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High Altitude Sickness

Discussion in 'Off Topic' started by Jason76, Jun 8, 2017.

  1. Jason76 Cat Moderator

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    Has anyone experienced it? It's sort of a fascinating topic. Anyway, where I'm at in Northeast Tennessee/Southwest Virginia, some towns seem to approach an altitude of 600 m.

  2. jimbob Cat Moderator

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    Nope. I've never gotten that high.
  3. jimbob Cat Moderator

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    When I was younger I did wander among the Cascades in Washington state and also the Alps Mountains in Switzerland and never had any problems. Of course, life treats us different when we are young and healthy than it does when we are old and feeble.
  4. KenBrace Bird Administrator

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    I have relatives in West Virginia so I've stayed in those mountains for up to a week. I didn't experience any sickness so far as I can remember.

    I also recently took a trip out west and was in the Rockies for a couple of days but did not experience sickness.
  5. Shanlung Plant

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    Yes. I crossed passes over 5,000 meters high.

    Partly plagiarised from Harry Potter // Rustaq // 1st overland into Lhasa
    As said, only partly plagiarised. Go above to read it all

    In an earlier entry,
    Modes of flight of Riamfada and comparison to Tinkerbell //Some chess memories, hustler foil, Bali
    http://shanlung.livejournal.com/104619.html ,

    I wrote of my chess memories including that of Nepal. Moccasinlanding comments decided for me to add on what I could drag out of my memories before they fade entirely away.

    This trip into Tibet happened in the autumn of 1985 or 1986, a long time ago.

    I kept a notebook diary during this time, a notebook of paper that you use a ballpen to write on. In the years since then, I am no longer certain if that notebook can be found. Some of the events might be displaced in time and sequences without that notebook to guide me. I had taken photgraphs of slides but all those might be in Singapore, if fungus and molds did not get onto them.

    I was staying in Sita Home again in Thamel district of Khatmandu when I came back from Annapurna to apply and wait for that visa from Beijing to enter Tibet as independent traveller.

    My original plans were to just cross over that border and get back into Nepal. When I came to Nepal, I never thought of getting into Tibet. My clothings were not superwarm clothings and I brought only enough money for Nepal and some souveniers.

    When the visa came to me, I decided to lighten my load keeping them at Sita Home storeroom. Tibet was a big unknown mysterious place in those days. I was also very conscious that it was Communist China I was going into. With that and fear of the high altitudes of Tibet, I thought it to be prudent to go there very clean. I gave away all my mellow herbs to other friends staying at Sita Home for them to enjoy.

    I then took a local bus to Kodari, the border crossing into Tibet. I reached there late in the afternoon. The bus dropped me off and I walked to what was told to be the Chinese check point. That bus was actually a truck and in those days, trucks doubled as bus in that they take you as far as they can go for a fee.

    I reached there to be told they were closed for the day and will be opened next morning. So I had to stay somewhere for the night as perish the thought of taking bus/truck back to Khatmandu. There were no town or inns. I walked past a ramshackle lean-to by the side of the road and was invited to stay by the Indian family with hand signals. I joined in their dinner of dal bhat, (rice with cooked curried lentils) and slept on their floor to their incessant chants of 'Rama Krishna' through the night. I thought they were very religious. Until the next morning when I woke up and they wanted me to pay the equivalent of staying in a suite in Hyatt. Then I realised they were chanting prayers for the good fortune of netting me.

    Bargaining started and ended with me paying 1/2 of what I paid in Sita Home in the end, which was 5 times more than what that piece of floor was worth just to get on my way.

    I crossed the Friendship Bridge with my backpack and was thrilled that I was now in fabled Tibet. Walked a hundred meters to what passed for the passport control, got my visa scrutinised, passport stamped, and I was officially into Tibet.

    In my earlier innocence, I thought Tibet was just across the border. Which it was. But no one lived just across the border. There was this town further up the road and mountain side that I walked on to.

    And found I was not the first independent traveller across into Tibet as I thought. There were 8 others. I forgot all their names. I wrote that all in an old notebook, those kind with paper that you used a pen or pencil to write in. There were two who stuck in my memory even if their names escaped me now. One was a bearded Canadian medical doctor. Another was a Chinese from Hongkong. That HKer came all the way overland to Nepal because he heard the grass was greener and better there and he decided to check that out. That Canadian was checking sunrises and sunsets on the Everest trail when he got word that Tibet was opened and thats why we were there in that little border town.

    None of those foreigners could speak a word of Chinese. I knew a few words of Chinese by virtual of watching Chinese Kungfu movies even if I had to follow the plot by the English subtitles. I was only in Taiwan in 1990 when I learned to use Chinese. That HKer could not speak or understand English, but he could use Chinese and Cantonese. I knew a bit of Cantonese and so could communicate with the HKer.

