Day 14 – Pokhara
Route: Tatopani – Beni – Pokhara (by bus – Thank goodness!)
An early start today. I sit feeling almost paralysed on my bed, Ben having to pack everything away like many mornings when I felt horrendous. This is when I feel the worst – today. Maybe the anticipation of seeing a Doctor made my body relax which meant all energy I had left is now gone.
The first bus is a local bus which comes with the usual shakes & stirs for a good two hours until we reach Beni. Thankfully we are not sitting at the back but are squashed right at the front with almost no leg space to spare. Two Indians hop on a bus and Kishor is seated right in front of us, all of them facing us – trying not to look at each other as it would be too awkward.
One of the Indian guys takes out some tobacco which he rolls in his fingers before placing it under his tongue. Both of their pinky fingers are long and pointy and they wear a ring on the too. Some Nepali, like Ganesh wear their rings on the index finger. Usually a silver ring with a gemstone of some sort.
Then, the same guy who chews on his tobacco, decides to do a manicure – I have no idea how he manages as I’m trying to film at the same time and it is impossible to keep the camera still – the shaking in the bus becomes unbearable.
For the first half an hour I do enjoy the loud Indian music blaring out of the huge speaker directly above us. After an hour I hope for them to turn it down – it remains wishful thinking as we continue our bumpy ride with very loud music. Once we arrive in Beni, all of us go for a quick toilet stop before we settle into a modern minibus – the same type which we took when we drove to our very first stop on the first day of our trek.
Funnily enough we are sitting exactly the same way as on the first day: The driver, Ganesh and Dinesh (the guide of the Spanish couple) in front- Ed, Raphaelle and Holly in the second row, then the Spanish couple , Ben and I behind them and the Porters at the back. The long drive to Pokhara is spent sleeping mostly- occasionally I would wake up as the music is very loud again (which seems to be a Nepali thing) and my hearing would tune into occasional english phrases.
At some point I hear Uberaj and Rakes singing along “Pani Pani Pani…” and shaking their upper bodies rhythmically. When I turn around they look so happy and proud at the same time. I chuckle to myself, eventually just hearing a soft “Pani Pani Pani…” in the background as I drift back into sleep. We drive directly to Pokhara with a short stop for the Porters to have lunch – daal bhat.
I’m seeking some quietness and solitude as the antibiotics are not doing its trick and I’m not feeling well – in these moments I would prefer to be by myself and try to avoid standing next to people. We arrive in Pokhara and all go for a last dhal bhat together which was the best one I ever tasted as we eat at a local restaurant near to where Holly, Ed and Raphaelle stay.
Afterwards Ben, Ganesh and I walk for about 15 minutes to find the nearest hospital. Raphaelle had suggested a hospital to go to which was recommended in her Lonely Planet – this is the one I want to go to and I disregard Ganesh’s suggestion to try the Celestial Health Centre in Pokhara. We drive all the way to the hospital paying 500NRP – Ganesh goes into the A&E department – after 3min he comes out again and says
“Today, I’m sorry I forgot is holy day (equivalent to Sunday for us Westerners) no Dr. I suggest to go to Celestial”.
We get back on a taxi, pay another 500NRP to drive back to the place that Ganesh initially suggested – ‘sometimes, ‘letting go’ is the best policy, Tess’ I think to myself. We drive through the busy road of Pokhara when Ganesh and the taxi driver try to guess where the health centre is exactly – when Ben, with his incredible sense of orientation, directs them to the place with no effort. The taxi driver laughs and shakes his head.
At the Celestial clinic I am greeted by a very friendly and polite young Assistant who asks me to come into the Dr’s chamber. Dr. Gupta, an Indian Dr., is awaiting me already. Ganesh, Ben and the Assistant are seated around me while Dr. Gupta asks me questions:
“You have been ill for four weeks?!” he asks with a concerned look on his face.
“You are coughing blood?! It is no longer yellow or green?!” another concerned look on his face while she shuffles uncomfortably in his seat.
He listens to my lungs. My breathing is quite loud and I realise how much I struggle to do this simple task.
