Day 7 (15th Nov)
Route: Acclimatisation day in Manang
We all stare at the delicious pastries, buns and croissants in the shop’s window, like little children who cannot believe their luck. Our hands are glued on the window. ‘A real Croissant?! Really?!’. After eating the same food for a week, we all crave anything new. Even if we know that it won’t taste anything like the real deal.
I’m very hungry this morning and devour two croissants which I enthusiastically dunk into my coffee. Today, I’ve been on antibiotics for three days. We carry three types of antibiotics in our first-aid kit. 1) The anti-malarials which we are not touching as they are reserved for other countries. 2) A strong antibiotic for severe diarrhoea and other stomach problems. 3) And Ciproflaxin which according to the leaflet helps fight chest infections.
So hopefully this one would do the trick, Ben and I conclude after discussing our options a few days ago. The other option would be to find a Dr. which at the moment would be impossible. I would have to abort the trek and travel back to Kathmandu. I’m hoping the antibiotics will do the trick.
I had arrived in Kathmandu with a cold three weeks ago. I remember the days before flying to Nepal. We had been invited to a Halloween party and I woke up feeling quite unwell. I should have stayed in bed, but forced myself to go: I was dressed as a zombie and also felt like one. I had felt quite weak that evening and ended up passively sitting on the sofa for most of the evening sipping on some alcoholic slush puppy.
A few days later, I slept throughout most of the flight to New Delhi airport and also on the plane to Kathmandu airport, waking up feeling even more miserable. I hoped a few days in Kathmandu to relax and take it easy is all I needed to recover and I was convinced that by the time we would start our trek I was going to be as fit as a fiddle.
And what does a person do who feels ill? That’s right, they work on their blogs. I could not sleep for most nights during our 5 days in Kathmandu and at around 2 am – 8am I would do travel blog related stuff. Update my social media channels, type plans for the months ahead, work on photos etc. I did anything else but rest. And I felt stressed that our luggage had not arrived, trying to come up with alternative plans on how we could still do the trek without any of our gear.
I walked around in Kathmandu every day to do sightseeing – ignoring the many signposts of advice to wear a protective mask due to the excessive pollution in the city. Two weeks later in Pokhara, where I recovered, I had read in the Lonely Planet I borrowed off the guesthouse, that Kathmandu is one of the most polluted cities in the world and it would be advised not to spend too many days in Kathmandu as the risk of catching a respiratory infection was quite high.
Truth is, I always thought it was hideous to walk around with a mask always chuckling to myself whenever I saw tourists masked in London. So I would have never considered wearing one myself. There was one crucial fact which I had completely overlooked though: I did suffer from a lot of respiratory & chest infections in the past – I can easily catch a full-blown bronchitis from just inhaling mould spores (a problem in London flats meaning I would catch a bronchitis quite easily over the last 5 years).
Plus I have had a pneumonia back in 2011 and the Dr. had warned me that people who have had pneumonia in the past, are very likely to catch it again if they are not careful. Well…I simply did not put two and two together. Even in Kathmandu, when after two days I started coughing up yellow and greenish looking phlegm (pardon the graphic explanation…).
Ben and had gone to find a pharmacy to buy Paracetamol, which I drugged myself with throughout our initial stay in Kathmandu. In essence, I was just medicating the symptoms and felt relatively ok – but my chest did not get better. And yet, I kept ignoring the symptoms. Surely hiking in the mountains is all I needed to get better, I thought.
So, after coughing up more and more greenish looking goo for another 3 days during the trek, I decided on the morning of Day 4 when I felt utterly rubbish, that I must have some sort of chest infection (duh!) and Paracetamol would no longer do the trick. Ciproflaxin seemed just like what I needed. I did actually feel better for about 1 hour right after taking the pill – but I didn’t get better.
The antibiotics made me feel really weak! Weaker than I already felt. In another words: this trek was tough! Tougher than any other physical activity I had ever done in my whole life! I kept pushing myself and ignored the signs of my body. I thought if I gave in to it, if I even talked too much about it, the illness would consume me completely and I would collapse.
So I kept pushing. Placed one foot after another for hours on end, everyday. At some point I was in such a daze, I did not even know for how long we had walked. Ben would speak to me about stuff he had talked with me the evening before and I had no clue what he was talking about. I had no strength left in my body.
The group we trekked with was having fun and I felt like sleeping – or dying – one of the two. I didn’t have the strength to speak much to people either. It was hard enough to take in what was spoken about, yet alone to keep a conversation going. I had no idea what day it was – what time it was. All I knew was I had booked this trek and I would finish it – no matter what.
I kept hearing my inner critical voice: ‘don’t be such a wimp. Get your act together’. Now, after the trek, I feel ashamed about how I treated my body for the last four weeks. Especially after my diagnosis. I had gone too far and it was time to change the way I treated myself and my body. It could not go on like this any longer!
What did I want to prove to myself? Or who else do you think you need to prove something to, I thought? I did not have the answers to these questions, but I knew I had to think about this long and hard once I got better. What I was doing had nothing to do with self-love. I was sabotaging myself and putting my life and potentially the life of other people at risk. For a trek….!
Today I reached the end of my strengths already and we were only on Day 7. How was I going to get to the Thorang La Pass? How would I do this? After only 30 minutes, I felt nauseous and had a headache and felt incredibly weak. Every step seemed impossible to do. One of the Porters ended up carrying my little daypack and I get to the resting area at the top, where Ganesh, our guide, decided it would be best if I stay here and go back down as it could be symptoms of AMS.
I should drink lots and order a garlic soup for lunch later which could alleviate the symptoms. Raphaelle, Ed and Holly are off to see the glacier which is higher up – whereas Ben and I stay behind so I can relax. After 30 minutes of drinking tea and distracting myself with taking some photos, Ben, Rakes (one of the Porters) and I descend. For Lunch, I order a garlic soup and Tibetan bread hoping that I would soon feel better. There is a substantial amount of garlic in the soup, feeling sorry for Ben who would be sharing the room with me.
In the afternoon, Ed, Ben & I wander around Manang as Ed needs to buy a new backpack – his one has seen better days and it was time to invest in a new one. We also buy Postcards and two more poles as Ben & I only bought two back in Kathmandu initially doubting initially whether we would need them at all. After 7 days we notice that poles are a life-saver on some of the steep stretches on this Circuit, so we invest in two more.
Back in the guesthouse, we all decide to go to the local movie before dinner – this was truly the highlight of our trip, for me personally. We sat in this wooden construction of a small cinema theatre in the centre of Manang, were served hot mint tea and a bag of popcorn each (included in the price) whilst watching ‘Into Thin Air’ based on Jon Krakauer’s legendary book.
We all start chuckling and giving each other a worried look when the subtitle emerges on the screen with dramatic music ‘Death on Mount Everest!’. Anyone who has seen the movie would probably agree that it was not the best production ever in the history of movie-making, but nevertheless entertaining. In the middle of it, Ben whispers to me smiling “I’m sitting in a cinema in the Himalyas – madness!”.
Have you ever been ill during an adventure? How did you handle it? I would love to hear your thoughts via the comment section below.
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