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Around the World in 210 Days

The Trek, Week Two: The Uprising

NEPAL | Saturday, 15 March 2008 | Views [1417] | Comments [4]

2-20-08: DAYS 8 & 9
Bupsa to Chublung, Chublung to Namche Bazar
Well, we are on our way to Namche, and we are going to make it there in 2 days instead of the 4 that Tika had planned. We sat down with him the other night and told him that after looking everything over, we wanted to speed up this leg of the journey. It wasn't just because "everyone else was doing it." We have to be careful about ascending to quickly as we could get "Acute Mountain Sickness," or Altitude sickness. So, although we are scheduled to arrive back in Lukla (the town with the airport that will fly us back to Kathmandu) on March 2, and our flight is for March 4, it only gives us a one day buffer in case we get sick and need to rest. AMS is really serious, and you can be climbing no problem and once you hit your "limit," you can suddenly get a splitting headache. At that point you have to descend and take a rest day, and you can try again if you feel better. Because we started in Jiri and have been climbing up and down between 2 and 3000 meters (most people start in Lukla, and it is almost all uphill from then on), we are hopefully a bit more "trained" for the higher altitudes, but there is still a good chance that we'll need to rest a day. Point is, taking that into consideration, it just made sense to cut out two extra nights when we were so low.
 
When we told Tika this, he was incredibly hard to deal with. He kept telling us that it was impossible, once even telling us we'd die if we tried to make it in two days. Now, as our guide, one of his main jobs is to make sure that we don't die, but honestly he was saying that in the sense that it was a long way to go and he thought it would be too tiring to do. We insisted that we wanted to do it, and his way of insisting that we shouldn't was to keep asking us "so, what do you want to do?" What do we want to do? We just told you! It was a frustrating dance we did that night, but it ended with Tika saying that maybe we would be able to make it. Our compromise was to tell him that if we got to his original destination point and were "too tired to go on," we wouldn't. Secretly, though, we knew that the annoyance we felt after that conversation could have fueled us to make it to EBC the next day.
 
And on that note, we have made an executive decision. Once we reach Namche, we are going to let Tika go. We're going to make it to Namche this afternoon, but we can already feel the effects of knowing we'll soon be Tika-less. Every step is just a bit happier. It's still a mixed bag though. At times we are delighted to know we are doing something to solve our problem, at others we know that he needs the money, has a family, etc, etc. But the bottom line is if he needed the money enough, he'd be doing a job worthy of it, and we've already warned him a couple times.
 
Yesterday, Tika was a complete jerk, too. He didn't say two words to us, and we know it was because he was bitter that we were taking such long days despite him. We have a sneaking suspicion too that he hates the Aussies. We imagine he thinks they're a bad influence on us. We're at lunch now, and Tika just started eating 15 minutes after we finished three bowls of Ra-Ra-Ramen (They have instant noodle soup here. It's like our Ramen, but they call it Ra-Ra and charge obscene amounts for it). This, after we told him we wanted to take a quick lunch because it was a long day. Well, tomorrow he can take 4 hours for lunch if he wants to... Anyhow, we think he's done, so we have about 4 more hours before we reach Namche, and before the "Great Liberation."
 
2-21-08: DAY 10
Rest Day in Namche Bazar
So we did what we had to do, and we are now Tika-free. He left this morning at about 8, five minutes after we came down for breakfast. The uphill hike to Namche was serious... we had to break 4 or 5 times, and at one point enhaled a pack of Coconut Crunchees. Along the way we kept feeling the nerves flare up about letting Tika go, and decided to do it as soon as we made it into our hotel. We both woke up feeling pretty bad, but it went well and was surprisingly quick. We gave him 2500 rupees to help get home and that was good as his first question after we told him was "How do I get back to Pokara (his hometown)?" That was a bit odd, as we had expected more of a fight, or him at least to ask why. That question didn't come until a bit later, and our answer was that we thought having a guide would be less stressful, but that it turned out to be much more. It's done, so that's a relief.
 
