I think I’ve gone blind

Not the best thing to hear when you’re several thousand feet up in the Himalayas.

Things were looking good when we touched down in Kathmandu, I’d got my visa from the embassy back home to save time, just like the advisor told me to. As it turned out, it was a waste of time, as we all had to queue up anyway, visa or not. Then some of the group got robbed blind by the usual low life who promised to take our bags to the ‘official’ transport that was waiting for us outside. If only they had listened to the Nepal regulars when they warned them about the ‘unofficial’ porters.

We did the usual tourist thing the following day and were dragged around Kathmandu. Looking back, it’s a shame we didn’t get more excited about these places as some are no longer there since the earthquake back in April 2015. Anyway, we took some photos and then headed off in the afternoon to see some of the less touristy bits of the capital, some the brochures would rather you didn’t see.

It started to rain again as we settled down on the floor of Kathmandu airport waiting for a break in the weather that never came. Three days on a hard stone floor does wonders for your back, but precious little for your sense of humour. Flights to Lukla were cancelled, then we would get on a plane, just to get off again. We even made it into the air at one point, but the mountains rushed up to meet us when the twin otter dropped 150 meters through the clouds, the pilot decided he didn’t want to die on this particular day so he headed back to the big K.

“Enough of this” we cried like a well rehearsed choir, “take us to a mountain!”

The itinerary was changed so that we could be eaten alive by leeches as we headed for the Annapurna region. A couple of guys left for home at this point, saying that they had come a long way to see Everest, and will be complaining, in the strongest terms, about the weather… I know, don’t get me started. I just wanted to be up there in the Himalayas, my favourite place on the planet, Everest, after all will be there again next year.

We got the flight to Pokhara, then on a trip that was held together with duct tape, standard. This took us to the head office of the team that was taking us to Annapurna Base Camp or ABC. They laid on a great meal that was knocked up at very short notice by wives and girlfriends of the crew. Kathmandu airport floor was now a distant memory, and we would soon be walking in the Himalayas, a couple of days later than planned but that’s adventure travel for you.

We were cutting it fine, getting to ABC and back in the time we had, but most people seemed fine rushing up the mountains to make up time. I however know what altitude can do, and have experienced some of the tricks it can throw at you if you’re not careful. We got there though, even if some did have to return in a bit of a hurry because of altitude sickness, not helped by the crazy pace on the way up, (hate to say I told you so, but…)

Home in the Hills

I slept like a log at ABC, despite the glacier grinding away through the night. In the morning we headed back down, flattening the new snowfall as we went. It was very cold, but the snow had stopped long enough for some great views of Annapurna. “We’ll soon warm up as we descend” shouts the less than useful guide who had to be guided by us some of the time. This ‘warming’ brings us back to the “I can’t see” that I started this brief story with.

We made a hasty retreat from the mountains and were almost running past some of the lodges that we stayed in on the way up, We were still in our cold weather gear when I stopped to talk to one of the locals wearing a Man Utd t-shirt and a pair of shorts. This was when I heard the words, “I can’t see, I think I’ve gone blind”

In an attempt to cool down, his blood vessels had dilated to divert heat from his core, this, and the mad amount of sweat on his clothing, (there was none coming from his skin anymore), was a hint that his blood pressure was so low, that it could not adequately supply his brain. His pulse was about to win the grand national, he was pale salmon pink, dizzy, light headed and temporarily blind. Classic compensatory shock when suffering from heat exhaustion.

Now the guide may have known his way around the place, but his first aid knowledge was less than useless. Not good when you’re dealing with a bunch of people with little, or no experience in mountains. So I took over, laid the guy down in the shade, took off some of the gear that would not be out of place on Everest’s summit, and poured water down him. He spat some out at first as I didn’t tell him I had put salt and sugar in it. Oops!

Back home in blighty, I complained to the trip advisor, who, it turned out, had never been to ANY part of Asia, let alone the Himalayas, and was not far removed from ‘I ain’t bovvered

It was then I decided that this would be the last ‘packaged’ trip I would go on… ever. I don’t want to go somewhere that could kill me, like the Himalayas, and not have someone around that REALLY knows what to do, rather than say they know what to do, when they have actually not got a clue.

A weekend away can possibly bring more disaster than a three month expedition if you don’t know what you’re doing. Getting ill and not having anyone around that knows what to do can seriously ruin your day. Fortunately, ‘Himalayan Hot Lad’ had someone with him that knew what was wrong, and what to do, so he was OK. Trouble was, it was me who just happened to be on the same trip, and it wasn’t the guides who were being paid to look after him in the first place.

If you’re off around the world, get advice from someone who really does know the score, get some training to cover any eventuality. Someone who knows about tropical nasties, someone who has patched people up on several continents. Someone like… err… me!

Seriously, don’t wait until something goes wrong to find out what to do. Learn as much as you reasonably can, then hopefully you’ll never need it. It’s when you need it and don’t have that knowledge that things go wrong.