Earlier this morning Jamie and I heaved ourselves out of bed to catch the sunrise over India’s highest mountain. In the silence of a Himalayan dawn, we watched the tiger-toothed caps of Kanchenjunga massif emerge from the blackness, changing from pink to peach and finally to a pure, glistening white. One kilometre below us, the valley tucked itself under eiderdown clouds, and people of the Lepcha, Bhutia and Nepali tribes began their daily work.
If our recent experience of what a Gorkha regards as an ‘easy walk’ was anything to go by – a one in three incline through forest and driving rain for eight hours – we were not entirely convinced by Jiwan Rai’s assurances. Still, today he was wearing a suit and shirt, black shiny leather shoes and an umbrella hooked over his arm: it couldn’t be that difficult, could it?
We had just spent the morning talking to his bouncing pupils, aged three to ten, and were ready for a break. So we strolled up the road, nodding to the disinterested border patrol guards, and jumped over a storm drain into Nepal. It hardly felt like moving into another country, but the frisson that goes with flouting the rules turned lunch into a small adventure.