29 October 2016, Saturday.
Tashi Delek Restaurant and Lodge
Khumjung Village, Khumbu Region. 3,810m asl.
06:44am, The Nest Dining Hall
I still woke up today with the heart rate of a One Directioner standing face-to-face with Harry Styles. I guess HRs between 105-120 are my new normal for now. But compared to our first night in Namche, I slept better last night. I felt warmer because I wore 3 layers of clothing to bed and slept with the light on, hoping it would provide additional heat like an incubator. My legs and knees now had medicated patches and got me contemplating about buying trekking poles before leaving Namche.
Breakfast was really quiet. Leo was sitting in front of me, smiling as he wrote on postcards he bought yesterday. I was just writing on my journal. And utterly amazed by the science behind butter staying solid without any refrigeration in the Himalayas.
Today we’d be climbing up to the Japanese-built Hotel Everest View, tagged as the highest placed hotel in the world at 3,880m. Then we would descend a bit to the village of Khumjung (3,810m) where we’d be staying overnight. The trek today would only take about 2.5 hours—one hour of moderately steep uphill climb, then an hour of level trekking to Hotel Everest and then to Khumjung.
Photos above: (L) Just when I found a good spot to have a photo with the great mountains in the background, Everest was covered by clouds. (R) Busy morning at Hotel Everest View.
19:19, Tashi Delek Restaurant and Lodge
I was in high spirits when I started trekking this morning. Jangbu let me trek alone while he went with Leo to the post office (yes, there’s a post office in Namche Bazaar) to send Leo’s postcards. They caught up with me after about an hour and went ahead of me towards the hotel.
It was a beautiful sunny day for trekking and I got a little proud of myself that I was doing well so far with the trek. But it all went downhill for me after lunch at the teahouse in Khumjung.
There was a group of senior French trekkers dining with us at the restaurant. I thought we had company at the teahouse but they left shortly after lunch. And seeing them go put a sad spell on me. A few more minutes and I was already sobbing and hiccupping and shivering as I unpacked my chocolates and sleeping bag.
I was quick to blame my hormones for this fit because I was expecting my period anytime during trek. My period can be a real pain sometimes and its timing, especially now, couldn’t get any worse.
Suddenly I missed home. Then I realized, where’s home? My parents are both dead. I don’t have a husband or kids. I only have friends, a handful of concerned relatives and, well, our dogs. But they’re all so far away. And talking to Leo wasn’t even an option at this point.
This was one of the horrors of traveling—dealing with sadness and/or homesickness. My Dad’s death almost five months ago magnified it a thousandfold. I wanted to tell him about how I was doing. I wanted to rant about Leo, tell him about my qualms about finishing the trek. But he’s gone now and I had no one to share stories and photos and whines with.
I gave myself a few more moments of crying before reaching for my phone and sending a distress call to my best friends in Singapore, Perth and Zamboanga.
One of the best decisions I made was to get a local SIM card because Nepal still had 3G signal at 3,800m. My guide said NCell has better signal in the mountains than the other local network, Nepal Telecom. NCell also boasts unlimited access to Twitter.
“Home is everywhere you have people who love and care for you…physically or online,” one of my friends said. And it was all I needed to feel better.
And a hot shower.
MY head was throbbing while I was crying and once I got a little “stable” took a 350-rupee shower. During lunch time, I told Arjun, the manager of Green Valley Nepal Treks, also known as the company I booked my tour with, that I had been having headaches since we got to Namche two days ago. He advised me to take acetazolamide starting today until we get to EBC. I was hesitant at first, in denial it was early AMS and convinced it was just migraine because of the cold. Still, I took the pill after lunch as preventive measure.
The pill made me pee 4 times in 6 hours. But by the time we’re supposed to order food at 5pm, the headache was gone probably because of the shower and/or because I stopped crying. Or maybe the effect of acetazolamide?
When I went inside the dining hall to give my dinner order, I found Pemba and Jangbu with the Sherpa couple who own the teahouse gathered around the heater like there’s a bonfire or something. Teahouses in the Himalayas only have heaters in common areas, usually the dining room. The heater is like a giant milk can with an opening at the top and, of course, a chimney. Fire is generated using wood and yak dung. Before I could even refuse them, Jangbu was already pulling a chair inviting me to join them sit around the heater. And so as I waited for dinner, I chatted with the locals in broken English while sipping (free) Sherpa tea and relieved Leo wasn’t around. Warm never felt this good in the Himalayas!
For a while I forgot about the feeling of being homeless and alone, like I was just an ordinary trekker needing no distraction from grief. It’s one of the greatest escapes travel provides.