Another 4am wake up call from the aching back and I'm doin ma early morning yoga! These beds are wrecking my finely-tuned athleticism.
Anywho, we're up and out, with minimal fuss from the Israelis who were causing untold havoc the previous night as they couldn't get what they felt was due them, a hot shower. They caused such a fuss they put the owner in a panic who then pulled the door to the shower cubicle open, even though it was locked, and got an eyeful of a drying Damo. I'm not so sure she appreciated my finely-tuned-ness! Poor woman.
Right, onwards. We crossed another suspension bridge and climbed 30mins to the next village for breakfast. While waiting, we were treated to our first proper peak - Annapurna II. It was a good job, I was getting upset with the clouds beforehand.
After a bit more of a climb I looked across the valley and saw some folk walking along a road. Knowing there were two routes I saw this as the alternative 'low route' but seeing their club ahead I thought they were comparable. COULDN'T BE MORE WRONG!!! Not only were they robbed of the superb view of the huge mountain range just behind the hill they were beside, they also missed the gruelling 2.5hr up we had to go. No comparison. But the view and sense of achievement was worth it. Kimbo, as is her way, powered up with no qualms. And when longer folk were met at the top we soon dispatched them. (That said, they were c12-strong so one photo stop was very extended!). Gladly. We never saw them before or after the top so had the trail to ourselves.
We were really pushing the altitude at this stage, climbing through to 3,600m and reached what was the closest to civilisation since Kathmandu, Manang. It even had a cinema!!!
Stopping for a day, we used this as our base for acclimatisation. We covered a climb to 4,200m on our rest day (using the 'climb high, sleep low' drill) and took in a lake, glacier and building our own wee Cairn. The slate up there was magnificent, and has inspired my desire to have such adorn our bathroom when we win the lottery and get a house.
We got back to base for a quick shower and down to Kim's idea, a lecture on AMS, Acute Mountain Sickness. "It'll be good just to be aware of the symptoms" she said. Instead, hearing, from the rather fetching and funny Dr (he was quite cool in a ragged way, very engaging, came from Boston, I was for getting him fixed-up with Caggie, but Kim said I couldn't bring him home, and he was too short). Anyway, I digress. So, fetching Dr tells us the symptoms, causing Kim, for no apparent reason, to start feeling the symptoms! When he says the light-headedness is a build up of fluid and pressure in the brain which leads to confusion and loss of coordination (High Altitude Cerebral Oedema) or the rasping cough of High Altitude Pulmonary Oedema caused by the high pressure on the pulmonary artery, forcing blood thru the constricted vessels in the lungs filling them with fluid, both rapidly leading to a nasty case of death, it becomes less funny. It was a very good and informative chat tho. The Q&A after highlighted me and Kim were the only two out of everyone going au naturale. Groups from Israel, America, France, Europe, Malaysia, China to name a few, were all on Dimoxin, or whatever, and had been for a few days now. Basically it's a drug to help the body adjust to altitude. Anyways, it wasn't altitude sickness that had Kim leaving rapid for her own emergency, drinking milk the day before with muesli has given HER the dicky digestion!!!
It never stopped us going to see the showing of Brad Pitt's 'Seven Years In Tibet'. They were really keen to let you know Brad was in it. Anyway, easily the weirdest, coolest, highest venue I'd been to. It was really small, made smaller by the ignorant group of Israelis who show up 30mins in and one lank sitting right in front of Kim. Shortly after we move to the front, at the interlude for free ginger tea and some of the best popcorn I've tasted. And I know popcorn. A very good film made astounding at the end when we find out its TRUE!!! And banned in China, as is the book. But see it. It's good.
Back to more serious matters. When we got back to the hotel earlier we chatted with some fellow travellers we met and were given the sobering reminder of how dangerous our pursuits can be. The search and rescue helicopter was hovering where a group of vultures were seen circling. A day before a young German traveller was lost to the mountain. While he was with a guide no-one knew where he was or what happened. Scary that you are one step away, even without over-reaction to motorbikes.