In a tiny Nepalese tea house nestled in the foothills of the Himalayas, my hiking group huddled anxiously around a laptop. Our team was playing in the semi-final of the Rugby World Cup and we were desperately trying to follow the game online. We were not succeeding.
Letting out a collective groan as the internet disconnected for the twentieth time, we slumped in our chairs and looked at each other in despair. I knew I wasn’t the only one who was ready to admit defeat.
“No good?” our Nepalese guide asked. He was sitting at the table next to us, along with our porters, and had been watching us with some bemusement.
“No good,” I confirmed.
Reaching for my Everest Beer, I turned my gaze outside. The Annapurna Range, home to some of the highest mountains in the world, filled the horizon, the snow-capped peaks resplendent against the darkening sky.
Feeling a tap on my shoulder some time later, I turned to find our eldest porter, fondly nicknamed the “mountain truck”, grinning down at me; in faltering English he asked our group to follow him outside. Ushering us down an alleyway behind the tea house, he led us to a small courtyard beside the owner’s lodgings where several rows of chairs had been set up. There in front of the chairs, resting precariously on a stack of crates, was an ancient television set. And there, on the television set, was the game.
We were gobsmacked.
Somehow, in the middle of absolute nowhere Nepal, our hosts had managed to tune into a broadcast from half way across the world. The footage was pink and flickering on the screen, but we couldn’t have been more thrilled. Gushing our thanks, we clambered into the seats and urged everyone to join us.
It was, of course, a nail-biting game. We cheered, we applauded, and we wrung our hands; the Nepalese spectators, who had never seen a game of rugby in their life, were the loudest of all.
An hour and a case of Everest beer later, the referee blew the whistle and the game came to an end. We had won! Letting out an explosive cheer we jumped to our feet, hugging each other ecstatically. Someone began a spontaneous rendition of the New Zealand national anthem, which was followed by the Nepalese anthem shortly after.
Retiring to the tea house to celebrate, I found myself sitting next to our guide.
“Did you guys understand anything that was happening in that game?” I asked curiously.
“Absolutely nothing at all,” he replied cheerfully, offering me another beer.