    The others were more knowledgable by pre reading TIbet. I read a lot of Tibet, but those readings were on the Pundits or secret agents send by English to spy on Tibet as local natives. Or on that Milerapa saint and mysticism in Tibet and not at all useful in practicality of going about in Tibet. I came into Tibet without a clue as what to do other than going into Tibet.

    I tapped on the others collective wisdom and found little more knowledge other than the consensus that it would be better for us to stick together.

    That HKer was better in that he could read Chinese and speak Chinese and found that there was this bus leaving the next day deeper into Tibet. I relayed that back to the others. As that was the only bus, we stayed the night in that town in the only inn in town.

    We all woke up to a beautiful day, absolutely crystal clear. And it happened in front of my eyes, almost like in slow motion. The side of the mountain came loose. Boulders the size of apartment blocks rolled down. That road we came up by was cut by the bouncing boulders. The debris swept on down and cut the road again, and yet again, and yet again.

    We were told the road was cut in a dozen places and would not be opened for a month. So we were the first across, and the last for that year as it was about October and winter would shut the border after that.

    That Hongkonger, HK, ran out of money by the time we met. I found out the USD200++ that I had was very big money in those days. To get back to Singapore, I had to go to Lhasa and down China into Hongkong where I could use my Amex card again. I could not do that on my own and I needed HK. HK needed the money that I had and that he would repay me once we were in Hongkong. We shook hands on that unholy alliance.

    On behalf of the group, he went and negotiated the charter of the small bus to take us all to Lhasa.

    In the country of the blind, the one eyed man would be the king. So in that group of travellers where the rest could not speak a word of Chinese, my ability to speak a few words of Chinese, and a few more words of Cantonese, allied to that Hongkonger who could not speak a word of English made me if not the king, the de facto leader of the group.

    We all went into that old bus and on our way. We were totally off the pages of Lonely Planet or any guide books. The road was incredibly rugged as it wound its way up the Himalayas. We passed vistas of untouched forest and saw waterfalls cascading down the sides of hauntingly beautiful primordial land. It was an adventure of a lifetime for all of us.

    The road went up higher and higher. It was a wonder that the old Chinese made bus could move on even if it was almost at walking pace. The fear of altitude sickness faded as we went along. The forest changed into scrubby shrubs, like gigantic brown pillows on the slopes. And then we passed that into grassy slopes and to snow covered scree. The day was coming to an end when we reached an outpost in a little hollow where we were to stay for the night.

    We had bowls of steaming noodle soup from the canteen. It became cold. Very cold. I was told by the Canadian Doctor, CD, that might have been -25C. Accomodation was very primitive. We were lucky enough to have a room and a huge bed inside with thin mattress.

    To ward off altitude sickness, I was drinking and drinking a lot of water as advised by books and by CD. So there was a lot of pee inside me.

    Toilet was anyway outside. When I zipped down my trousers to take a leak, you need not worry about privacy. A thick cloud of mist enveloped you from belt down. When the slight breeze cleared the air, the pee was turned into yellow ice.

    There were nothing else to do. It was getting colder and colder. We all slept together on that bed to try to share our body warmth. That was not the time for modesty.

    Early the next morning we left after a simple breakfast of mantou or steamed chinese wheat dumplings. My friend HK was buying a lot of mantou and stuffing that into his backpack. I wished he told me why that time.

    The bus continued to climb. The sun came out and some warmth returned to take away the bone chilling freeze of the night.

    Our little group clicked on very well in our little bus, united by circumstances and on a journey never before made by other independent travellers. After that night, and other nights where we huddled together on gigantic bed/sleeping platforms, we all suffered and enjoyed together.

    Our fears of altitude sickness receded. I spoke aloud my thoughts of regretting the discarding of all my herbs back in Nepal. Everyone chimed in with their regrets of not having any herbs for about the same reasons, fear of Communist China and potential hazards from the high altitudes on us.

    This was made more poignant in the awesome sceneries that we passed through.

    The sky was of a blue so deep that it was almost black. Then the ground and mountain side of a yellow and brown so bright that it hurt the eye. Instead of having a bright sky and dark ground, it was reversed in having a dark sky and bright ground. The air was so clear that you can see almost for ever.

    The journey would be that much better if we still have our herbs.

    We came to a stop in a non descript outpost. To our incredible surprise, a foreigner in a coat of thick sheep skin joined us. He had been travelling for 6 years now. Somehow, he made it into Tibet and that town where he joined us. He did not even know of the availability of visas, and he did not care.

