Day 6 – Saturday 17th – Lobuche (4910m)
We had breakfast and decided to head out. My head was feeling mostly better. It could have been worse, it could have been better.
Before we left, a few of the other guests gave me some Diamox. It’s pills that tourists often take to help with altitude sickness. I just took a few tablets from them. Everyone insisted on giving me some, for two reasons: they had way too many and because they thought my fast escalation was genuinely quite dangerous. Apparently altitude sickness does kill (more information on symptoms) So, per the instructions, I took half a pill that morning, and the other half that evening. I did this for the next few days until I left Gorak Shep.
We left to do the final leg of the journey to Gorak Shep. We traversed along the gentle uphill valley. After 1km, I told the porter to stop. As usual he was several tens of metres in front of me. I said I’d like to go back to Lobuche. My head is hurting too badly. He seemed upset and angry at me.
He said, “You won’t feel better if you stay in Lobuche. It become worse. Better we keep going.”
I was confused, “If staying in Lobuche won’t help, then going higher makes even less sense”.
He replied, “Trust me, I have many clients like this. Better we go up”.
I was buying it and issued my final instructions, “Going higher to cure altitude sickness makes no sense to me. We’re going back down to Lobuche”.
A few minutes later, unconvinced that I had got to the bottom of his thinking.
I asked again, “Why don’t you want to stay in Lobuche? What’s the problem with Lobuche?”
“No problem, you just won’t feel better. Trust me. I know. I have other clients. I told you before, lower down to stop. But you say no, we continue. Now you want to wait in Lobuche. There’s nothing there. It’s very boring. No internet. Not telephone.”
Okay, now we got to the heart of the issue. His problem was that he didn’t want to be sat in the village of Lobuche for a day with nothing to do. That he was willing to give bad advice to a client, to risk their health just so he can access Facebook is, well, beyond words.
So we descended. In Lobuche, I ordered a big jug of tea in a thermos. That would keep me hydrated for the next few hours.
After we got back, we sat around in the warm rooftop atrium of the guesthouse. I asked the porter, “so when we get to Gorak Shep how would we go to the Gokyo Pass that you mentioned?” My interest in it had been re-sparked the night before when I was speaking to some other hikers who would be doing the Cho La pass to get to Gokyo. The main attraction of Gokyo was three stunning lakes that sat at the foot of the hills. He replied, “No, too difficult. Too dangerous. We don’t go.” He then turned to the porter next to me, said a few words, and they both laughed heartily. I didn’t want to say anything else for now. The conversation trailed off. I suspected this whole Gokyo things was going to be a problem.
At around 9 am, I walked up one of the valley walls. Surprisingly, my headache had disappeared and I felt good – I assumed it was a combination of the Diamox kicking in and the litres of fluids I had started downing. I decided not to make a second attempt to Gorak Shep that day. If I felt that much better in a few hours, than another day could only do wonders.