16Nov2012

In Pokhara – with the Plague

Plague in Pokhara

Had things gone according to plan, Zac and I should have been heading up a glacier today, en route to Everest Base Camp.

But… this is us. So instead I’m whining about my cold.

For currently we are hacking up our lungs in Pokhara, looking up at the Annapurna range towering over Lake Fewa, already glistening with a dusting of snow, and wondering when we’ll be well enough to commit to a flight into Lukla.

(Lukla is, fact fans, the start of the Everest Base Camp trail, unless you fancy adding another six days and 9000-odd vertical metres by walking in from the nearest bus stop. Which, much as I’d like to cut our carbon footprint, neither of us do.)

The longer we leave it, you see, the chillier it gets up there.

But it would be absolutely insane to head to altitude in mid-November with a cold, or even the vaguest hint of a chest on either of us.


And so, we’re kind of stuck. We’re not at death’s door, mark you.

But there’s no point in heading south, where there are rhinos and tigers, as that means giving up on Everest.

There’s no point in flying into Lukla, or even booking flights, until we’re well.

Kathmandu ain’t conducive to a cough.

Now, whining notwithstanding, Pokhara is a beautiful place. With a gadzillion attractions. There’s whitewater rafting, whitewater kayaking, kayaking classes, paragliding, yoga, hiking, dazzling sunsets and sunrises, interesting museums…

None of which are best appreciated while expectorating crud left, right and centre and working through a small forest of tissues.

In normal life, one would be forcing oneself out of the door to go to work/school. But forcing oneself out of the door to go whitewater rafting, trekking, kayaking?

Nuh-uh.


I don’t mean to whine.

Well, actually, I do, cos having a cold sucks.

And whining about my cold makes me feel better.

But, frankly, we haven’t had the best year, health-wise.

It is, with hindsight, entirely predictable that I’d come down with some kind of cough, or, as I prefer to call it, an Upper Respiratory Infection, the second I hit a climate that was anything less than tropical.

Most visitors to Kathmandu at this time of year do, and given I’ve caught colds acquired respiratory infections from Spain, China, Australia, Bulgaria and Blighty over the last twelve months, it would seem remiss of me to leave Nepal without adding that to my tally of disease.

But it’s not usual for Zac to get colds.

And, given that since the last bout of colds, we’ve had a car crash (concussion and mild scarring – me), minor surgery (Zac) and dehydration (Zac), it all seems, well, a little unfair.


That said, life could be worse.

It is better to be hacking up a lung and emitting mucus from multiple orifices here than on a trekking trail. During the day, the weather can be as crisp, blue and sunshine-warm as an English June, the kind of pure sunlight that makes you turn your face to it and bathe in it.

Pokhara is a beautiful place. The Nepalese are lovely. The food is excellent. And Diwali, which I’ll write about, was entertaining even in our enfeebled state.

And, let’s face it, it’s not as if our plague is uncommon.

Round about 5.30am, our guesthouse springs into life in a maelstrom of early morning coughing reminiscent of a Dickensian workhouse full of oversized tubercular orphans.

And, you know, we could be like the poor guy in the Chinese restaurant last night. The one who vomited all over his table – in not one, but several installments — so loudly and copiously that I almost joined him.

And then, which is just bizarro, seemed absolutely unembarrassed by this occurrence.

I mean, seriously, even in Nepal, after round one you’re going to make it to the bathroom, right? Right? (It was a nice bathroom. With a throne, running water, and everything.)


One thing I am longing for, oddly, is Chinese medicine. Reading this post left me desperate for the terrifying efficacy of Chinese concoctions – because if there’s one thing the Chinese know about, it’s colds.

Earthworm and human placenta? Bring it on!

Here in Nepal, we’re on Western medicine, which, as Zac points out, doesn’t work on colds.

And Western medicine times about ten. I should probably have gone and found some Tibetan healer and given that a go, astrology and all.

But no. I went to the pharmacy to pick up some Vitamin C and throat sweets and ended up on a gramme and a half of Amoxycillin daily plus Zac’s bodyweight in pseudoephedrine.

