Homesick in Pangboche

3 November 2017

It felt like I only slept a few hours last night before the effort to breathe woke me. Sleep at this altitude is elusive not to mention cold. The intake of air burns my throat and my nose blocked up days ago. Everyone seems to have a cough, a sore throat, a runny nose.

I have absolutely reached my limit with sharing a room with a stranger. I spoke to Chuda about it last night and asked if it were possible to get separate rooms on the journey down. Even though I have spent hours walking, with just my thoughts inside my head, I crave the true solitude of being alone.

Today began at 7am with breakfast in Gorak Shep. We decided against the trek to Kala Patthar at dawn and opted to get started on our descent. I still have no appetite and a headache that began in the early hours of the morning only dissipated after I tossed back two Panadol with a litre of water.

I’m excited that we are heading back to Lukla, and that a hot shower and a comfy bed is not far away, but I am also dreading the steep climbs that I found so enjoyable on the way up. I know my breathing will get easier as I continue to descend but I’m not sure that will translate into making climbs easier heading in the opposite direction.

Today we walked 20km or 30,000 steps. From Gorak Shep, we passed Lobuche without stopping. Through the climbers memorial and down the Dughla Pass. A quick stop to pee at the village we’d lunched at on the way up before another very long, very steep descent to the village of Periche. This was an alternative route that would bypass Dingboche. Going down it, I was very glad we had come the other way.

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A chopper came into land at Lobuche as we passed through.

From Periche we walked another two hours to Pangboche at 3,985m, where we are spending the night. We appear to be the only guests in our teahouse and huzzah – I have my own room! Chuda said if it gets busy, we will have to share again but it’s looking unlikely. I was able to undress and be nude for a whole five minutes, alone in my room, and enjoy the last few rays on sun shining in my window on my skin. It was bliss. And for privacy, today, I am exceedingly grateful because I got my period. It is at least one week early and has caught me off-guard. Stupid, I know, to come so unprepared, but I left extras like that in Kathmandu, not expecting to need tampons until I was back in civilisation.

There is a huge stigma surrounding menstruation in Nepal, with many local women forced from their homes during their period each month, to sleep with the animals in sheds or huts. This view is slowly changing, and organisations such as Freedom Kit Bags are producing reusable sanitary products for women. Before the trek, I made a donation to cover the cost of making three bags to be distributed to local women. It’s something we take for granted in western countries but, right now, I’m feeling the discomfort that many Nepali women must feel.

I’m writing this from the dining room, where the four of us are seated around the yak dung fire – Michael, Chuda and our porter Pranaya – plus the teahouse’s owners. With ourselves as the only guests, there’s little for them to do until dinner.

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I drank so much masala tea.

There are two photos on the dining room wall of a Sherpa on the summit of Everest and the summit of Mansulu. Quite casually, Chuda tells us that the Sherpa in the pictures is the man serving our masala tea. He has summited Everest four times as a climbing Sherpa. He gave up after his last climb when he got quite ill on the summit. With a child on the way, he decided it wasn’t worth his life and opened the teahouse. His brother is also a climbing Sherpa. He is currently making a summit push on Ama Dablam.

We have been absolutely blessed with the weather during our trek. Aside from the brief shower we had one afternoon in Namche, and the light snow flurries in Tengboche, Duboche, Dingboche and Lobuche, we’ve had nothing but sunshine.

Not having anyone here with me on this trek means I haven’t been able to vent or release any true emotion. My awe has been genuine but I’ve had no outlet to express my feelings. I wonder if that’s why the tears hit me again this morning, climbing out of Gorak Shep to Lobuche. The huge white boulders that had nearly undone me yesterday, brought a lump to my throat anew and I desperately wanted to cry, if only to release some tension. I wanted to talk to someone who knows me and loves me.

At every rest stop, I pull out my phone and look for a signal but so far, no luck. And then I wonder who I would call if I could? I tried AndrewNotChris at base camp yesterday and I’m sad to say I tried again this afternoon upstairs in my room when I got a single bar. It’s so stupid and I don’t know why I keep tormenting myself (see My name is AndrewNotChris).

Shane sent me a Facebook message two days ago which I received today. It made me unreasonably happy to know he was thinking of me. He was somewhere in the Annapurna region, surrounded by snow-capped peaks, completely nude, arse to the camera, arms raised. God, I’d like to fuck him again (see Holiday sex is actually a thing).

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Shane’s beautiful arse in Annapurna.

This morning, laying in bed unable to sleep, I thought about N and next weekend when I’ll see him in Tamworth (see O beware my fuck buddy of jealousy). I thought about D in Wollongong, our on again, off again, and being cuddled. I was looking through photos on my phone, missing people, and I thought about Steve and why it never worked between us (see Creating tension with a knife). I still have no real answer for that except that perhaps I’m not really his type.

I listened to my EBC playlist while walking this morning, the first time this trip, and the Sound of Silence came on. It made me think of my ex. I can distinctly recall listening to it in the car as we drove home from somewhere. I have thought quite a bit about whether being back with S is something I want. And it’s not. His indecisiveness, his lack of ambition and drive. He needs building up and I don’t want to do that anymore. I want to have someone to stand beside me, not hold their hand. (See My marriage no longer exists).

Shane on the other hand … I’d definitely like to see him again. Such a shame he lives in Melbourne. I wish there was a way I could see him back in Kathmandu but he flies out the same day I get back from Lukla, weather pending of course.

I’m going to head upstairs to my room to enjoy my privacy, even though it’s far too cold now to stand around naked just because I can. It will be nice to fall asleep to the sound of my own hard breathing.

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