Monday, February 25, 2013

We Are The Snowy Infirm

February 26, 2013

We've spent the better part of the last week in Pokhara, recovering from a 2-week foray into the Manaslu Himal.  So far, I would not describe our adventure as smooth.  

Our original plan, as thought up from the other side of the world and based on extensive internet research of highly unreliable websites, was to start at one end of the country and hike across to the opposite side.  Pretty simple, really.  We traced our fingers along the map I printed off at work, following it from one side to the other so many times we smudged the ink along our planned route.  We wanted to start in the west and hike east, timing our travel to avoid the highest passes in the early, snowy season, and tackling the higher, more technical passes in late spring.  This seemed reasonable, and would certainly mean walking through some snow, but not too much.  The traditional trekking seasons only really last 2 months in the fall and 2 months in the spring, so we had to deal with a month out of season regardless of when we started.  We chose (limited) snow (hint, hint) over monsoon. 

Upon our arrival to Nepal we were informed that the Simikot airport, our intended destination near the Indian border, had just been buried in 4 feet of snow and was in the process of being dug out.  Uhh...scratch that plan.  Our next idea, to start in the east and hike west, meant going over passes of 6000+ meters during the snowiest portion of the season, much closer to the start of our trip with much less acclimatization. thanks.  After talking to some local guides and poring over maps, we came up with a compromise - start in an area that typically gets less snow and hopscotch around a little to find the most snow-free areas until more passes melted out and we could fill in the blanks in a more straightforward fashion.  

Great!  Let's go!  What's that?  It's been a much snowier winter than normal?  That shouldn't be a problem, should it?  Before I go on, a short meteorological tutorial: Nepal is a long skinny country that is low along one long edge (bordering the plains of India) and really, really high on the other (bordering Tibet).  Storms come from the west, over India, and start dropping rain as they hit first the foothills at the lower elevations, then turn to snow as they get pushed up and over the Himalaya.  In Kathmandu (one of the few places with reliable meteorological data), February normally sees 18.7 mm of rain.  Actual rainfall, as of this past Sunday, was 45.9 mm, with a few days still left in the month. All of that rain down low means much more snow up high.  This year, it means much much more snow up high, which is really starting to get on our nerves.

If healthy, the snow might not be a deal breaker.  Sure, post-holing through 3 feet of unconsolidated snow is no one's idea of good fun, but it's possible.  We expected some hard times.  However, to add insult to injury, we've been a traveling infirmary.  Little did Abby and Mary know that once the volunteer nursing stint ended, the real nursing work would begin.  Our little band of 4 has been spiraling through an assortment of gastrointestinal and respiratory illnesses, and it's been a mix and match ball of fun for everyone, with no man or woman spared.  In less than a month, we've had (in no particular order):
  • 2 cases of severe constipation (who the hell comes to Nepal and gets constipated?!);
  • 4 cases of diarrhea, some recurring;
  • 3 cases of vomitus;
  • 3 persistent chest colds, one of which involved expectorating "crayon-like" sputum; and
  • 1 near-case of head lice (discovered in a purchased toque).
That's a long list.  The attempted cures have been:
  • 2 courses azithromycin;
  • 3 courses cipro;
  • 1 bottle lactulose;
  • 1 attempt at the B.R.A.T. diet (banana, rice, apple sauce, toast); and 
  • 1 visit to the doctor (currently underway).
We've certainly been sick on our previous travels.  Last time we came to Nepal, both Abby and I had some viral illnesses on separate occasions that each lasted a couple of miserable days, and we did come down with giardia.  But those were discrete problems that we solved rather quickly and moved on from.  This is just downright strange, especially in light of the fact that it's within a group, all at the same time, and all different problems.  If it was a case of the flu passing from one person to the next, that's pretty understandable.  But it's not.

Before our readers start despairing too much, none of these illnesses are serious, and we were aware that we were taking a bit of a gamble by arriving early.  Morale is a little low right now, but we're optimistic that some good health and a little time should cure all that ails us.  We're going to spend another day or two in Pokhara, and then head up to the Annapurna Sanctuary to see some big mountains and let the high passes melt out some.  We're off to check on the results of the visit to the doctor, then hopefully off for some mountain therapy!

1 comment:

Tiwana Merritt said...

Hey I've thought about you from time to time but haven't seen anything on fb. I remember that you said you would have a blog. But it was only just now that I have noticed with was sitting in my bookmarks (in the unsorted section that I never check). Can't wait to read up on with you've been up to! Hope you are both traveling well. xxx-Tiwana