“Yes I can clearly hear you have a severe chest infection also sometimes called pneumonia”.
PNEUMONIA?! What?!. NOT AGAIN! Really?!
Dr. Gupta suggests two possibilities: either I will be hospitalised for about 5 days where I will get antibiotics intravenously or we try the oral method first and if this does not work we proceed and do the IV option. Oral please. Hospital no way. HOSPITAL? What?!
I sit there when he scribbles down, on his notepad, which medications I need to take while the Assistant piles up the meds on the table…There is no way I’m taking all of this?! I’ve had pneumonia before and did not take all of this?! What is this?
Two different types of antibiotics of which one is the “best antibiotic for pneumonia” (indeed Amoxycylin IS the most effective antibiotic for severe chest infections). “The antibiotics you have been taking the last few weeks are completely useless” Great. I might have aswell eaten smarties.
Medication to protect my gut (milk bacteria) as the antibiotics will basically kill off everything. One medication to help me breathe at night (steroid type thing). Cough syrup. Painkillers. A ‘vitamin’….apparently…which upon closer research on the Internet turns out to be an anti-acidic as the antibiotic could just give me severe heartburn too.
“And YOU (pointing at Ben) stay away from her. You both wear masks. This is HIGHLY contagious. Protect yourself from the pollution and REST”. Ok Ok…I will…I promise! I sit there whilst Dr. Gupta takes some more notes for my insurance company and I sink deeper into my chair fighting back the tears in my eyes.
I have pneumonia.
I have forced my body to do this trek.
To the point that I’m very very ill.
The Thorong La was exceptionally beautiful but not at this cost. Tess, you gotta look after yourself better.
What on earth are you doing, Tess?
We wander back to the guesthouse the rest of the crew is staying at- Ed, Holly and Raphaelle are out exploring. “Ganesh, I cannot come for dinner tonight. Ben will come later and say good-bye to everyone” – “sure of course not a problem”. I say good-bye to all the Porters and they have a sad look on their face when I hug them good-bye. I haven’t been interacting with them as much as the others – in fact I haven’t been interacting much at all in general – I simply did not have the strength.
And now I know why.
I can see the concern on their faces. We take the taxi to the Hidden Paradise Guesthouse which I have discovered on airbnb – I almost start crying when I walk into Laxman’s garden. This is my little oasis to recover. This is exactly what I need. “Ben, please ask if we can stay longer. Let’s stay for a week. I need to rest”. All of a sudden I have a soft something pulling my trousers.
I pick up little Charlie who now sits on my lap trying to playfully bite my hand. I was never much of a dog person – much more of a cat person – but this was about to change. Of that I am sure.
Because….I mean….look at him? Who would ever resist this little adorable face?!
As I settle into our new home for the week, Ben makes himself ready to drive back to town to say good-bye to everyone. When he comes back he tells me the shocked reaction of the others. I wish I could have said good-bye properly. But, Dr. Gupta is right. IF this is a viral pneumonia I could potentially pass it on to the others, hoping so deeply that I had not done this already. IF this is viral pneumonia the antibiotics I’m about to take for 5-10 days won’t do their magic at all and this would mean hospitalisation for me.
Again, my eyes fill up with tears as the thought of going to the hospital ramps up my ever-present anxiety even more. Let’s stay positive I think…this ain’t gonna happen. All will be good.
In the end, the antibiotics did do their trick and I started feeling better from Day 2 of my medication regime. When I went back to see Dr. Gupta 4 days later much of my infection had cleared but had not disappeared completely so I was prescribed another round of Amoxycilin for another 5 days.
And after completing the course of antibiotics and a lot of rest at the Hidden Paradise, it took another 2 weeks to clear up completely. 3 weeks later I felt back to my old self.
This experience shook me. I could not believe what I had done to my body – and yes, this is what I had done to myself by stupidly forcing something onto me which could have potentially been very dangerous. I learnt my lesson.
Have you ever taken it too far on a trip? What was the worst illness you caught / developed while travelling? I would love to hear your comments below in the comment section.