We sauntered lightly over deep trails, trails slicked by mountain dew and sodden green moss; trails that without a doubt hundreds of thousands of villagers and Asian wayfarers have once treaded. In my day dreams, built by the tales of time’s trekkers, story tellers, Kathmandu villagers and today’s bloggers, Namche was a busy trading point, where people from across Asia met to trade a melange of goods. It was supposed to be the gathering point of Tibetan, Indian and Nepalese mountain villagers. A place where most any good could be bought or traded. I imagined it being crazily busy, hazy, similar to the scene set underneath the Boudhanath stupa in Kathmandu. To my surprise, and later delight, Namche was anything but hustling. It was quite quiet actually. Upon arrival, my eyes kept searching for what my imagination believed was the reality of Namche. But, almost every store seemed to be dark, shut, and unwelcoming to the wandering trekker. People were absent. Gone. Our previous destination of Phakding seemed more awake than this sleepy city. But of course, it is “off-season”.
After around a ten minute walk through the village, seeing only a few children playing in a wet field and one woman fetching water, Rakesh told us to unload our bags. Apparently, we had arrived to our hotel for the next two nights. Expecting that the tea house owners would come out of the front door of the building our bags set on, I faced against the mountain’s view. Then, I suddenly heard a small, happy voice right behind me. As I turned around, I saw the cutest woman and another shy soul behind her. I am kicking myself for forgetting her name right now, but I remember her name didn’t seem fitting. I remember thinking, no, your name should be “Happy”. Her hello even held a giggle. After a few exchanges in Nepalese with Rakesh, she took us to a room on the bottom floor of the incredibly large building. It seemed strange because upstairs looked much nicer than the room she showed us to. Later, we would learn that being it was off-season, they were in the middle of some remodeling. Happy offered us the only room she felt suitable; two twin beds, a toilet, and enough rain water held in buckets to provide a shower if we wished and enough water to flush down what was necessary. Good is good, we said. So, we settled in, changing clothes, adding more layers on, and waiting for Rakesh to tell us the plans. And what were the plans? Basically, the game plan was to acclimatize. To spend the evening and the full next day getting use to the elevation we were at and the decreased oxygen levels. So, we spent the first evening playing cards, eating spaghetti (that was cooked in a temporary kitchen built for us), and reading. After, setting into our sleeping bags, we drifted off to a soft slumber together. While Rob slept like a bear in hibernation, I woke up in the middle of the night gasping for air.
Fear rose inside of me, as I walked to the bathroom, looking for a light. Where is my “Rough Guide: Nepal”? I know they said something about this, I thought. I was panicking. I quickly shut the bathroom door behind me, so that the light would not wake my soundless husband. I sat on the toilet, flipped through my “Rough Guide: Nepal” book and tried to catch my breath. In through my nose, out through my mouth, I kept telling myself. Though this calmed me, I was still short of breath. Finally, I found the page on acclamating to the elevation differences throughout the Himalayas. Words like helicopter, throw-up, diarhreea, expensive, and death POPPED out to me on the page. But, somewhere inside, I was determined not to need DIAMOX. Though almost every former trekker whose blog I read had taken diamox to help them acclimate, I somehow thought I would be different; that my body would adjust to nature’s grip around me. But, as the night grew colder, and my gasps grew louder, I gave in. I took a half a Diamox and stuck out the rest of the night. By morning, I told Rob what happened to me in the middle of the night. He obviously did not have the same experience. But, since I was taking the Diamox now, he would too. Long story short, we acclimated to the elevation of Namche, and with Diamox floating in our systems, the uphill climb we faced in the coming days would be much more oxygenated. Thankfully.
Lesson learned: Why try to beat the odds when the risk is high? Simply take the dang Diamox and get on with it.
Lastly trekkers, don’t worry about purchasing diamox or any other medicines in advance. Get them all in Kathmandu. It is both cheaper and easier.