Annapurna Circuit - DAY 8
It started in the wee hours of the morning. My lungs were being crushed. i could only manage shallow breathing with a fair amount of pain. Deep breaths were out of the question. i swiped my phone to get an idea of the time. It was 01:25. It was the middle of the night and my lungs were begging me to leave the mountain. Do you remember the 80’s song “Words don’t come easy to me”? Well, i could write a new song: “Enduring pain don’t come easy to me.” There are times when i have learned to endure in spite of discomfort or even pain, but at 01:25 in the morning, in a freezing wooden hut 4,000 metres way up in the mountains, aching to breathe, i did not need much persuasion to know that my adventure had been cut short.
It had started in Kathmandu, about a week earlier. Even though we wear our face masks faithfully to protect us from dust and pollution, it had happened a few times that i’d forgotten to take it along when we left the guest house. After our first day on the trail, i'd felt the post-nasal drip working its way into my throat, and by yesterday afternoon i knew that it was only a question of time before bronchitis developed. After lunch yesterday i barely made it to the room, which i didn’t leave when dinnertime arrived. Now i knew i was in trouble.
At this time of the morning, however, there was nothing to do. Neither me nor That-Man was going to take on the trails at night, so i decided that i'd wait until six o’clock to break the news to him. Time slowed down as i waited for daybreak. i listened to my breathing, but found it a bit disturbing, so i tried to focus on something else. i couldn’t read, because then i'd wake up my roommate, who needed every hour of rest possible for the next few days. Of course, i couldn’t sleep. If i could, i wouldn’t be awake in the first place, now would i?
Time was winding down like an old wooden clock ticking slower and slower until you wound it up again. Every time i consulted the clock, it seemed that less time had elapsed since the previous time i'd checked. How many times did I check the time until it was time to get up? (Can a person really be that obsessed with a few numbers on a mobile phone display?)
By the time the clock struck 5, i could wait no more. i gathered the extra blanket the teahouse staff had provided around me, opened our door as quietly as possible, and assured my roommate that she could go back to sleep when she muttered, “Are you alright?” Then i walked about 7 seven steps to That-Man’s door and knocked timidly, so as not to wake too many people. It was quiet for a while, and then i heard footsteps on the wooden floor. That-Man squinted at me and enquired, “Yes?”
“We have to go back,” i replied,
“Okay.” Then That-Man-Who-Was-Still-Wide-Asleep shut the door, slouched back to bed and continued his beauty sleep.
i stood outside his door, baffled and stunned and just plain hurt. No questions, no sympathy, no hug? Just a pink door and silence. What do you do in such a situation? As i had never encountered this before in my life, and as no-one else was astir at that time of the morning, and as it was freezing outside (the ice in the outside water container would only defrost by 11:00 that day), and as it was not wise to hang around outside in my condition, i decided to do the only logical thing i could think of: return to my bed.
Every breath hurt me. There was no lying-still-so-you-won’t-feel-the-pain. There was no option to stop breathing. There was only an ever-slowing counting of minutes until we could start walking back the way we had come yesterday.
Before breakfast That-Man came with news. He had asked advice from our porter and the teahouse owner. They suggested that i rest a day, have some garlic soup and Diamox, and start back tomorrow. At this altitude, we thought it best to follow the locals’ advice. i did everything they said, but could only manage a few spoonfuls of the soup. This was not the same pleasant garlic soup i'd had in Dharapani; it was awful, to say the least. So i ordered a burger instead. Except for the garlic soup, everything we ate there was more than tasty and satisfying.
i rested while the rest of the team went out on a leisurely acclimatisation hike to 4,200m altitude. They returned for a late lunch, passed the time with some card games, and then had a hearty dinner before settling in for the night.
Until today i have not stopped to face the disappointment that should have surfaced that morning. i’ve purposely put it aside and spoken to myself sensibly about the fact that people with bronchitis don’t keep going higher and higher, but turn around in order to face the same challenge another day. i truly hope that i'll have another opportunity soon to hike this route again, and succeed.
DAY 8 PLANNED: Yak Kharka to Thorung Pedi
DAY 8 IN REALITY: Yak Kharka (Acclimatisation)
DAY 8 DISTANCE: Not sure
DAY 8 WALKING TIME: 4 hours
DAY 8 ALTITUDE GAIN: 200m
DAYS BEHIND: 1
DAY 8 BUDGET PP: $25
DAY 8 COST PP:$23
ACCUMULATED SAVINGS PP: $31
TIP: If you drink Diamox, keep in mind that it has a diuretic effect, which means you’ll want a room as close as possible to the loo.
Other stories you may like:
Annapurna Circuit - Reaching For The Sky
Annapurna Circuit - The Budget