Friday, 2 January 2009


Being ill lately has caused me to flash back to the last time I was this ill. In October 1999 Mountain Man and I were trekking in the Himalayas in Nepal...

There should be a special name for one's "last major ex". He's not my last boyfriend before meeting Milord, but somehow the 3 blokes in between just don't seem to count. Milord can't stand hearing him mentioned - ok he's like that about all my exes, but Mountain Man really gets up his nose. I've decided it's because I don't really have anything nasty to say about the guy... the worst thing he ever did to me was a sort of amiable neglect. I can't say he was the best boyfriend ever, but he was a great friend and soulmate and for a very long time our destinies were entwined. What would you call that? "Major Ex"? "Big Ex"?

Trekking in Nepal was certainly an experience (that link is a good summary of what we did on the uphill leg). Some of it I loved, some of it I hated, and then I was more ill than I had ever been before in my life which added an extra dimension.

When I first got home after the trek I was asked if I'd do it again.
"No, but ask me again in two years."

After a couple of years my answer became (and still is):
"Yes, but only with a companion who would look after me properly."

I have plenty of tales from the trekking trip, but sadly being ill overshadows a lot of them. We'd been walking the Annapurna Circuit for about a week I think, steadily climbing along mule tracks and getting fitter by the day, when we arrived at the village of Manang where all trekkers spend 2 nights to acclimatise (it is at 3500m, and climbing a flight of stairs leaves you as weak as a kitten). We found a fabulous room in a lodge with its own bathroom and running water (unheard of)! After we dropped our bags we went walking (puffing and staggering in my case) up to a glacier then back down for dinner...

See the glacier? It ends in a turquoise lake just behind me.

I can't remember what I ate now, but maybe it was soup that hadn't boiled hot enough, because the next day my insides wanted to be outside! Mountain Man went out walking with some trek-mates and I counted knots in the rough pine ceiling between visits to the squat-loo. On the following day we should have walked on, but I wasn't well enough, so Mountain Man waved a sad farewell to the trekkers who'd been pacing us thus far (you develop quite a close bond with the people you see every day) and tried to amuse himself.

On the next day I felt no better but Mountain Man "was bored". He rolled me into the shower and when I came out my gear was packed and on the porter. We made it about a kilometer up the trail before I sat down in the dirt and wept, and then he let me go back to the village and curl up in my sleeping bag again.

On the following day we made better progress, and then we generally made the required distance although I really wasn't well and measured the route in toilet stops. Most food repelled me and I lived on snickers bars and boiled eggs on toast. We got higher and colder, and I got slower and slower. We eventually summitted Thorong La - a pass at 5400m. Most folk start walking at 6am and cross the pass at 10am. We started at 4am and reached the top at 12am. God it was a hard uphill slog through a treeless wasteland far above the snowline. The water in my water bottle froze solid and I couldn't feel my feet. I remember at one point mid morning a man with a horse came past offering lifts up the hill and I refused because I thought we were almost there... and I was several hours wrong!

That's me on the right under every item of clothing I had...

We had a long rest at the top of the pass. I was so happy to be there - from here it was all downhill!

And it was. And I began getting better... except for a nasty cough that began developing. That got so bad that we actually located a local hospital in one of the villages and lined up with the Nepalese to have me looked at. The doctor was brilliant - he must have trained overseas as his English was perfect! He had a look and listen and prescribed me a ton of antibiotics, paracetamol and codeine, and we walked on.

My cough got worse and worse. It got to the point where if I stopped walking I would begin coughing uncontrollably so I just didn't stop - I walked like an implacable machine. Eating and sleeping were difficult, and I was completely unable to talk. Very social!

By the last week of the trek I was pretty much ok - bar an intolerance to certain foods and an occasional cough - I was skinny and super fit and barely noticed the mountains rolling away under my heels except for the awesome scenery.

To this day I firmly believe that if I'd had the chance to stay in bed for a couple more days when I first got ill that I would have shaken the tummy bug, that I would not have caught the chest infection, and that my trekking experience would have been a whole lot better. We had heaps of time - there was no rush to get back to Kathmandu - but Mountain Man was bored... wanker.

These past few days being ill have brought out the best in Milord. He never resents me needing a lie down, or asking him to go to the chemist or to find a fruit I am craving. Not once has he been bored by my sickness and forced me out or abandoned me.

I'd go trekking again... with him.

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