(Again, the mountain climbing episode of the Simpsons would give you a fairly accurate reinactment of how the firing went... except without the cartwheels)
Homer: I'm going to climb this entire mountain on my own!
Sherpa: Then technically, shouldn't you go back down and start all over?
Homer: Shut up! You are so fired.
(The Sherpas cartwheel their way down the mountain in delight)
 
Today we are hanging around Namche, getting acclimatized (it's the biggest town we'll see, so it's a very popular rest day spot... even if you're not sick you have to take a couple at certain altitudes). We bought some new thin gloves, but the most exciting purchases were an 80 rupee bag of mango candies, enough Snickers for the rest of the trek, and a pocket-sized map of the Lukla to EBC trek. The last was quite a liberating and symbolic purchase. We have been trying to figure out the best route, or rather the best places to stop so we acclimatize properly. Austrian Michael's guide just informed us that the path from Lobuche to Gorak Shep (the village from which you can reach EBC and Kala Patthar by day) is hard to find because it is on the glacier, which changes with such regularity that there's not really a set trail. That makes us a bit nervous, but we'll be okay. 
 
In other news, Alex has become quite impressive at launching "snot rockets." Kelie taught us that term, and was promptly scolded by Alex. It's your basic plug one nostril and blow action, and it has become necessary as the price of tissues is ridiculous. Really it has saved us so much, and we can each use a single tissue for the day if we... do that. Andrew is proud of Alex's rockets, as his usually resemble "snot shrapnel grenades," which explode at the tip of his nostrils. Yep.
 
Today we also stopped by an internet cafe and spent an obscene 10 rupees per minute in order to let everyone know we're okay (yes, we care about you people that much). We had a few comments from our parents, and it reinforced how nice it will be to see everyone. We are definitely homesick, and are excited about coming home. But for now, we have a mountain to climb.
 
2-22-08: DAY 11
Namche Bazar (3440m) to Tengboche (3800m)
Fantasy Grocery List:
Ham, Cheddar, White Bread, Yellow Mustard, Hot Dogs, Hot Dog Buns, Pringles (Salt & Vinnegar), Chocolate Cookies and Chocolate Pudding (for Hande Pie), Brownie Mix, Walnuts, Toast Fixings, Nerds, Peeps, Sprees, Skittles, Giant Chewy Sweet Tarts, Fun Dip, Runts, M&M's (Yellow Bag), Dr. Pepper, Diet Dr. Pepper, Corn Dogs, Extra Yellow Mustard, Peanut Butter (Honey Crunch King), Popcorn, Twix, Jell-o & Mallow (for Popcorn balls), Pecan Pie Fixings, Powdered Donuts, Caramello, Chocolate CHIp Cookie Dough, Caramels, Butter Fingers, Brown Chocolate Lover's Chips Ahoy, CheeseIts, Chips and Salsa, Hot Chocolate, Pineapple Yogurt, Chocolate Ice Cream with Chocolate Syrup & Chocolate Covered Nuts (but not Rocky Road), Cinnamon Rolls, Orange Rolls, Pineapple, Bananas, Strawberry Plums, Guiness Lime Beer, Pop Tarts (Strawberry and Cinnamon), Corn Pops, Honey Combs, Cocoa & Fruity Pebbles, Frosted Flakes, Honey Bunches of Oats with Almonds, Chocolate Ice Cream like Klondike Bars, Salad Fixings with Ranch Dressing, Beef Jerkey, Oatmeal Pies, Strawberry Shortcake.
 
Fast Food We Need:
Spankys: Mozzarella Sticks, Onion Rings
Sonic: Rt 44 Drinks, Super Sonic Blasts with Extra Reece's but no whipped Cream, Cherry Limeades, Chili Cheese Coney with Onions, Tater Tots, Grilled Chicken Wrap, Burgers
Taco Villa & Taco Bell: Tacos, Drinks, Bean Burrito, Tostadas, Chalupa
McDonald's: Hamburgers, Fries, McChickens, & Milk Shakes
Whataburger: Burgers, Chicken strips, milkshakes
Subway: BMT (Foot Long), Meatball, Cookies, Club
Schlotskys: Salt & Vinegar Chips & Regular Originals (extra crispy, extra mustard), Smoked Turkey and Cookies
Arby's: RB Sandwiches (3-4)
Cici's Pizza (buffet, buffet, buffet)
Dominos: Pep & Green Peps
One Guys: Calzones 
 
Okay, obviously we were craving quite a bit this afternoon... probably because the walk up to Tengboche was super challenging. Alex got a tad dizzy at one point so we stopped for a round of 20 Questions. Today was the first Tika-free hike, and it was mmmarvelous. We did start out hiking with Michael and Kim, which was nice as we didn't actually know how to get out of Namche in the right direction... but they split off to do a different trek after about an hour. We had another very exciting landmark half way up to Tengboche...
 
