Day 3 of the #MM4MM Trek to Everest Basecamp, a day in Kathmandu

Today was the last day before we begin trekking. As usual I woke up early, though it is getting later and later as my biological time zone catches up to my geographic time zone. I had a decent breakfast with most of the team. After breakfast I needed to replace the toiletries that I left on the bed in Huntington Woods on Thursday.

Ben used the wonders of google maps to find a drug store that turned out to be more of grocery store. I was able to get my deodorant and tooth brush (I had already replace the toothpaste), but Ellen needed a pharmacy so off we went. First north, then south. Past the crazy wedding car. Past the French embassy. And finally, after getting no closer to our goal, and realizing the futility of Google Maps in the twisted streets and back alleys of Kathmandu, we encountered a friendly Sherpa who guided us to a pharmacy. On the way back I bought a local SIM card with 10 gb of data for $22.

Then we had a morning meeting where we went over our equipment and weight limits. The guides and sherpas on our trip are surprisingly hostile to prophylactic acetazolamide while simultaneously extolling the ability of a positive attitude, a swallow of water, and mushroom soup to stave off altitude illness. A number of them support the use of symptomatic acetazolamide. At one point, one of the guides said acetazolamide only treats altitude illness and does not prevent it. I could hold my tongue no longer and blurted out the reference I covered on PBFluids months ago. In this study a randomized, blinded trial was done on the very route we were hiking. It showed that acetazolamide (Diamox) prevented the development of acute mountain sickness, both mild and severe.

The discussion on acetazolamide continued. The discussion on equipment continued. And then we broke up and did final packing. We had lunch and I had my first course of dahl bat. This delicacy of rice and lentils is a mountain staple and will be what fuels the team up to Everest Basecamp.

I loved it. I’m going to be just fine with Nepalese mountain food.

After lunch we gathered to board a bus to go visit the Monkey Temple and Boudhanath Stupa. We were all waiting in the lobby when I realized I had forgotten my sunglasses so I ran up to the room, borrowed the key from the cleaning staff, grabbed my sunglasses, ran back down to the lobby. Empty. Everyone was gone. I figured they must have just left so I walked out of the hotel grounds. Still no peeps. So Plan B: get a passport picture (I needed one for entry to the park and had used my last one getting the SIM card). I figured I’d get the picture then hail a cab and hook up with the group at the Monkey Temple. So I walked to the main drag (I had seen a photo place on our wanderings, looking for a pharmacy that morning) where I bumped into English Paul. Paul had to run out to do some last minute errands but he told me where to catch the crew. So I hustled back to the Radisson parking lot and hopped the bus.

Big mistake. I was at the back of the bus, on a bumpy road, with a belly full of dahl bat. It was hot stuffy and I could barely understand the tour guide. Traffic was terrible and it took an hour to reach Boudhanath Stupa.

The Boudhanath Stupa is a Buddhist religious site. It is a world heritage site. Surrounding the base are prayer wheels. You are supposed to circle the building clockwise and need to circle it only clockwise and an odd number of times. Thankfully 1 is an odd number. We then checked out a Thangka art school. A super knowledgeable proprietor gave an amazing lecture on symbology in the art and the various techniques that the artists use. He showed us how to differentiate a master from a novice. I was able to escape without buying one. (You’re welcome Cathy).

When we got back to the hotel I went for the passport photo. After that I went to the porch where a number of trekkers were hanging out. I brought out my scale, pulse oximeter, and blood pressure cuff and started gathering baseline data on almost everyone in the group for my science experiment. I’m totally going to win the science fair this year. People were really supportive and I got 15 out of 18 of our group to go through baseline data. Really excited for this.

Then we had dinner. And we were all given personalized headbands. I am Detroit Runner.

After dinner I went back to Bablo’s T-shirt emporium and bought a hat.

(That’s not the hat, this is)

I capped off the night by having a drink with an exiled Indian national that now makes his living as an arms dealer, though he preferred the title “defense contractor.” (My favorite part of the encounter was when he answered his phone “Yes General, thanks for calling me back”).

You meet all types at the hotel bar in Kathmandu.

Tomorrow Lukla!