All things first originate in the mind. Things and events depend heavily on motivation.
Day 4 – New Year’s Eve in Namche Bazaar
The day before was tiring as the climb from Phakding to Namche involves over 3,000’ / 900m of climbing. I was tired when we arrived, especially since we treated that final steep multi-hour hill climb as a workout and held a fast pace. The previous evening, we had dinner in the dining room and even watched a movie on the teahouse DVD player. Fittingly, the movie in their collection that we watched was “Seven Years in Tibet”. We were extremely tired when we finally went to sleep. When I woke up this morning, I was still feeling tired and not looking forward to doing much.
It turns out that this acclimatization day is anything but a recovery or rest day. In fact, the point of these types of days is to continue working, establish a higher point for your bodies, and gain the benefits of sleeping back down at the original elevation where we started. This is what athletes and mountaineers have learned about human physiology over the years as “train high, sleep low”. Walking around Namche Bazaar involves steep stair climbing pretty everywhere you go. Walking out of town into the hills for today’s walk is the same story with relentless steep trails that gain altitude fast.
The first destination at the top of the hill is the famous Everest View Hotel at 12,730’ / 3,880 m (only 63% of the oxygen available at sea level), an impressive luxury lodge that has the amazing views promised by its name. At this point, I was very cold and feeling run down. We didn’t spend much time here except to take a few pictures and save lunch for our next destination. The Everest view here also wasn’t delivering due to clouds that were obscuring much of the landscape. The next stop was going to be the village of Khumjung just a little ways down the hill.
We had lunch at a modest teahouse in Khumjung, though I struggled to force much food down. I was now feeling not only tired but also sleepy. In fact, I excused myself from the table to lay down for 10 minutes in the corner of the dining room. The weather turned colder and windy with some snow flurries in the air as we left the teahouse and headed back towards Namche. On the way, we passed through a Hillary school and walked past a football game in progress. It was funny to see these Sherpa boys sprinting around playing on their football like they were at sea level. Typically, in the rest of the world, only high altitude hikers and mountaineers ever get to this same elevation let alone exert themselves like this. Uphill progress for me came labored and I was glad when we reached the high point before dropping down back to Namche. The rest of the descent was pleasant with beautiful views of the countryside and we even spotted the Nepal state bird, a brightly multi-colored pheasant that reminded us of a peacock.
Dinnertime back at our Namche teahouse was nice as the dining room here is cozy and we met a few interesting couples from around the world. My appetite wasn’t doing so well, however, and I struggled to eat much food. I excused myself at one point to go and get sick upstairs in the bathroom so I could eat more food. This didn’t produce anything other than some dry heaving and no extra appetite. Knowing that it’s critical to continue to acquire calories to keep energy up, I forced myself to eat as much as I could, which wasn’t much. That evening, disappointment and surprise was running high. I have a good idea of when Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) can affect me from previous experiences at altitude. This situation was outside of those experiences and I didn’t understand it. Julie and I talked about how I was feeling and what this could mean for our trip. We discussed the situation with our guide and he noticed that I was running a fever. We weren’t sure if this was a bug that I caught and that was all or if it also may be related to AMS. We decided that I would start on Diamox, a well-known drug for combating altitude sickness, just in case it was AMS along with the obvious anti-viral medication for my fever. Put simply, Diamox works by helping your body better acclimatize through more effective breathing. If you don’t have an allergy to the class of drug this is, there’s not much worry and the biggest annoyance is that you will urinate more often. We went to bed hopeful that tomorrow might bring a better situation.
This was also New Year’s Eve, which was interesting to spend in a part of the world, where it’s really not that significant of a night. I was in bed around 630p that evening and when I woke next about 3 hours later, all of Namche and our teahouse was dark and silent. Wow, that’s quite a party town we have here for New Year’s Eve! Better yet, I noticed that I felt significantly better than earlier. Things were looking up and I went back to bed to get more rest.