We were trudging up, step after step, the only sounds our labored breathing, the thudding of our heavy boots, and the clinking of our hiking poles... when we heard the jingling of cow bells. Exhausted as we were, we tried to hurry to the nearest off-shoot from the path to get out of the way of the hooves and horns (as these paths are not made for both man and cow to pass comfortably). Like in a really really slow action movie, we stumbled uphill towards a few boulders and made it out of the way just before a black, brown, and white yak trampled by. Our first Yak sighting!! Well, except for the mini-yaks we saw in the gift shops... it was very exciting. We've been sharing the trail with donkeys and cows, and even some cow/yak crossbreeds that Andrew calls Caks, but these were the first true yaks we had seen. They are covered in hair and have stubby little legs, long furry tails, horns, and craploads of cargo on their back. They're really cool.
 
We got to Tengboche just after 2 and settled in. We made our food fantasy lists and then went to the monastery here, because Andrew had read on the map that there were "yeti artifacts" inside. There weren't. There were five or six monks sitting in a very ornate and very cold room sipping tea and praying though.
 
2-23-08: DAY 12
Tengboche (3800m) to Pheriche (4200m)
Andrew just wanted to make a proclamation: I shall never eat Tsampsa porridge again. It's a sticky, grayish-brown blob. Yuck.
 
The good news in the food department, though, is that apparently we have crossed the altitude from which spinach cannot grow, so our days of eating boiled spinach with EVERYTHING (the Ra-Ra, the rice, the Dal Baht, even the horrible excuse for a pizza) are over. From here on out, it's pretty much potato dishes as far as we can tell, and we aren't complaining... much.
 
Anyhow, we made it to Pheriche and are staying in "the White Yak" lodge. This is another point where we are to take a rest day, although we'll probably move tomorrow 200 meters higher to another village, just to take another baby step upward. On our map, the walk from where we stopped for lunch to here was labeled as "flat trail." We'd been looking forward to that, but it turned out to be more like Death Valley. An expanse between two mountains of rocky, criss-crossing paths, boulders, and dirt. Even the mountain faces were a drab brown, and covered in purply-brown shrubs. Oh, and there was a seriously ominous fog that accompanied us into Pheriche. We just ordered a small pot of hjot chocolate and played a few rounds of Gin Rummy with an expedition worker in the sun room (a brilliant concept, the sun room, except when people are in and out constantly and the door handle is broken off on the outside...).
 
After dinner, we settled in to listen to some Harry Potter before bed, but after 20 minutes the ipod made some scary clicking sounds and died completely. It was very sad. We think it has to do with the cold weather, so we're going to keep it as warm as we can and try again once we get back to KTM. :(
 
2-24-08: DAY 13
Pheriche (4200m) to Dingboche (4400m)
This morning we left the White Yak and climbed over a few steep hills to neighboring Dingboche. The plan was to sleep here, a bit higher, and make a day trip to Chukung, where we had heard there were some nice ice walls to check out. This would've helped us acclimatize, as Chukung is 4700m high. An hour in though, walking up and into the wind got the better of us, and we decided that instead of looking at ice walls we'd prefer to look at a heater powered by the mountain's super-fuel; yak dung. On the way back to the lodge, we came across some grazing yaks, and Andrew tried to befriend one. Although he did better than with the sheeps in Ireland, the tuft of grass that he pulled from the ground was of no interest to the yak. In fact, they apparently know how to shake their heads no, and after the yak shook his head and giant horns the second time Andrew stuck the grass under his nose, Andrew gave up, and we went back to the lodge.
 
At the lodge we ordered a drink called "Seabuckthorn juice." It's apparently made from the thorny bushes that litter the mountainsides, and is supposed to have quite a bit of Vitamins A and C. We saw the berries... they are like really tiny, bright red cherries. The drink was bright orange and tasted like tangy apricot juice. Alex had joked that it'd be funny if it was just heated Tang, but after seeing the berries that allegedly make the drink, it definitely should not be orange and we have the increasing suspicion that it is indeed Hot Tang. So now, we plan to eat lunch and relax, write a bit, play a few games, and just take it easy.
 
(Later that day) Well, turned out that there was a Canadian couple downstairs at lunch, and they. Liked. To. Talk. In fact, they talked until 8pm, and then we went to sleep. It wasn't the worst thing ever, but they were anti-tourists ("we've never been to EBC...we tell everyone it's crap") and pretty negative in general. So although our bed is situated on the window sill (literally, part of the mattress is pressed against the glass), it feels nice to be back in our room.
 
