At Bizerte in Tunisia, Wilson was briefly arrested and then forced to fly back to Tunis to refuel. Next he arrived in Cairo, where he had been told a permit to fly over Persia would be awaiting him. There was no permit, so he flew to Baghdad and gambled on taking a new route down the southern side of the Persian Gulf. But on Bahrein Island, on the instruction of the British consul, he was refused fuel.
Wilson was exhausted and badly sunburned from his 8�-hour flight over the Persian Gulf. Still he would not give up. He now bluffed the consul by saying that he would fly back to Baghdad and abandon his flight if the permit did not come through. He got his fuel.
Wilson's real intention was to head directly for Gwadar in India, just beyond the Persian frontier, but he lacked a detailed map of the route and he could not risk arousing suspicion by asking for one. So, while the consul was out of his office authorizing the fuel, he studied a wall map and made notes on his sleeves. Relying on these hastily scribbled jottings, he would make the most perilous part of his journey.
Gwadar was nearly 800 miles distant. If he were given perfect flying weather and his navigation were faultless, the flight would take 9� hours, five of them without sight of land. The slightest miscalculation could have been fatal, and yet, despite the severe cramp of his small open cockpit and a breakdown of his tachometer, Wilson landed safely at Gwadar 10 minutes before nightfall His fuel gauge registered empty.
By luck as much as good judgment allied to fanatical singlemindedness, Wilson finally reached Purnea in India, his takeoff point for Mount Everest, and it seemed as though some divine providence were indeed at his side. With detours, he had covered approximately 6,000 miles in two weeks—a flight that rates as a minor epic among the great aviation achievements of the '30s. Yet his supreme test had not even begun.
Wilson planned to rest for two days in Purnea before his assault on Everest, but then came a heartbreaking setback. At 7 o'clock in the morning after his arrival the authorities decided to confiscate his aircraft pending an inquiry into the flight. The delay ruined his carefully laid plans. His money was running out, and when, after three weeks, his plane was released he found it impossible to start the engine.
He knew nothing about aircraft mechanics, and yet after studying the instruction book for five hours he had the engine working again. By now, however, the weather was worsening rapidly, and the breaking of the monsoon season finally killed all his hopes of flying to Everest. So at the end of July he sold his plane for $2,000 and went to Darjeeling, starting point of most Everest expeditions.
Wilson was welcomed there by news that would surely have shattered the morale of any other adventurer. The Nepalese authorities had refused him permission to fly over their country; now he was denied a permit to enter Sikkim and Tibet on foot. As he expressed it in a letter to a friend: "In view of these holdups doesn't it seem to you somewhat uncanny that I am as optimistic as ever about my job of climbing Everest, the one I've been given to do?"
Still convinced that faith and willpower could conquer all and that some divine inspiration impelled him to demonstrate this truth to all the world, Wilson stubbornly wintered in Darjeeling, scheming and building up his strength for a secret assault on Everest.
He proved to have no difficulty in recruiting three Sherpa tribesmen—Tewang, Rinzing and Tshering—and the four of them slipped out of Darjeeling on the night of March 21, 1934. By forced night marches, the party trekked 300 miles through the humid jungle of tropical Sikkim and Tibet in 25 days—10 days less than it had taken the highly professional 1933 Everest expedition led by Hugh Ruttledge. They climbed through jungles, over mountains and across snowbound plains, and on April 13 Wilson reached his first objective—the 16,000-foot-high Rongbuk Monastery, a home for 400 monks that nestles on the fringe of the Everest snows.