Annapurna Circuit — Day 9

Battling Altitude Sickness

Hot noodle soup is delicious for breakfast. Although, I’m going to feel silly telling people I ate Top Ramen while in Nepal.

The walk at first is easy. Then we begin the climb. Up, up, up, up. I’m walking slower and slower. We reach the top of the hill where a tea house is conveniently located. I start to sit down. “No!” Ganga says. “Stand first. Then sit.” I stand for a few minutes then sit on a hard bench, sipping a tin cup of hot lemon, that sugary citrusy drink I love so much. As I sit and sip I feel my head expanding. It feels as though there is a balloon in my sinuses and it’s slowly inflating. As I’m trying to warm myself, I wonder if my head could actually explode and what would happen if it did. Messy. I suddenly stop myself. That’s silly. Am I suffering from altitude sickness? I decide not and we continue.

We stop for lunch at 10:15 am at Thorong Pedi, altitude 4,816 meters. My head is pounding now. I eat my noodle soup (again), take a handful of Advil, and lay my head down on the table. After a 45 minute nap, Min wakes me up. “Chom?” “Chom, chom,” I reply – let’s go.

We begin the walk up the steep hill to High Camp. We pass billy goats grazing on a hillside, hundreds of them. As we continue, it begins to snow. I’ve left my winter fear in my main pack with Durga; I’m wearing only my sunhat and jacket. We continue slowly, my hands growing colder, number, redder and more chapped with every step.

We finally reach the top. I unpack my bag and settle in for an afternoon in the dining hall. There isn’t heat, but there are lots of people and hot drinks. We play cards, write, and read. I meet Ana and Mercedes from the Basque Country in Spain, and Ori from Israel. I see Andrea from New Zealand and Tonya from the US. The elderly French man that we see on the path each day is asleep in the window seat.

At 5:30 Abby and Essie arrive. At the first tea house stop Abby discovered she didn’t have her wallet. In a panic, she and Essie began the hike back to Yak Karka. Halfway there, she thought she remembered putting it in a pocket in her fleece, which was in her main pack, which was in the tea house. Not wanting to take the chance that the wallet wasn’t there, they continued to Yak Karka, discovered the wallet wasn’t there, returned to the tea house, found the wallet, and continued on, an extra four hours added to their already long day.

For dinner, I order chow mien and a slice of cheese. I know it will be yak cheese, but I don’t care. I need some protein. My chow mien arrives, but no cheese. I ask the waiter about the cheese. He returns moments later and hands me the hugest block of yak cheese I’ve seen. The communal table erupts in laughter. I take a small chunk and pass it around. It’s enough for everyone to have some, with much left over.

Julie says to me, “Aren’t you worried you’ll have bad dreams?” I look at her quizzically. “Red wine and cheese before bed can give you bad dreams.” Hm. I didn’t know that.
6:30. Bed time. It’s dark outside and we’re waking up at 4 am to trek over Thorong La Pass.

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