2-25-08: DAY 14
Dingboche (4400m) to Lobuche (4930m)
Today was the day we've been worried about, because it's almost at 5000 meters, a threshold for most people to get sick at, and it is 600 m in one day. We stopped in Dughla for hot chocolate, and then took our sweet time up a rocky and windy 200m path. After that, it was just an easy walk through a valley, alongside a frozen river, to get to the "Sagamartha National Park Hotel." Fancy name, but it felt a bit like camping while surrounded with plywood.
 
We ordered lunch and hot chocolate, and drank until we realized we both had slight headaches, a sign that the altitude was getting to us. We took a half dose of Diamox, the AMS medicine, and dove under four heavy blankets and napped for the rest of the afternoon. Now we're back in the dining room warming up at the dung heater (the man/woman that takes your food order and cooks the food is also the one that uses their bare hands to load the heater when the dung gets low. Quite disturbing, but in a funny way). Andrew still has a pretty bad headache, but we hope that resting the rest of the evening will help clear things up. Tomorrow we are scheduled to arrive in Gorak Shep and also to continue on to Everest Base Camp, thus reaching our "goal." It's scary and a little sad to think that we can be so close, less than 24 hours from our destination, and we might have to turn around because of altitude sickness...

Tags: altitude sickness, firing people, mountains

Comments

1

Hiya, you really do have to be careful with altitude sickness. I did the same trek as you and a girl in a group ahead of us died at Namche bazaar because she refused to rest or go back down when she had bad headaches & vomiting, against the advice of her guide. You just can't push it too fast. Stay safe & enjoy the trek!

  stowaway Mar 15, 2008 10:12 PM

2

Okay people,

First of all quit making up names of places.
Nobody fell for the names Bupsa & Chublung
Don’t even get me started on Dingboche and Lobuche!

Secondly way to go totally ruining the Tsampsa porridge party I had planned.
Who knew Andrew was such a picky eater.
What am I supposed to do with all this Tsampsa glop I made?

Thirdly and most shockedly Alex will be kicked out of every Harvard alum group there is
When word of her “snot rockets’ hits Harvard Square.
Is this where Hasty Pudding comes from?
Well it is gross and some young lady is going to have to go to southern charm school when she gets back home.
What would Annie think if she saw that behavior?

Stay alive.
Being Tika free means nothing if you are dead.
By the way,
I thought I was going to get altitude sickness reading a post that long but I rested every couple of days and I think I am going to survive.

  Richard Mar 16, 2008 8:19 AM

3

you know this would really worry me if i didn't know that you are both still alive and skinless. but i will act like i don't, so here goes.
you guys need to take all signs of sickness to heart as it will affect your thinking process to the point you do not realize how bad you really are and that is why people die from it. so do not take any chances as to be so close and not be able to finish would be a sad thing, going on and dying would be so much worse, can you imagine what the cost to get your body back would cost not to mention the cost to change the flights home. so if you can't finish this time it gives you something to challenge yourself with before you die of old age. and as all of us older and wiser people will tell you, you will have enough common sense at that time of your life not to do it again. now back to the future, i don't think andrew you listened when i told you to think hard can shannon (fall, can shannon break a bone, lose skin, hide, silly stuff like that) and if the answer is yes then do not do it for any reason, so let us go back to the past and i will tell you that this includes scooters, motor bikes, skates, things like this do not do it because you both could get hurt, and if you choose to ignore this advice then by all means it you are going to rent anything with wheels take the insurance. now back to the future, please be careful and use alot of antibiotic cream please and make sure you have all the dirt and gravel removed. just call me michale j. fox. i am getting so excited that it is almost time for you two to be back. when i first started reading your list of food to dallas she said we should get it for you and have it with us when we pick you up, put as the list kept going she decided we would have to take out a loan first then rent a moving van to haul it, so i guess that means your out of luck. so maybe we will fill the list with birthdays christmas and most holidays for the next 4 years. you two are almost there at the end of the trail, so i will just ask you to please take care of each other and be careful as i really do want you both back so bad i think i would actually follow instructions from your abductors to see you relaesed unharmed and in one piece. love you both, you have my prayers and love with you always mom

  mardi Mar 16, 2008 2:37 PM

4

I stopped reading when you left out:
Rosa's: Taco Tuesday

... granted I was reading it like a TAAS article anyway... sooooo.. yah

  Danmark Mar 17, 2008 7:35 AM

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