WE ARE OFF TO TACKLE ANNAPURNA

This was written Oct 21, 2001…This is a Long several part Blog in one broken up by Pictures

 

We Left for Pokara by bus!…7 very long hours…I would rather trek back to Kathmandu than risk my life returning in the bus!! he roads, if that’s what you call them are very questionable at best…and then there is that wonderful custom of passing…Everyone passes…at all times…but to do it, you must honk first…So everyone is honking and the bus is very loud…My ears were in immense pain.

But, the sight of the countryside was a welcome vision. It seems everyone is working out in in the Countryside. I saw a little boy, who couldn’t have been much older than 3 or 4 years hoeing in the garden. One thing I have seen throughout Kathmandu and now in the Countryside, all the women and girls are so well put together regardless of all the dust.

Cows are everywhere…so are goats and sheep…the dogs look a little scrappy but the few cats I’ve seen look fairly good.

We set up camp outside Pokora just in time for a sudden downpour. We settled in and had a great dinner and listened as our group leader played guitar and sang.

We took off very early in the AM….and when I say took off, we went straight up the mountain for and hour and a half…none of this traversing!

In Nepal, the Villagers have created stone steps to go from each village. They are used to fight off erosion. The first day, I suffered less from altitude than I did from lack of coordination…I was wearing a silly hiking skirt because I was told that it is wrong for women to wear pants….I quickly learned that was old info and seriously bad for my ability to stay upright! After toppling twice, I was seriously reconsidering my decision to try this…BUT I am not a quitter BUT I was quite embarrassed. I soon got my balance and successfully made it up to our lunch spot…The clouds had rolled in so our view was not what I had hoped for but the lunch was beyond my expectations! A good trade off.

After lunch we went down the mountain and then right back up…and up and up…I have now discovered why they told me to climb stairs…because the only trail between Villages are these stone stairs…and trust me when I say, there were a lot of stairs!

In one of the Villages, a young girl appeared just watching us…She was the reason I brought my Mini Polaroid camera. I pulled it out and took her picture. I showed her how to shake the paper…She was so cute and kept smiling. Her eyes brightened as she watched her image slowly appear…Magic! We had to continue on…up those “magical” stairs so I bid her goodbye…As we worked our way up, I heard this commotion and turned around to find the little girl had found all the Villages kids and they were following us shaking the picture. I didn’t have enough film for all the kids so I decided to take a group shot…The little girl handed the photo to each child and showed them how to shake it and as the picture began to appear, they all laughed. As we were leaving, I lamented that I was sorry I didn’t have enough film. A Sherpa asked me why…I said  so each kid could have their own picture…The Sherpa said that they didn’t need their own, they would happily share it…

The climb leaving the village was straight up and steep…and stairs! My knee injury from my fall a few days before was beginning to act up. Tonight we camped  at a small village where I got a massage from this wonderful Chinese man . Oh, this was a much needed perk.

I have really enjoyed talking with one of the guides, Mahesh.  He is full of incredible information and so nice. He and Noang, one of our Sherpas have been entertaining us all along the way. Noang was teaching me how to hike correctly…He says Westerners tend to climb straight up and that’s why we have bad hips and knees…too much forward pressure…He showed me how to come down with a slight ski formation…It did make the downward hikes easier.

I got a real shower tonight…It was freezing but it may be the only one I get…so I savored it. With a message and a shower, I can take on the world…or at least the Annapurna circuit!

 

I am back!…The trek was truly the most challenging and difficult thing I have ever done in my life! The group leader said this was NOT a moderate trek but considered a Strenuous one!!! I can attest…who needs Everest!!! I was able to get to 16,100′(our high camp) but could not make it to 16, 800′(day trek). I got AMS(acute mountain sickness) or so they thought, initially. Everyone got a little sick with altitude..they had headaches and vomiting and breathing difficulty…I had none of that…BUT oh my was it HARD to trek at altitude…Thank goodness for Mahesh and Michael, a trekker from Sweden, who cheered me on…

My whole body swelled up…It became very difficult for me to walk…we expected it to subside as we climbed down since they thought it was Altitude sickness but other than the swelling I had no other signs of AMS…As we descended the swelling  did not go down…once we got out of the Himalayas, I ended up being taken to a local village hospital in the middle of the night …Let me tell you what an Experience THAT was…first the leaders and 3  Sherpas had to help me scale the wall OUT of our camp…Imagine how heavy I was from water weight that it took so many of them to left me!!!…then a policeman had to find us a taxi(at midnight!)…the taxi was rushing us to the hospital(with the beautiful Himalayas off to our Left lit by a full moon) when we got a flat!!!…Once at the hospital, I wished I had a video camera…no one will believe me…As nice as everyone was, the conditions were in serious need of help. At one point, after many people coming up to me just to touch me, a doctor or nurse pulled a needle out of a drawer that was not sealed and looked used. I refused to have my blood drawn so he shuffled me into the hallway.

I sat in the hall and watched these doctors walking down just as a huge rat scurried across the floor and flatten itself to go under the examining room door…no one seemed bothered by it!!!

At one point, they had me rest in a bed that was just used and not clean while a woman sobbed at the next bed as the person was dying…I looked up at the ceiling and saw mold and at that moment realized that no one in my life knew where I was and I may just die here…I could feel a tear rolling down my cheek so I closed my eyes…then I allowed myself 10 seconds and told myself that once I opened my eyes again, I needed to pay attention,  not as a patient BUT as a storyteller…When I opened my eyes, the fear seemed to leave me and I felt like a reporter…so all that was happening around me was just part of the story.

They wanted to evacuate me out but I insisted on going back on the bus(7 hour scary twisty mountain road with carcuses of other buses that didn’t make the turn so well) for fear an unpressurized helicopter would cause me to POP! (-:

Once back in Kathmandu, I got Medical attention from a Western facility…The doctor said he was impressed I was able to trek out of the mountains!!! Our lead Sherpa made me an honorary Sherpa for my determination…I refused to let them carry me… After shuttling between the American Doctor and the Nepali Doctor, I had no answer…except the US doctor was sure I was going to die because they found a couple of old clots, that the Nepali doctor assumed I got while flying over…I refused the take Cumidin for fear it would ruin the rest of my trip…AND I didn’t believe the US doctor…I actually much preferred the Nepali Doctor…The US doctor was apoplectic….Michael and I were going to dinner that night with a Sherpa from a trek he did the year before…Michael told the Sherpa about my swelling and he looked at me and asked if I had eaten the Garlic Soup…I said yes, it was amazing…they use that soup to help with Altitude…I just loved it…best soup ever…Well he continued, I know what is wrong and how to fix it…When you go back to your hotel tonight take some Benedryl and again in the AM and once I get to Singapore…he said that some Westerners react to a spice used in the soup…He had seen it several times…So Hospitals…Clinics…Dopler Radar…and other tests yielded no answer but a Sherpa takes one look at me and solves the problem…and he did! I will remember this for all future trips…Talk to Locals first…Oh…Look at this…I got a bit ahead of myself….

The Himalayas are incredible…nothing could compare…once you go into them, there are no roads…there are many villages until you get about the treeline…the way they move their supplies is by Sherpa(the strongest people I have ever seen), Yak or Mule…each village builds their own pathway…Pathways consist of Stone or slate stairs…some being more than a foot high…the Nepalis believe in the straight line theory…so all their stairs go straight up and do not traverse the mountain…one day we climbed over 3000 meters at 4 steps per meter…you do the math!!! No amount of stair climbing could have trained me….there are 70 languages spoken in the Himalayas. It is incredibly peaceful and quiet..l saw so many stars and each night as I had to get out of my tent to use the loo, I saw several falling stars!!…Ha, finally something good came of my tiny bladder….

Once we got into alpine, it got very cold…at high camp, there was ice INSIDE our tent!…l had to trek over a Ice glacier ridge…all swollen…it was a true panic…the Sirdar(head Sherpa)literally had to hold my hand to guide me…my vertigo was having a field day…The Sherpa’s and Mahesh were amazing…they not only made sure we made it safely they always had smiles and funny stories to keep our spirits up when we didn’t think we could walk any further…

The food was fabulous!!! We could not believe the cook could prepare such great food under such conditions…but he did…I had no stomach problems…I even tried YAK…very tasty…And regardless of what I learned about the allergy, I LOVED that Garlic Soup!!!

In all, this was the best experience, but very tough in all ways…I’m glad to have done it…I challenged myself in ways I never imagined even as I planned this trip…I’m even glad for the local hospital experience…I learned SOOOO much…

Our guides were all Hindu and I learned what a great religion it is…I love learning about other cultures and religions because when all is said and done we are all very much the same…Looking for happiness and good health…This place is very beautiful…Nepal is a wonderful Country with amazingly sweet and friendly people. I would put a visit to Nepal on the top of any travel wish list.

I’m off to the doctor to hopefully get the OK to travel tomorrow to Singapore and then Thailand…

 

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