I found some curious photos I’d almost forgotten in the excitement.
The air is thin in Khumjung village, altitude 3790 metres, just off the main ‘Everest Highway’ which leads trekkers like us towards the top of the world. There’s little between the Khumjung houses but stone walls and little fields, with juniper berries and yak dung drying on sheets of plastic.
But the Khumjung Gomba buddhist monastery has one irresistible tourist attraction – a yeti scalp, which they acquired in a curious way…
The story goes that ‘several generations ago’ the people of Khumjung hosted a religious festival for people from neighbouring villages. They expected in return to receive the customary cultural presents, perhaps prayer flags or ritual instruments. Instead their guests from Thame gave them a yeti skull. Insulted, the Khumjung people kicked it all the way home.
These days, we’d naturally want to kick the idiot who decapitated a yeti all the way home, but perhaps yetis weren’t considered so rare and special back then. Their reputed abominable snowman habits of carrying off yaks and small children wouldn’t have endeared them to Himalayan villagers.
Only later was the significance of this specimen noted after interest ‘by western scientists, tourists and mountaineering heroes like Sir Edmund Hillary’ according to the English notes on the plaque in the monastery.
I made a small donation and a monk opened the green steel cabinet and proudly invited me to take a photo of the artefact. It was hard to get a good look at the yeti scalp, in a locked box behind thick glass – as underwhelming as the Mona Lisa.
I can guarantee that my photo is genuine, but I’m not so sure about the subject. The Yeti’s hair looks a little like the stiff reddish stuff that graces the the uppermost extremities of Donald Trump. About as real as that, only more pointy.
‘What do you think?’ I asked our guide Ang Tshering. ‘Is it real?’
‘I don’t know about this one,’ he smiled, ‘but I believe there are yetis out there somewhere. Or there were. I never saw one myself, but my father did.’
I make no comment, claims or promises. If you click on the photo above and see it blown up, you can make up your own mind.
The writer was the guest of World Expeditions.