She did not turn around. It ran from the bus station over the runway directly towards the city center. Past the children in school uniforms, the cows, who ate cardboard boxes with hunger, the racing mopeds, the black – ridden bicycle rickshaws, back in 1987 Kathmandu,
"Why?" I ask Frédérique, thirty years later.
"I was sad," she says, "I wanted you to travel with me through Nepal."
But I wanted to go further Tibetto see the Potala Palace, Mount Everest. I was 22 years old, she was 21. In Bangladesh we got on the same plane, already there we exchanged glances. A flood had devastated the region around the capital, Dhaka, and flooded the country. The airport jutted out of a brown tide like a hallig. Never thought that we could take off there again. In Kathmandu we shared a taxi to the city center, finally a hotel room to save money.
The first night we sat in a small tea kitchen without electricity, ate a star-shaped candy and brought us probably already the amoebic dysentery, then the city had no sewer system. It was hot these days in September, the hotel room had only one window. We explored the city together, visited the king's palace on Durbar Square. Play with the monkeys at Swayambhunath Temple.
Every afternoon we went to a small tea house in the old town. On the second floor we sat on a large wooden balcony, the windows were open. It's like the Arab design, she said, between the wooden boards you're hidden, but you can look down on the street. We drank tea with milk and four spices. The fans were cool, chiming little chimes to wake up the time, but they kept sleeping peacefully.
"You were the third man I had," she says.
The night before last we were both awake, confused by heat and hormones, I sat on the edge of her bed and stroked her. She wanted to go west, to Pokhara, she asked me to come along. But I was so full of departure. "You do not have warm clothes for Tibet," she said. "Well," I said, "we're in the tropics." – "Are you crazy?" She gave me her brown knit sweater. He smelled of her perfume.
I wanted to see the world, prove myself, was happy and afflicted at the same time. This summer, large landslides had washed away the road to Tibet halfway, and sherpas were trading merchandise across the slippery earth. Ten or fifteen boxes were carried by browbands, their bleeding feet slipped into slippers. I walked with them over the pass to the Tibetan highlands, where the slopes were intact. With a truck I drove to Tingri. There I rented a guide and horses, I came to Rongbuk, the last monastery before the Mount Everest Base Camp, weakened by the dysentery and altitude sickness, I stranded at 5,000 meters altitude. I knew I would die at this altitude, waited two days for a caravan down the valley, but none came. So I dragged myself back on foot.
On the way back I slept outside in the sleet, there was no water, I set a cup in a pit of peat moss, filled it with brown water and drank it. I built a small wall of stone, put the backpack over it to protect my head from the snowflakes, pulled a garbage bag over the sleeping bag, wrapped myself in Fred's sweater and tried to survive the night. I prayed. With a headache, diarrhea, and a dreadful languor I came to a village the next day. The Tibetans provided me with butter tea and barley flour.