Follow me there and back again didn’t come about by chance, the name stems from my travel philosophy – The best things in life are shared. I believe that dreams should be witnessed because without a witness they will never really have any meaning.
When the person I cherish more than anything else in the world announced that he was going to attempt an Everest base Camp Trek my heart sank. My dream was to visit the mountain gorillas in Rwanda. But how can two people go their separate ways and have two incredible experiences alone? Those experiences would mean nothing.
So, I became probably one of the only people in the world who hated walking, but embarked on a three week trek to the most famous mountain on earth.
After a year of hell – gym training three times a week and weekends spent in the Brecon Beacons, Snowdon, and anything which resembled a large hill, we were as ready as we could be to tackle Mount Everest.
After a few days getting organised in Kathmandu we took a short flight to Lukla and embarked on the first day of walking through the foothills. This was just to break us in. Day one proper started as it was getting light, we walked for 6 hours and this started a pattern which would continue for the rest of the ‘holiday’; my husband up at the front with the Scandinavians and me…at the back with a poor porter who had drawn the short straw. I had ditched my favourite books in preference for a walkman, and thank the Lord I had Lou Bega and Mambo Number 5 to keep me company. Especially when it came to the climb into Namche Bazaar.
The guide books had suggested that this was a terrible climb, I was prepared, but not for this. One step at a time. This was the most terrible afternoon ever, my legs felt like lead, and the thinning air make my lungs feel the same; add to that a splitting headache, and not for the first time in the last few days, I began to question why I was here. The rat in the bedroom eating my half eaten cinnamon roll was another cause for doubt; pulling my bed away from the wall and hiding my head inside my sleeping bag was the only way to survive the night.
An acclimatization day meant a day off, not in theory, but walking around and eating some excellent food at the German bakery rallied my spirits. We moved on again. Up, up, up, always at the back and almost always alone. Tears, anger, and splitting headaches were the norm. Altitude does funny things to the brain, irrational thoughts begin, and garlic with everything is now compulsory. Garlic Soup, roasted garlic, egg, chips and garlic; it helps with the altitude.
Then following another acclimatization day we were off again, only two nights now before the big push to base camp. At this point, to me, the walking seemed to get easier, the ascent wasn’t as steep and things almost appeared flat. Unfortunately, my husband seemed to be suffering. The others were way ahead, but he was not in his usual position, he was right at the back and could hardly put one foot in front of the other. He was disorientated, slurring his speech and walking even slower than me. When we made it to our lunch stop the others had already eaten, it was clear that something was terribly wrong.
He insisted on lying down, just to have a sleep for a while. Our guide insisted he descend, and quickly, but altitude was causing him to become irrational and insist on going on. This is where my philosophy was his saving grace – I was the only person who could get through to him, just before he went into a state of semi unconscious. My short straw porter and I propped up my husband’s heavy body and started dragging him down to Pheriche.
After a terrifying walk downhill we arrived at Pheriche hospital. Thankfully, the drop in altitude had helped bring him back round and there was no need for him to be hospitalised, but I was under strict instruction, “watch him, and if he goes unconscious again come and get us, do not go to sleep.”
I sat and watched, exhausted and scared for what seemed like a lifetime. Then, after a few hours he awoke and said “I’m starving, can we get egg and chips?”
Two days later we waited for the rest of the group to come down. The first person came earlier than expected and kept going; she was on oxygen, and needed to descend further. Then, as we waited, a helicopter came down and a procession of people left the hospital carrying a stretcher. As they passed it was clear that the body wrapped in her sleeping bag was making her last journey, her family behind her. The silence was incredible. She had not been as lucky as my husband, despite everyone’s best efforts, and spending the night in a pressurised Gamow bag, she had died.
Things were put into perspective, and follow me there and back again was born – always travel together for memories and for each other.