Day 9 (17th Nov)
Route: Yak Kharka – Thorung Phedi (4 hours)
The sleeping bags we hired are surprisingly warm. Suprising, why? Because even if ‘North Face’ is stitched on it, 90% of the time there is no ‘North Face’ in it. We hired the sleeping bags from a shop in Kathmandu which claims to sell / hire original gear. The truth is, the branded gear can only be bought from the real shops near the ‘Garden of Dreams’ far out from the main shops in the Thamel area.
If you purchase your equipment from the many shops within Thamel, you are guaranteed to buy a cheap copy manufactured in the backrooms or in bigger factories, in and around Kathmandu, from which most shops get their stock from. Make sure to get a -30C or -40C down-feather sleeping bag, if you opt to rent or buy in the Thamel area. This would be the equivalent to a -10C sleeping bag from a reputable original – roughly.
Despite the warmth of the sleeping bag, I still sleep in my thermal underwear – sometimes I even wrap my thick Yak woollen shawl around me, which I bought for 200 Nepalese Rupees (the best purchase ever!). I have been sleeping with my hat on since the 2nd night. Ben, who is always warmer at night than I am, had been sleeping in his boxer shorts for the last week – but now it is getting too cold for him too and he too, is wearing his thermal underwear to sleep in.
We have to cover our faces with our sleeping bag to keep warm – but we settle quite quickly into this routine and at some point you just get used to the little space in the bag and find the most comfortable position to sleep in. At over 4000m we are drinking between 3-4l (we should really be drinking about 4l per day) and it is impossible to get through a whole night without having to go to the toilet in between.
This is the annoying part:
You have settled into a somehow comfortable position. You sleep for 4 hours. Then you doze for another 2 trying to ignore the fact that you need to go to the loo but you are dreading to unzip the sleeping bag to waddle out into the cold to the toilet (hoping not to wake up everyone around you – the walls and doors are so thin…everything can be heard), squat in the hope not to fall to the side as your sleep-drunken state makes it hard to hold your equilibrium, waddle back to the bed, zip yourself up (having woken up the other person in the room for the second time) and hope to fall back asleep again for another 4 hours only to then lie awake for the remaining 2 (because you need to go for a desperate wee again) until the alarm goes off.
In other words: You can hardly breathe when you climb up the hills exhausting yourself, but you are also drained from not sleeping properly for days. In essence: you are just tired and happy when this is all over and you curse yourself for having signed up for all of this in the first place! Oh yes, and if you feel under the weather like I did for the entirety of the bloody trek, you curse even more.
At some point today, I start whistling Monty Python’s ‘Always look on the bright side of life’ tune. Life’s a piece of shit…when you look at it…du dum du dum du dum di dum di dum…inhale, exhale. Inhaaaaale. Exhaaaaale. At some point I sound so out of breath I sound as if I’m about to pass out. I’m not sure if Diamox makes me inhale & exhale frantically (as in essence the medication makes you hyperventilate to get more oxygen into your lungs) or whether I’m really reaching my limits.
I remember Jon Krakauer’s words from ‘Into Thin Air’ when he describes that at a certain altitude the Mount Everest expedition team has the mental state of reptiles and breathing becomes next to impossible. Only that this is at 8000m. I’m at above 4000m and hoping not to suffocate. ‘I hope I’m a size 10 by the time we reach Pokhara’ I murmur to myself and continue whistling Always look on the bright side of life…du dum du dum di dum di dum.
I can see them hanging on their crosses shaking their heads to the right and to the left…and start chuckling to myself as I continue to ignore the pain in my lungs. Right foot. Left foot. And thank God for the poles! This has to by far been the best purchase of all the gear we bought for our trek. We didn’t think we would need them. Especially tomorrow, on the day of the Thorong La hike, we would be grateful to have them!
The guesthouse at Thorung Phedi was by far my favourite. We are greeted by a massive sign outlining the possible symptoms of High Altitude Sickness.
Guess it’s time for another garlic soup….*sigh*!
The guesthouse has a hippie feel to it – I could have easily stayed there another day. The music is mellow. And the apple pie is to die for!
Ed tells us about Rodriguez – who I must admit that I have not heard of before (despite having lived in Southern Africa for three years) – an American folk musician who sang about the struggles of the poor in the inner city. His heavily political music inspired people in the whole of South Africa during the apartheid regime – only that he did not know about it. He was so famous, he sold more records in South Africa than Elvis Presley ever did. Only that the monies never reached him – he was completely unaware of his success – almost giving up on his career and pretty much living a down-to-earth life in Detroit.
I used to listen to a band called Just Jinjer back in my days in Namibia – and remember they covered one of his songs ‘Sugarman’, but I was oblivious to its origin. We all hang around sitting around the big tables covered in bright orange-pink linen tablecloths. Ed and Raphaelle have moved to the table next to us where a few more French people are sitting and are playing cards. Holly eats her dinner at 4.30pm and goes to bed early as she has a banging migraine which makes her want to rest. Probably a wise decision since we are up at 3am tomorrow for a very long and hard day to tick a bucket list experience off our lists.
The lady who runs the place is a western girl. I wonder if she is Swiss as she owns two huge Bernese Mountain Dogs which I saw playing in the snow earlier this afternoon. Her Partner is a Nepali with dreadlocks who sits around the dining room playing some tunes on his guitar adding to the already Hippie atmosphere in the room.
At first I thought he tries to play along with the music in the background. Then I realised he was just playing something which did not quite match the song currently blaring out of the speakers. No one seems to be fussed about it. He probably could not care less either. I grin at the fact that his better half stands behind the counter the whole day working whilst he believes himself to be the next Rodriguez.
Perhaps it’s his day off – or perhaps Love makes us do stupid things – and she ran off to Nepal to be with him; to live at over 4000m working behind a counter with two gigantic Bernese Mountain Dogs lying by her feet. Crazy. stupid. love.
After a quick daal bhat for dinner, at 7pm, we went off to bed. That night I did not sleep well at all as Ben and I shared a double-bed (which only happened on a few occasions throughout the whole two weeks) – but for some reason my side of the bed was slightly raised, so I kept rolling towards Ben. After 30 minutes, it was as if we shared a single bed, as I roll back down again having fallen asleep squashed against him.
What experiences have you had which annoyed you on adventure travels? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below.