    He endeared himself to us all when he brought out a bag of mellow herbs. He told us, that the Chinese never liked to interfer with local customs. And local customs did smoke what is called as Peng Ti Yen which translated into Local Tobacco. It must have been the high altitudes and the strong UV light on the plants. We all agreed that was the best smoke we have had.

    We all chugged along on our little bus. The views made that much richer by that PengTiYen.

    It was a series of ups as the bus climbed and climbed until it reached the top of the pass and then down and down. Some of the mountain passes were well over 5000 meters.

    I had a headach coming on as I went up and up. It got to the stage I was paralysed and could just move my eyeballs. My Canadian doctor friend was sitting beside me. I could not talk and only could roll my eyes up and down and right and left. I answered his questions that way. He gave me the cheerful news that I had the cerebral swelling of altitude sickness. I knew nothing could be done. I kept watch on the stream flowing down the direction the bus came from and knew we were still going up. And up and up. I thought I might die. From a detached viewpoint. And I felt no fear, or regrets.

    Then I saw the stream changed direction and was flowing in the way of the bus direction. And we were heading down , and down. And I felt better. And the lower we went, the better I became and my headach went away and I could move again.

    From time to time, the bus stopped for special views. One such view was to see Mount Everest from the other side. We were so far away that Everest appeared as an average mountain, and not very big at that. Wisp of clouds were eddying about the top and picturesque. The size and tranquility belayed little of the hurricane force winds at the summit and climbers if any at that time attempting to reach the top might remain forever there.

    We all quickly learned not to walk fast even though we all got used to the altitude. One can get very breathless , which was not a nice feeling at all.

    Now it seemed romantic to be kind of pioneers being the first to travel in such a way. The infrastructure was not set up like in Nepal where you have restaurants and teashops and places to stay.

    There was this period of 3 days where no canteens or restaurants were found. I wished HK told us earlier why he was buying up those mantous. He shared that with me. I could not eat with him when the rest were starving. We all pooled the food that we brought with us. Bars of chocolate, biscuits and dried fruits. That lone traveller opened another of his bag, of tsampa this time or local Tibetan parched barley ground to powder.

    We found places to sleep but they had not the food and refused to sell us the little they had saying that we could have food at Shigatze.

    We finally were nearing the first major city, the ancient city of Shigatze. We passed by a field where Tibetans were harvesting the ripening crop. We saw a table by the roadside, with a pile of unleaven wheat pancakes with a young girl behind

    We were a very hungry lot when the bus stopped. We all felt whatever they want to charge us, we all would pay. Those pancakes were warm and absolutely delicious. We ate all the pancakes. That girl smiled at us, reached into a basket under the table and brought out more. We ate that lot too. Then the others working in the field came over to the table.

    I asked HK to find out how much it cost all of us. Then we found out.

    The pancakes that we ate was their lunch and not for sale as we all thought. They saw us all so hungry and enjoyed their wheat pancakes so much that they did not have the heart to stop us from eating. They refused to set a price, any price that we could pay.

    I never felt so small. To the credit of the entire group of us, all felt the same way as I did. We, the modern civilised people, were taught a lesson in humility by those Tibetan farmers.

    I was flipping through my guide book and a photo of Dalai Lama dropped out. They took a look and all fell to the ground and prostrate away. Photos of Dalai Lama mattered a lot to them. We all checked our postcards and any of Dalai Lama to give to them. It was embarassing that each gift of the photo was followed by the Tibetan dropping onto his/her knees. I even tore out a photo of Dalai Lama from a guide book I had to give to them.

    Shortly after that, we reached Shigatze. And the first truly comfortable guest house ran by Tibetans. Water was boiled and brought up to us at the roof top of that guest house. We had the first bath in about a week. It did not matter we all were mixed, men and women. The urge to get clean and feel clean was all imperative.

    Then we had the first wonderful dinner.

    The next day was a day of rest and to explore Shigatse. We were wiser and bought bags of tsampa for emergency rations. And mellow PengTiYen was good and plentiful.

    That lone traveller left us at Shigatze. The rest of us continued to Lhasa on the bus.

    We finally came to the last pass before we headed down into Lhasa.

    We had to stop the bus on top of that last pass. The sight was awesome in crystal clear air. You stand there and looked South and the entire Himalayan chain of mountains could be seen at the horizon hundreds of kilometers away. Then you can turn and look Northwards and the chain of Tienshan chain of mountains could be seen. That moment must be celebrated. My Canadian doctor was a master of Rizla. He stuck together a dozen Rizla rolling papers. All of us gave a bit of the mellow herbs to him. And all that got rolled into a beautiful gigantic work of art.

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