Tips for high places

Tibet Day 2

We have done very little in Lhasa except for sleep and sit around in the past 48 hours. I’m learning what helps to feel more comfortable at 12,000 feet (and a third less oxygen than at sea level):

1. Don’t take a shower (at first). It will only make you sick. Anyway, sweat just disappears into thin air here.
2. Sprinkle water on the floor to counter the arid climate of the steppe. As I mentioned, sweat just disappears into thin air here. My bedside glass of water evaporated a third overnight!
3. Rest. For me, this has meant switching the TV between CCTV 7 and 9 for the sitcoms and travel shows. I am also fascinated by a western Chinese show about antiques. So far today, in between showing off their mediocre dancing and singing talents, the panel of experts discussed a bronze bowl, a jade charm shaped like a twig, and a terracotta camel.
4. Take your Diamox. Or chew your local, high-mountain plant.
5. Make yourself eat even though at high altitude food feels deceivingly pointless. Tonight over a dinner of white radish soup and sauteed yak (more on that later), we met fellow travelers including the manager of a Michelin tire plant. See, that is what you are missing when you don’t eat.

Now, if only I hadn’t come here already sick. I woke up several times in the night feeling like I just couldn’t get enough air. I took a few, very deep breaths as if I were in yoga class and felt a little better. The locals here are flip about complaints other than about headaches, which must be in their experience, precursors to dying, or at least voluminous puking. No headaches for me.

My travel mates are all related to me and so far stumbling down this road of discomfort at mostly the same pace. I am curious to know whether most everyone goes through this rough period, or just those who share my genes?


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