Unexpected developments

Leh, India.

Today is my third day in Leh and everything looks different. Yesterday was my second day of acclimatizing to the altitude. The general advice is to acclimatize for 36 hours but because I had Altitude Sickness once before I wanted to be safe and took 48. Everything went fine. I felt ready and excited to go do something adventurous. I actually studied the Lonely Planet for the first time since I left. Everything I read about Leh was wonderful.

Together with the manager of the hotel I picked a nice hike. Nothing too arduous because I first wanted to see if I was fit, also the high passes are not open yet. Just like many other places I visited last months the winter was exceptionally long here this year.

We picked something simple and nice; a 3 hour trek that could be extended into a 6 hour hike. Supposedly the trek was that easy that I could do it alone, without a guide or a group. Now this is a big thing for me. As you might have noticed I’m not so good with maps and directions. Going by myself is a big step out of my comfort zone. But I felt ready. I felt my chest swell and felt courage and excitement glowing inside: I would hike in the Himalayas solo! I felt like a little boy and a legendary adventurer at the same time.

But I had a very bad night sleep. I got a terrible headache and woke up feeling very weak. Basically, I was too weak to get breakfast let alone to make a hike. I felt concerned because memories of my last high altitude adventure came back. After eating something I fell asleep again. When I woke up I believed I felt a lot better. But when I started moving I felt weak again. I decided to go to the hospital.

And that’s where I am now. I am lying in a hospital bed with a thing that supplies me with oxygen via my nose. I received an injection and was fed a couple of pills. The oxygen level in my blood was not as dangerously low as a couple years back but the headache indicated a swollen brain (yes, everything is big and swollen on my body. Even my brain). I suppose the oxygen will relax the brain. Indeed it feels as a having a bad hangover. It is not a biggie, the idea is that this treatment will get me up and running in no time. My trip in Ladakh is not over.

When I was in Gokarna I had an insight about how we never know what a new day will bring us. When I went to bed last night I could not have imagined that I would learn how the inside of a Ladakhi hospital would look like. Or that the nurses would miss my vein twice and I got a flash of insight into how serious it is when the integrity of the body is violated. These sweet ladies do their jobs to the best of their abilities but something inside me tells me it is unnatural and violent to enter the body with needles and knives. I can only imagine how intrusive rape is.

Having that said I also feel in good hands. The hospital is certainly not the cleanest and most professional I have ever seen. But there is something very soft and gentle about the Ladakhi people and thus the staff. They have a kindness that is quite rare. There are quotes and pictures of the Dalai Lama and the Karmapa everywhere. I took the wrong way to the Tourist Ward (yes, I have the ability to get lost everywhere) and I peeked into the ward where the pregnant women are. The hospital is poor in the sense of equipment and the walls could use new paint. But there is something very peaceful in the way patients, nurses and doctors interact here. I felt no stress and anxiety, just life taking its course. From an economic point of view I was fortunate to have been born in Holland but I feel being born here is karma technically not too bad either.

Now I will meditate for an hour with that thing up my nose and I wish myself a speedy healing. Ideally, I will walk out of here feeling brand new and ready for the mountains. Here we go.

UPDATE: I am now in an internet cafe trying to post this. I was dismissed from the hospital after 3 hours of oxygen and some pills that made me dehydrate (pee a lot) to decrease the swelling of the brain. I feel a lot better now and strolled over the market a bit. I think I found some photogenic people. It is nice to notice that the minute we feel better the world seems te be a more beautiful place.

Below the pics:

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  1. says

    It is nice to have the feeling of being home even when it is not your home technically. Atalwin, what I like most about you is your simplicity of heart. Perhaps that is why the whole world has agreed to let you make the world itself your home.
    You can be anywhere but you are welcome everywhere. May this wonderful journey be blessed by the divine hands.

  2. Michael says

    So glad to hear that everything is ok. High Altitude is tricky, but the more exposed to it the better you will be.

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