“I guess this is a horrible thing to say , but I felt better when I heard the guy in the next room also vomiting . I didn’t feel alone anymore.”
Wang is one of the now – being a weekend – two handfuls of Chinese who are visiting the Larung Gar institute hotel , in mid-December. She has spiky Laurie Anderson-y hair and her head rests on a wide triangle : chin down on the narrow breakfast table between us , fingers propped up against her temples.
” -I didn’t expect it to be this bad .. I got this headache right when we got here , and then I started to vomit ..
– Yes , I would expect that . ”
Cold is the known and working deterrent here . It is cold , every last inch of the water pipes are covered in arm thick insulation , and the electric blankets in the beds are a neccessity , not a luxury.
Altitude obviously isn’t . Had I heard or seen Wang the other night I wouldn’t have been calm or nice , now I find myself being curiously detached : yes , that could have ended badly. But now … well , she made it down to breakfast , and has actually eaten . And kept it down. On the mend.
” I thought there would be a small pharmacy or something…”
Not really . What is to be had is one of the never proven Chinese herbal remedies , and disposable oxygen cans. I usually refer to these as handkerchief parachutes ( right idea , totally wrong scale ) but these are the biggest ones I’ve seen so far . Not exactly table cloth parachutes – lets stretch it to shopping bags. The English specs say it contains fourteen liters – a few minutes worth for example for post op patients who aren’t fully awake yet.
“You slept where last night ?!”
I didn’t see this coming – Wang and all the others ( or at least the ones I could speak with , mostly indirectly ) all had made the same journey : from Chengdu ( 800-ish meters ) to Sertar …at 4000+ meters. Nonstop . One day. I continue my callous streak by mentioning my pet AMS trivia : two percent of soldiers flying in to Lhasa start to develop pulmonary edema. And that’s nearly four hundred meters lower than the Sertar hotel. There is the known option of sleeping down in the village – Wang mentions this – that would make it to a first night around Lhasa altitude instead. The other option , valid enough for a first night at Lhasas altitude would be to medicate preventively , and this is virtually unknown in China. After the great Yushu earthquake China sent in thousands of rescue workers higher than Lhasa , unmedicated and rushing straight to the front . This became a minor catastrophe in itself , as local rescuers had to shift focus to rescue their colleagues , and have them flown out after less than a day.
The others around me were not far off from Wang : the two other Chinese in my four bed dorm obviously would have benefited from going down. One said he spent the first four days in bed , the second still had splitting headaches after the second night.
Working out at 4000+ meters : stair excercise with yaks up to the top ridge with the institute hotel and the mandala , and photo op break during the kora around the mandala.