Everest Trekking October / November 2015
Kaji our mountain guide suffered an upset when a fall of ice and snow hit him on the head as he was crossing the Cho La Pass after leaving me. It left him fearing imminent death and reciting mantras until he managed to cross the pass and rejoin the group. I suppress a giggle at the visual of our stoic strong guide breaking down in tears and praying but I can see the look of fright in his eyes as he is telling me this and I know all too well that he is not being melodramatic. He’s telling me this after our group is reunited 4 days after I left them at the Cho La Pass. Now we are all back in Namche together again safe and sound.
I had left Thangnak with Bhir the day after the failed attempt to cross the Cho La Pass. I had requested a rest day but he ignored that completely and insisted we start walking down the valley.
It was exhausting and I was taking alternate stops for squatting behind rocks and vomiting after exhausting myself on the uphill climbs. The diarrhea had not improved and neither had the nausea. To top it off I had not eaten much for several days.
The following day was a little easier and Bhir was visibly relieved when I ate lunch for the first time in days (even though it was a cheese toastie). On the third day we arrived in Namche to wait for our team.
After suffering wind burn on the Cho La Pass day I looked much like someone who had spent some months grazing yaks at high altitude. I had been unable to wear a scarf to cover my face that day as it had caused an instant gagging reflex. Bhir described the colour of my cheeks as “black” but I personally thought purple to be more accurate. I also discovered that Chap Stick can be quite effectively used as face moisturizer after spotting one of the guides applying it to his face. After his return Matthew laughed as I shared this knowledge. I politely informed him that obviously I couldn’t use his Paw Paw ointment on my own so I had to make do with what was available.
In Namche I started to eat food again even though the nausea was still ever present. When Matthew walked into the dining room with the biggest grin and ran over to hug me he looked at me and said “wow you look like shit”. It was a really beautiful reunion. After all we had been through together it was great to be a team again.
The following morning Kaji took me to see the traditional Doctor. He confirmed what we already suspected. That I was suffering from food poisoning from that steak on day 1. I left with a bag of herbal medicine and was told that it would take a week or so to recover completely. It was probably the Antibiotics that saved Andrew from the same fate. Not to mention my bodies apparent reaction to and dislike of all chemical based Western medicine.
Matthew and Andrew recounted their experiences at Everest Base Camp for me. Matthew told me how he had been scared to death going over the Cho La Pass and that Andrew had saved his life on at least half a dozen occasions when he was in danger of falling on the slippery climb. Andrew just looked at me and smiled both of us knowing that he had a predisposition for over exaggerating things. However in his defense the Cho La Pass crossing that day was in one of the worst conditions of the season. Without the fixed ropes set up by the guides it would have been impassable. A fact confirmed later by subsequent groups who confirmed that the pass was closed for some days afterwards. I was proud of Matthew, he had started on the second day petrified on the first suspension bridge. My blasé “oh this is a small one” came as a surprise but seemed to have the desired effect along with my instruction to just watch forward and walk with a steady rhythm. As we walked along the side of steep hillsides he was always a little fearful and hesitant. On the Cho La Pass he had been forced to face his fears head on and it had changed him forever.
Now that we were reunited our light hearted joking continued. Matthew proudly telling us about all the steaks and meat he had eaten all along the trip. Cast iron stomach he claimed. Every day we would laugh and poke fun at him for taking his malaria tablets. “But there are no mosquitos in the mountains” we would laugh and he would reply with “I paid for them so I’m going to take them and neither of you can laugh because I’m the only one who didn’t get sick”.
The following day we headed back down to Lukla. The walking was easier but I was still very weak. I walked with Kaji who decided that he would like to be a photographer for the day as I handed over my camera for him to carry. Dispute his best efforts at insisting we stick together the others ran ahead leaving Kaji and I to walk together. The slow pace was wonderful with Kaji telling me all sorts of stories and legends from the area and showing me things I would otherwise not notice.
When we arrived in Lukla the boys recounted the story from the previous evening when I had been feeling unwell and had headed off to bed early. Kaji had been drinking rum with the boys and had gotten drunk. They told in great detail about Kaji lamenting for a full hour how much he hates dal bhat and never wants to eat it again. The reenactment alone had all 3 of us bent over laughing. I told them about Kaji’s near death experience on the pass and they agreed that it was likely the reason he needed the rum at the moment.
In Lukla we were given a tour of Kaji’s home, ate delicious momos cooked by his wife, watched a goat being slaughtered by the neighbors and I got a tour of all the vegetable fields. Located on some beautiful flat land with picturesque panoramic view with Mera Peak as the star attraction.
On our way out at Lukla airport we were weighed along with our baggage. It was then that I realized exactly how much weight I had lost on this one trip. Something in the vicinity of 20kg. Andrew too was noticeably thinner having been looking forlornly at his tightening belt notch for the duration of the trip. Matthew too was excited, proudly displaying the small gap in the waist band of his jeans and saying “and these are skinny jeans”.
Back in Kathmandu we were informed that both Leanne and James were doing well and rather than head home early they had been sent on some easy trekking from Pokhara. They were enjoying it very much.
I was still very weak on my return and the look of fright in the eyes of my friends confirmed that I looked about as well as I felt. But it had to at least appear to be ok as I was booked to do Annapurna Base Camp in 2 days. At least the skin had peeled of my face and I was starting to look normal.