Friday, October 22, 2004

fourth night of the trek

Tonight I write from Deurali - at 3220m, we're 900 meters from our goal, Annapurna Base Camp. We're spending the night here on the advise of our guide and many other trekkers to acclimate to the altitude. We just had dinner around the guest house's one large table with a propane heater under it. Ever hear about people going to bed with a gas burner running in a closed room? They wake up dead after the burner eats up all the oxygen in the room. We open a window every hour or so. Shiva admits it's not the best idea, but damned if it isn't cold up here. We got in at 2:30PM, and about an hour after, the clouds came in and everything got cold - and I don't mean the clouds came in above us - the clouds came in at eye level. The whole valley just clouded up.

Since we've eaten, I went outside and looked off the guest house's deck - the moon's getting near full and it lit up the hills above us and the clouds that are now just misting around the hills' tops. I thought that with us at 10,000 feet, the tops of those hills are above 13,000 ft. That's enough to get on a map in America as a mountain. But this is the Himalayas.

The young son of the hostel owner was just watching me write, and I gave him what I wrote yesterday - he's reading it now. The kids watch us Westerners write and like to look at magazines if any are brought - they study English in school and only like to watch the English speakers write - the Germans across the table from us don't get the attention.

And just now, Shiva gave Ewan and I some more millet wine. We ordered it with dinner, but soon after, Shiva told us the guest house's owner is sick and asked if we had anything for diarrhea and vomiting - so, we went to THE BAG. We're not talking about immodium and tylenol - we're talking about diamox and noraflexin and cyproflexin. When we were going through the bag reading what we had, the guides all laughed when we said diamox. They all know that name, and agreed that whatever the guy has isn't altitude sickness - diamox is the infamous medication for altitude sickness that has serious side effects. Apparently, the medication alone can end your day.

Besides Ewan, Nini, and I, the other people here tonight are the four Germans and a Canadian girl named Erica who is in medical school at UBC. She singled out the cyproflexin and a pack of rehydration salts for the symptoms, and she wrote how to use them in English and Shiva transcribed it into Nepali. All on green engineering paper I brought along. The hosts were very appreciative and let those of us already having millet wine for the Dasain celebration have more wine, with dry rice fried in ge for an addition to the wine, as well as spiced goat meat for a side. Accepting refills on wine at 10,000 feet with a 5-hour trek up another 900 meters tomorrow sounds like a bad idea, but the host insists.

The guests are all clearing out and the guides will sleep in here tonight, so I should go, but there are a few more things from today I should recount. There was the beautiful waterfall and the smoothed rocks we laid out on in the sun - must have been 30 ft. by 100 ft. of rolling rocks, up and down before the waterfall dropped 100 feet down to a whirling pool where another stream came in. The water was low because we're out of the monsoon. We laid on the rocks and watched the pool below. It was beautiful, with the bamboo forest surrounding us. The other point I wanted to recount was the girl we met at lunch. She'd gone delirious with altitude sickness at base camp the night before and was carried down on a porter's back to where we are now, at 2:00AM by head lamp. Amazing.

Well, the rice wine's almost gone now and so is the last other guest. The guides and porters are playing guitar and singing and smoking now, so it's time to go.


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