Elon Musk and Keith the saucy Reuters fake llama
*Also listen to the audio version of this article on Spotify HERE.
MASQUERADING AS AN ALBINO pack mule during those first few days out of Kathmandu was one of the most physically and mentally taxing journalistic assignments I had ever attempted.
Especially at that early stage of my journalistic career.
This was only complicated by Musk deciding to take a shine to me and riding backwards on my flimsy pantomime mule back.
I had not factored in a fully grown man-child riding me for 14 days. But journalism is not a job for weaklings, so what else could I do but grit my teeth and bite down on another contractually provided Maley Dale dexamphetamine, and continue my perilous trek towards Everest? Elon Musk, meanwhile, was oblivious to my panting and groaning, and merely continued gently yodelling into the steep mountainsides and plunging gorges all around.
It was after that gruelling first day out of Kathmandu, as the hard-working beasts of burden were collected in a makeshift corral on a bleak and gusty Nepalese slope that I first met Keith from Reuters. As I grazed disconsolately on the evening repast of slightly mouldy sorghum and dank hay, a remarkably attractive and gleaming tan llama edged into the feeding bay next to me, amongst the asses mules and dromedaries. It was then, to my slight surprise, that this imposing llama pulled a mask off, to reveal the very human face of a beaming, balding middle-aged man.
Keith the chirpy Cockney animal impersonator was to become a firm friend, sometime colleague and staunch confidante in the years to come, as well as best man at my first wedding. All who knew Keith still mourn his inexplicable and accidental demise on assignment at Royal Ascot in 2004, just after the third jump.
“Orright, geezer?” enquired the pantomime llama, personably. “You got a fag?”
As a young freelancer in those days, all I could afford was a basic pack mule costume, which did the job, but little else. But Keith the multi-award-winning ace Reuters llama impersonator was a cut above the rest. He was a credit to Reuters' large and illustrious undercover ungulate bureau.
It was around noon on day three of our trek to Base Camp One that Musk gave up any interest in Bonny, the assumed identity of the pack mule in whose guise I had really almost rather too easily infiltrated Elon Musk's vast and unimaginably extensive circus parade Everest entourage.
From the first moment Musk laid eyes on the fluffy and svelte figure of Keith the fake Reuters llama, it was obvious he was smitten. At the time, Elon was riding backwards on my quasi-pack mule back, but when Keith fluttered his false llama eyelashes, Musk fell immediately and ineluctably under his spell.
As normal, Musk was riding on my mulish back facing towards Kathmandu. He had, I recall, only hours before decided to stop yodelling – something, in fact, I found quite soothing and even contemplative – and had taken to singing Abba tunes in a fiercely coarse and guttural Afrikaans. I wasn’t quite sure how much more of this I could take.
But suddenly, just as the lunch flügelhorn began to sound at the head of the line, Musk leapt to the ground and took a heroic pose on the track, arms outstretched. He was facing Keith the Reuters llama, who was trudging along stoically beside us. Musk looked deeply into Keith's pretend llama eyes and cried out loudly. He cried out something so hideously offensive and disgusting, it caused widespread retching and vomiting throughout the caravanserai. I knew, by this, it could only be an imprecation of deep undying love in Afrikaans.
Keith the llama impersonator, from Reuters' crack team of undercover animal infiltration experts, however, was a credit to his profession. Despite Musk's amorous, horrifyingly proto-Dutch entreaties of passion, Keith merely shyly and coquettishly returned Musk's gaze, slyly nickering.
For the next 12-and-a-half days, as we trekked through the unforgiving foothills of the spine of the world, and much to my relief, Elon Musk wrapped himself lovingly around the long phoney neck of Keith the Reuters investigative reporter who had so convincingly captured the essence of a saucy llama. All the while, Musk toyed with Keith's gloriously lustrous faux llama pelt, gently cooing Air Supply ballads in German, as Keith manfully attempted to not take them both over the edge and into a deep crevasse. To this day, I often wake up in a cold sweat screaming, "No more verloren in der liebe!".
Little did we know what further horror and tragedy was yet to befall us.
DISCLAIMER: The above tale is completely untrue. Only some of the names remain the same to imperil the innocent.
COMING UP SOON, THE PENULTIMATE CHAPTER: 'Chapter 3: The horrifying tragedy at Base Camp One'. This is the second part of a four-part series. The third instalment will be published at noon, Friday, 16 June 2023. Read Chapter One HERE and Chapter Three HERE.
*This article is also available on audio here:
- My part in Elon Musk’s horrifying and tragic Everest catastrophe (Chapter One)
- Elon Musk, the world's richest cooker, has made Twitter taste terrible
- Elon Musk accused of hypocrisy by kicking critical journalists off Twitter
- Elon Musk: The mad megarich Twitter owner
- Elon Musk's SpaceX now leaving junk in our own backyard
Support independent journalism Subscribe to IA.