The Expedition – Day 5
City – Machermo
Elevation – 4,400m (14,500ft)
Trekking Time – 4 hours
With little to no sleep the previous night, we reluctantly got up bright and early at the normal 6:00am rise. 2 hours of breakfast and fucking around brought us to after 8:00am before we actually hit the road. When we did, it was an uphill battle. Not nearly as steep as previous days, the hike was steep enough and relentless enough to make it a challenge that was definitely not welcomed, as the trail went up and down up and down, with considerably more ups than downs. We were both not feeling great, me constantly coughing up phlegm every 5 minutes and Zita constantly wiping off a running nose, and what was suppose to be another fairly simple day was not simple at all, and it lasted for 4 hours. But We persevered and powered on until we reached our destination of Machermo (4400m).
As always the case, the beautiful scenery of mountains more than make up for the struggles. That’s the thing with traveling, people often want everything made easy for them and handed to them on a silver platter. It does make sense because travelers are generally on vacation wanting to relax and give as little effort as required. However, I find that the more difficult trips and adventures, which require a lot of work to get through, to be more rewarding. You feel a sense of accomplishment that you made it happen. Walking towards the gorgeous Gokyo Valley, I had this feeling running through head. And even when Zita suggested that she has doubts about making it all the way to Everest, my initial reaction of disappointment was quickly washed away. I looked straight ahead at a clear sight of the amazing Mount Cho Oyu (8150m) and a smile came inside of me.
Arriving at Machermo, we immediately fell into our beds and laid down for 10minutes before eating some delicious vegetable curry rice for lunch. Feeling a little better after the food, we walked over to a new medical rescue post that was built for the village. This medical center is run by volunteers from International Porter Protection Group, generally westerners from UK, France, Canada, etc. helping out the porters, who generally are not treated very well and are often taken advantage of and not looked after. The rescue post provides a shelter with good facilities for the porters at a discounted rate, and it also serves as a medical center for trekkers suffering from AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness) from the altitude. Although we feel a little sick, we are not suffering from AMS, but we did partake in the daily lecture that the volunteers give for free about AMS. At this elevation, serious cases of altitude sickness begin to become a concern. This is similar to the medical in the town of Periche, which has be running for a while on the otherside of the valley along the trail to Everest Base Camp at a comparable elevation.
We learned that the likelihood of AMS does not relate to how fit or how well condition one is, it is more of a genetic thing than anything else. And generally, younger trekkers tend to be more prone to getting AMS than older people, because they usually charge up the mountain much quicker than they should. A 300 to 500m elevation gain is all that is recommended per day. The only cure for AMS is to go back down to a lower altitude with someone else looking after you at all times, until you feel better. We also were told that a solo Japanese trekker had died in his sleep yesterday in the next town because he was suffering from severe AMS and did not listen to warnings or others advice along the way. That certainly put things into perspective for us. The lecture was very informative and gave us a better understanding of altitude sickness.
The rest of the evening was spent warming up in front of the fire place and reading. And after a sleepless night the night before, we could not sleep again tonight. But it wasn’t because we were thinking about the Japanese trekker, our bodies were still not use to the thin air.