Tiger Balm Tales vol. 11
Day 10 – A Mouse in My House
After 10 days of decreasing temperatures and increasing wind my body is rebelling. My lips have become as dry as the Gobi Desert , my nasal passages feel like hard booger craters have invaded it, and my hands are so dry they look like they belong to a 60 yr. old; the elements most definitely do have an effect on your body.
We hiked slowly from Gunsang to Ledar today. We saw ice for the first time on the trail. We saw no trees. We breathed harder than we had the day before. Now we are holed up in the 1 of 3 guest houses in the encampment of Ledar waiting; waiting for our body to acclimate a little more.
During one of our trekking breaks today our guide, Bishnu, said “Ohhhhh, I’m smelling like a donkey! I can’t wait for a shower.” Not only did the donkey reference make me laugh, but it also made me realize that I’ve now been wearing the same pants for 10 days, the same shirt for 9 days, the same jog bra for 9 days, the same socks for 4 days; this is beyond donkey filth! On top of the filth, everything smells like Tiger Balm! However, it’s a part of trekking for 21 days. I do wonder at times if these clothes will ever be clean again, or should I burn them for warmth at high camp? I guess the good news is that everyone smells equally badly; like a pack of donkeys.
Even more troubling that my physical rebellion or my odor, is my mental rebellion. After 10 days I’m annoyed. The sunroom in our guesthouse is buzzing with various conversations I find hard to ignore. I don’t understand why trekkers only like to share bad stories about trekking; trekkers who have disappeared, ones who were robbed, ones who die from AMS. This is seriously annoying conversation. Why isn’t anyone telling any good heartwarming stories – the ones about people making it? Or is it that people don’t ever make it…no…that’s just my mind playing stupid tricks on me – right?
All of this negative talk is making me feel ill.
However I also knew why I was annoyed and feeling crappy. Of all days, at all times – I got my period today. So not only was I exhausted, cold and sore – but I also had cramps. Timing is everything. Even though this is a subject that my dad and I had never discussed in my lifetime (my family rarely discusses anything personal), I decided what the hell, I’m an adult and we are trekking partners – so I mentioned to him that I wasn’t feeling well because I had my period. His reply, “Well, at least you’re not pregnant.”
Wait a minute…was this my dad? My dad making a very funny joke about a subject that we had never talked about before? I was in shock! I felt as if I had entered the Father Knows Best twilight zone. This is why I love traveling with my dad, I get these glimpses of him that I never had exposure to before. Previously I only had exposure to the ‘father figure’, not the man. These are the memories that will be burned in my brain.
Dad and I started studying our next 2 trekking days on our map; in 2 days we’ll be climbing higher than either of us ever have climbed before. As we looked at the calendar we realized that we’ll cross the pass on Oct. 30th. We both realized what that meant; Oct. 30th was a special date to our family. My father’s mother (my Grandma Ott) who just recently passed away last Febuary at 97 years old, would have been 98 years old on Oct. 30th. We were going to cross the pass on her birthday. We didn’t plan this – it just happened thanks to our slow speed and my illness ; but it was clearly meant to be.
That afternoon as I sat and tried to journal, trying not to listen to the horror stories around me. I looked over at my dad, he seemed just fine. In fact, he was great. He didn’t seem worried or annoyed like me. Instead he seemed really happy. I started to think about how far we’ve come. In all of that distance, I never saw anyone near his age range attempting what he is attempting. I’m sure there’s been plenty of people over 73 years old get over Thorang La Pass, but they are not my dad, and that’s who I care about now.
We are a good father-daughter team. We lean on each other and provide encouragement when we need to. I realize this is the longest time we’ve ever spent together alone. In fact, this is the longest time he’s been away from my mom since they’ve been married 50 years. Surprisingly this is all going really well. I think the best thing about growing older is that your relationship with your parents change from inequal to equal….and I suppose eventually that will change again. But I’ve decided that instead of being annoyed with everything, I’ll enjoy this moment. Sure, I’ll still worry about our ability to get over the pass as a team. But I will appreciate every possible moment of this teamwork.
Our teamwork was never appreciated more than that night when we went back to our cold, dark room to sleep. I entered the room with my headlamp providing a narrow beam of light cutting thru the darkness. I went to put my journal on my bed and that’s when I saw it – two beady eyes staring back at me. A little mouse was scurrying around on my bed as if it were his. I scared the shit out of it; it scared the shit out of me. Amazingly I turned around to my dad who was closing the door to the room and said in a stifled, yet startled tone, “There’s a mouse on my bed.” With precision teamwork and two headlamps we were able to chase the outnumbered mouse off my bed and out the door. I slammed the door shut…whew.
Yet in reality I knew the mouse on my bed had scarred me mentally; this would be a worse than usual night of sleep at altitude. After all, it didn’t take me long to realize that the mouse got in our room when the door was shut; we were in its house. I pulled my sleeping bag string tighter so that only my eyes could peer out; attempting to shut out any entrance for the pesky mouse. One good thing about my excessive worrying about the mouse was that I was no longer worrying about crossing the pass!
Video of Trail: