Sunday, 27 September 2009

Day 14, Trekking Day 13 - Pheriche to Namche Bazaar

Last night I got talking to a German in our tealodge who was travelling up alone. Really brave or really stupid? I dunno. He managed to get himself caught out in the dark so was glad for the company as he was really scared that he had lost his way in the dark and didn't know where he was, passing only a few people, not really knowing whether he was on the right path. Thankfully he found himself at our tealodge. He was showing signs of AMS and I supplied him with ibuprofen as he'd already taken some paracetamol. I'm no medic but I did suggest that if he wasn't better in the morning, go and check himself out at the Mountain Rescue Centre, which was in Pheriche.

Also, the German couple who lived in Holland were there, with whom I got chatting to in Dengboche and who Dr Nick helped on the morning that I had decided to not come up. She was very chatty and grateful for his help and Dr Nick really helped her husband who was showing symptoms of AMS. Lovely couple. She gave me some Immodium.

I forgot to mention (while we're on the subject of people I was speaking to) that while at Gorak Shep I met a lovely young Britistani lady called Rahila Hussein who said she was on tour around the region, travelling up into Pakistan seeing relatives and picking up recipes for a cookbook. She's going to email me a recipe for a fish curry which I'll have to give her my opinion on. Hope she does.

Anyway, we carry on down to Namche Bazaar which we are all excited about. We seem to be travelling in several groups. The fast group, the slow group (me included) and the quarantined.

Immodium is working it's stuff and I'm glad. The route starts taking on familiar sights; the highest occupied village, the stone boundaried fields, the windy paths, all going down hill which was such a blessing. Eventually the track evened out but my tummy was getting the better of me. It was making me feel a bit weaker than usual. When we finally get to TyangBoche, I have o take an extended loo break as everyone seems to have got here earlier than I have. Was I that far behind? Am I with another group? I remember the hill track down with some fondness as we pass some trekkers on their ascent. They look tired and worn. We say, 'Not far now, and at the top you get to see Everest,'. I must admit a certain smugness did colour the undertone of my words, though the supportive look of recognition did try to convey a certain sympathy. I was chatting to Joe Williams for a bit before he got a bit quiet. I shared my last snickers with him as he was feeling hungry.

I shouldn't have done that really. Minutes later, Joe complains of feeling none too well and we all have to sit and take a break from walking at one of the bridges. A couple of shops that were there selling trinkets and bric-a-brac took our minds off the sick ones.

We continue along after it's decided that everyone is going to make the final push to Namche, no one is going to stay behind, despite the growing numbers of the unwell. Drisla and the other doctors confer that it's tough and that they should've stuck to their guns and not let us take the decision in travelling down over 3 days. It's really tiring for everyone and everyone seemed to be dropping like flies from exhaustion. I'm watching myself for signs of the lurgy. For too early for any of that nonsense if I got it from Joe. It'll hit me in Kathmandu if it does.

We struggle on through the closing darkness, I'm bringing up the rear. As ever. Curry has loaned me the use of his pole. I'm not sure if I can say anything other than double entendres as I'm really tired. It's my default setting. Every corner we turn we expect to see the familiar thighs of Namchee, with her populated crotch, but no. It doesn't happen. A few of the guys try to cheer me up by saying that we have left Khumjung ages ago, or bypassed it somehow. I can't see how that could've happened. Another corner, still no Namchee.

Just as the sun had gone behind the hill, just as it started getting cold, just as the blue sky had turned lavender, we turn a corner and see below us a house on a hillside on the next corner. Going past that, more houses, the dirt road turns to rough paving, houses appear on either sides, lights are glowing secrets behind curtained windows. A few smiling guides are on street corners telling us where to turn. We're in a different tealodge to the one we were in on the way up. This one I think takes all of us. I enter and dump bags, see others, organise a room, re-organise a room as Joe really needs to be quarantined.

I sit down to eat and I think I drink 3 cans of coke. I clearly need the sugar. Others arrive, looking pissed off. I don't think we look the most welcoming as we're just as zombied out as they are. Spirits are at their lowest amongst the whole troupe but no one has the energy to say anything apart from the medics. Early to bed methinks. Night night.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

The Trek Down. Gorak Shep to Pheriche Day 13, Trekking Day 12

These journal entries are made up from notes and scribbles, reminders of the journey down. I couldn't write that much as you will see why later.

We get up early the next day, some people have gotten up even earlier to go up to Kalapatthar, something which I hope I don't regret not doing. I know that the view of Everest is meant to be amazing from there but really, I should really have gone but I know that it'll just knacker me out for the rest of the day. I've had an amazing time getting up here, I've reached the goal of getting photos of the match, I've reached higher than any other Zubairi, I've pushed myself harder than I ever expected to. No, I'm going to stay in my bed for that extra hour. Joe had a better night's sleep I must say. There was no baby bear being attacked in the woods this time.