Zac? Well, he flat-out refused to take antibiotics without a doctor’s prescription — “No doctor’s going to prescribe antibiotics for a cold…” “We’re in NEPAL! The PHARMACISTS are giving out antibiotics like sweeties, what do you think the doctor’s going to do?” — so he’s on honey and lemon and inhaling Strepsils, both through a cheap Chinese surgical mask.

On the plus side, I’ve given up smoking. I was planning to do this en route to Everest Base Camp, so bringing the date forward seemed to make sense.

And I’m guessing the boy and I will get well at about the same time…

He turns 12 on Monday, so I’m hoping it’s in time for then. He’s planning on paragliding, so wish him luck.

Photo credit: Patrick Down. It’s from the Chapel of All Saints at Kutna Hora.

17 Comments

  1. Jill says:

    Massive congrats on the smoking thing, With that under your belt, you couldn’t possible have such a bad health year next year….Hope you get to climb, I would so love to hike to the base camp….

  2. Theodora says:

    I really hope we get to climb too. We’re improving, so I’m optimistic that we get to do it. It’s a beautiful walk…

  3. Robin Lance says:

    At least this happened right when you were MENTALLY ready to quit smoking… so it should help in the long term. If you’re not ready yet, in your own mind, , it doesn’t matter if you don’t smoke for a week (with a cold), you’re heading out for cigs as soon as you’re well enough to walk!

    I just found your blog and am soooo interested. I’m thinking of taking my 8 year old on a year or two off. He’s into MineCraft as well : )

    • Theodora says:

      MineCraft is a most excellent travel toy, Robin! And eight is a really good age at which to up sticks with the boy — the perfect combination of low maintenance, but still a little kid…

  4. Alyson says:

    I feel your pain. Me ‘n the boys are still on antibiotics and no better at all. Impetigo sucks. If you find a Tibetan that can cure it let me know.
    PS when I quit smoking I had the mother of URIs too.

    • Theodora says:

      Yep, impetigo sounds horrid.

      I can’t remember from the last time at what stage in the giving up smoking cycle the “coughing up decades of accumulated tar” begins. I’m just hoping I’m through this URI soon rather than segueing straight into that.

  5. Yvette says:

    Good luck getting out to Everest! I confess one reason I went there on the Tibetan side instead of the Nepali one was because that Lulka airport leaves me nervous (don’t look at YouTube videos if you haven’t yet).

    I found Pokhara quite nice- maybe not prettiest spot in the world nice, but definitely nice to find before serious development comes in nice. I did paragliding too while I was there, deliberately on the day when I was waiting my PhD acceptance so I’d have something else to be nervous about. :)

    Get well soon!

    • Theodora says:

      Mm… I’m aware of the risks around Lukla airport — they seem to lose a flight about every 18 months, and it’s supposed to be one of the most terrifying landings on the planet.

      Zac really enjoyed the paragliding. And didn’t seem to have many nerves running off the side of a mountain. Which I, personally, would have done…

      • Yvette says:

        Glad to hear he liked it! And I’m sure Zac mentioned it but I think the running off the mountain part is over-exaggerated… you sorta lope cause you can’t bend your knees due to the harness, and LONG before the end of the slope you lift up and off.

        Let’s just say bungy jumping was WAY harder. :)

  6. Izy Berry says:

    I wish you all the health in the world and to get better asap. By the way, I’m really amazed by your son. He is only 12 years old and he plans on paragliding. That’s impressive and I wish for his dream to come true! Happy birthday to him! :)

  7. Addison S. says:

    If your son gets to fulfil his paragliding wish in Pokhara then he will have chosen a great place. I remember being sat on a row boat on Lake Fewa watching people drift down from the surrounding hills – such an inspiring sight.

  8. Ebriel says:

    Excellent photo selection for this post – Kutna Hora’s fantastic! Found you via Maryanne in Shanghai’s blog.

    Good on you for quitting, sounds like the right time. It took me moving to Hong Kong with a killer cough and no spare cash for cigarettes to get me to quit, 6 years ago now.

    • Theodora says:

      Do you know, I’ve never been to Kutna Hora?!

      The financial motivation isn’t present here in Nepal, but, my lord, there’s something about a killer cough that, at least this time around, has actually made me stop. I think I’m a week in now! Yay!

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