the shadow of the Annapurna range, we’d eaten said unfortunate creature for our communal evening meal as prepared by our trek crew, who otherwise could perform miracles with just a couple of paraffin stoves, but whether it was the goat’s revenge or the altitude or a combination, by the time I retired to our two man hike tent for the night, I felt distinctly queasy.
Now Sikklis had previously experienced some tent pilfering by unidentified locals so our tents were set up in a neat line at one side of the site while the toilet facilities, two holes dug in the ground each covered by a vertical tent which afforded the bare minimum of privacy, which with typical black humour we’d dubbed ‘The Chapels of Rest’, were about as far away as you could get - about 200 yards at a guess - on the far side of the site. Our Sherpas and guides, all Nepalis and each equipped with the standard fearsome ‘kukri’ curved knife, had a communal tent midway between us and the Chapels and a little above the level of the site, were keeping a 24/7 watch so nobody could come and go without them knowing to prevent attempted tent pilfering.
At about 2.00 am I lost the unequal struggle in our tent, and clutching a loo roll and a torch, exited the tent in the manner of a cork shot from a champagne bottle and of very urgent necessity, sprinted across the camp site towards the ‘restrooms’ at a high rate of knots.
I’d got about halfway when to my right in the darkness there was a cacophony of screams and yelling as the Sherpas saw some miscreant (me) legging it across the camp site in the middle of the night and took chase to presumably to administer some rough justice.
Aware they might slice first and ask questions later, I panicked and froze. I shone the flashlight onto my face, but clearly they did not recognise me and kept coming, all the while issuing blood curdling screams.
Proof that necessity is the mother of invention, I was seized with inspiration and shone the flashlight onto the toilet roll. The screams changed to gales of riotous laughter and the pursuit mercifully ceased, allowing me to continue my headlong flight to the refuge of the Chapels, now merely pondering which end to point first.
I was in there quite a while and later trudged slowly and miserably back to our tent. I felt shockingly ill the day after and one of the Sherpas offered to carry my rucksack. My friends told me to drop my ‘hard man of the hills’ act and let him carry it, which with little reluctance, I did.
Back in camp at the end of the day I offered a large bottle of beer (which frankly I couldn’t look in the eye) to my bag carrying volunteer as a token of my gratitude. He turned up offering to carry my bag for the next five days straight!