I wasn't looking forward to going over the Khumbu Glacier again. That journey up here was bad enough. It wasn't as if we were going to be going downhill, no, it was a constant going up to go down. Rocky but easier this time round, even though the first 45 minutes was going uphill as usual. This time I was travelling more in the group which was great. I think everyone's feeling glad to be heading home. We are in the first group to go. There's a 2nd group behind us and a third made up of the Kalapatthar climbers behind them.

Going past Lobuche we didn't hang about though we stop to collect water from the spring there and made our way back up again. We were heading towards Pheriche and not Dingboche this time to go and visit the Himalayan Rescue Association. On a hill I get some slide photos of the mountain and a sticker for my friend Din and his currypuff business in Manchester: Of course, going up the hill, I trail behind but we pass an old woman with a beautifully wrinkled face who was stood watching and praying with her beads. She becomes a character in a poem that I've been fermenting in my head. I give her a low namaste with both ands and she returns it, smiling and starts to walk with us, a little further behind me.

We get to the small plateau where the monuments are and take a rest. It still feels very sacred, this plateau with it's crown of mountains. More photos. I touch the boulder where Alex Lowe's name is carved by his friend, just for luck. Lucy, who usually finds descending difficult because of her knees is trailing behind so it's perfect excuse to catch up with her and sing our way down the hill. Eventually we reach Duggla (Thukla) again where we had that nice meal of noodles in spicy soup which was popular. So far in a morning we've done in a few hours what took us 2 days to ascend and I feel much relief that what we're doing is going to be fairly easy and spirits were up.

While we were eating, there was another group of us that were coming down, much slower and there seemed to be a problem. Suddenly the available medics left and joined that group. James Markby was not in a good way. Immediately he was laid down and covered and had a line put in him. There was a group around him, assisting, fetching water, keeping him warm. One of the other photographers was taking newsworthy shots. When it was apparent that Markby was showing signs of returning back to normality it was decided that the rest of us should continue. Apparently there was a virus going around which he was showing signs of. Dehydration, D and V. The medics suggested that they will travel with him until Pheriche, our next stop, where the Himalayan Mountain Rescue clinic was situated.

Lucy and I seem to be going a different way from the way we came. I think we're lower down the valley, the ridge with the path way above us. The first lot of our group were way ahead and at the bottom of the hill, looking like specks. There was another group way behind us, looking like specks. Perhaps further behind them was another group. We'd seem to be split into smaller groups. Dr. Isla suggested that there be a group of sickkies as it was apparent that there were more people showing symptoms of the virus.

Lucy and I were taking it slowly as I didn't want to put any additional pressure on her knees. It being rocky descending didn't make it any easier. We finally got to the bottom of the hill and the valley floor stretched for miles before us, with the river breaking cutting it's rough way over the rocky floor. Way, way in the distance it was grassy and welcoming, with a few scattered farms. The first lot were ahead, looking like dots and had just about reached the grassy section. Way ahead of that was a village, which must be Pheriche. It looked like the others would reach it in half an hour or so.

An hour later the first group were still dot sized but still hadn't reached the village. We'd got to the grassier section, taking stepping stones over the shallower part of the river. There were a few yaks here, cattle, being penned in stone walled fields. The grass. So green, so lush. "It could be the Peak District" noted Luce. She's probably right. I've never been to the Peak District. We'd not seen grass for days, and come to think of it, not much for about a week. It looked so green and rich. There was a baby yak, about the size of a full-grown goat which was so cute! Little baby yak! I hope Lucy's photo comes out.

Eventually the others reached the village and we got there probably half an hour or so after that. The sun was slowly going down behind the mountains and it was beginning to get chilly again.

We got to our tealodge in Pheriche and we were amazed at the luxuriousness of it. Compared to the one on Gorak Shep, this was positively The Shangri-La. The hotel, not the place (which I never thought was a real place until I saw it on a map). The tealodge where we dined was actually full so I shared with The Chidge in the tealodge over the way, which wasn't as nice but the facilities were just as clean.

Everybody seemed to be coming down with more and more symptoms of the virus. After I'd put my bags into my room, and had got settled with a cup of sweet milky tea, Lucy and I saw others running past the large windows up the track with a stretcher. Was it Markby? Who was it this time?

About half an hour later they arrived and the offending person was whisked away to a quarantined room and dealt medical attention. Then came dinner. Then another talk by the medics about how some people will be travelling tomorrow in a smaller, quarantine group as there were quite a few who were ill and contagious. It's possibly the virus, it might just be really bad guts but the medics weren't taking any chances.

So far today we'd done in 6 hours what it took 3 days coming up. We were in good spirits though everyone was beginning to get really tired and the ill people were making everyone a bit nervous and making people feel down. (Not the people themselves, just the fact that there was illness around. People don't like illness, it reminds us of mortality.)