I had slept well and was feeling good, no headache, no nausea. It was warm, almost hot in my sleeping bag, so during the night I had taken off some clothes... and it had been more demanding than expected! The altitude. Breathless. Exhausted.
Still in the early morning I was perfectly fine. From my bed I could see the sky was turning bright outside the window, cloudy but softly pink. Noise of people waking up, preparing their backpacks, going to the loo. