Sunday, April 3, 2011

Divide and Conquer

Right this very minute I am sitting under a cabana next to our room in the Chitwan National Park after morning jungle activities...I know you're wondering how we got here from where we were at the time of the last posting so I will do my best to fill you in.  Try to keep up as it has been a wild ride for us and it'll feel that way as you read along!

March 24th - we had an aclimatization day the day before and so our knees are screaming and calves are bulging from the hills we climbed and came back down from.  We are getting higher and higher in the Himilaya's and the paths are turning into glorified cow trails although there are no cows, only yaks and a few mules.  Our guide Pratap has told us to follow the yak dung because the yak's find the best route through the paths and rocks and we obediantly follow what we have dubbed the yellow brick road.  At first we are grossed out by the piles of dung but after awhile we can't smell it anymore and certainly don't care if we are stepping in it because we have other things on our minds...

The trail became very narrow and if we were not hugging the mountain so yaks and porters can pass we were trying to keep our eyes from the view beside us which is a sheer drop off into the abyss below.  It was beautiful and dangerous all at once and our hearts were hammering in time with our steps.  We ended the day in a small village called Debouche complete with a little tea house run by a Nepalese lady who works part of the year in Austria and has an excellent set-up for tourists.  We had a wood fire which lifted our spirits but quickly realised that Namche Bazaar would be our last shower for awhile because there is no hot water up there.

March 25 - Nice weather to start the climb for the day, we have commented how lucky we had been with good weather so far and are very thankful for it!  The mountains all around close in on us daily.  We are closer to Ama Dablam and see Everest once in awhile, Lotse rises above us.  Today we broke free of the tree line and felt the cool breezes immediately.  That's actually understating it...we are flippin cold at this point and our sweat feels like a cold wet blanket against our skin.

Each day we expect to be climbing straight up in order to gain altitude but we are surprised by the amount of ups and downs along the trail.  We enjoy the downs until we realize that we will have to go back up as much as we've just come down and then some in order to get anywhere on this mountain.  We have crossed a total of 15 suspension bridges as of this day.  We are getting used to the swinging motion and the rocking as people cross and have learned how to balance, walk, take pictures and pass porters and other trekkers all at the same time while not losing our footing.  It is quite a feat as the wind blows so hard that all the prayer flags attached to the bridge are blowing stiff and straight.

On this day we saw 3 rescue helicopters flying by and it sobers us to the reality of what we are doing.  We almost needed to use one when we stopped for lunch...ordered ginger tea and all of us drank about 2 cups each out of a large thermos.  There was a little left so Beatrice and I poured the remainder into our mugs are were about to drink when I saw something myserious at the bottom of my cup.  I fished it out with a spoon and smelled it...lets just say whatever it was certainly did not belong in a tea cup, more than likely it came off of the bottom of someone's boot who had just been down the yellow brick road!  Yakity yak yak yak.

The end of this day saw us at a small, dirty and cold little tea house in a village called Periche.  The tea house was partly made of plywood, partly tarped in.  There was a yak dung fire in a small stove in the middle of the common room where we huddled until the last possible moments.  We were the only people there...small wonder!  The  people who ran it were wonderful and they had a beautiful little girl whose name is Denzing and we made the best of our time by playing some games and Valerie gave Denzing some "Canada" socks and candy.  It also helped us keep our minds off the fact that it had begun to snow...hard!

March 26 - Awoke to snow on the ground and another stiff wind blowing.  The snow peetered out after awhile but after a bad night where none of us slept very well and still being frozen from the day before, it felt like a rough start to the day.  I had been headachy for the last couple of days and trying to manage what I knew was the on-set of high altitude sickness with litres and litres of water and Diamox. 

This day was an extremely challenging climbing day.  We went through a boggy area and climbed over rocks and forded streams and pushed through loose gravel areas.  All the while we could see what lay ahead for the day...a mountain pass that we had to get up and over before we would reach our destination for the night.  The altitude was becoming evident as we had to breathe deeper and slower.  Each footstep got a bit slower and we needed to take more breaks.  We came to a rest place where there are shrines set up for each person who has lost their life climbing Everest, they ring the rest area and form a wall from the cliffs beyond. 

We climbed over 700 meters that day and by the time we got to Lobouche for the night we were bone weary.  I was feeling off, nothing I could put my finger on but certainly not just winded from the climb. In my journal for the evening I write that I must be ill because I am drinking hot water and actually enjoying's all I could keep down.  I only made it until 7pm and went to bed thinking I would feel better in the morning but by morning I knew that it was the end of the road for me.

It was decided that I would return to Periche with one of the porters Binod, and the girls would carry on to Gorek Shep and Base Camp with Pratap.  My return to Periche was brutal and I am thankful for all the prayers I could feel on my behalf.  In Periche there is a clinic with international doctors running it which is where our first stop was.  They pumped me full of pure oxygen for over an hour and tried to bring my heart rate down and then took care of my other needs.  Binod my faithful porter stayed by my side the whole time and I was so thankful for his help.

The girls in the meantime had made it to Gorek Shep but had decided against going on to Base Camp as the weather was really poor and knew they would be able to see Base Camp from Kallapatar which was the place they were going to early the next morning.  That night in Gorek Shep they were almost done in from the kerosene fumes from the cooking.  At that altitude the fumes don't dissapate but hang in the air.  All three of them tried to sleep through the fumes but had a terrible time of it.  They got up early the next morning to get a good start to Kallapatar which is a great viewing spot early in the morning of Everest and Tina and Valerie were able to make it the whole way.  Beatrice was very sick from the fumes and waited for them in Gorek Shep after starting up Kallapatar and realizing that she was worse than she originally thought.  The weather was cloudly and snowy up at Kallapatar and so they couldn't see Everest or Base Camp and so descended quickly and met back up with Beatrice and met up with me the following morning.

We are thankful to all be feeling well at this point, no ill effects from all that craziness and incredibly thankful for the wonderful experience it was by all accounts.  We have all learned a lot, seen a lot and gone through a lot together...friendship is a true gift from God.  I will sign off now as I need to go ride some elephants pretty soon, yah, you heard to follow!!        

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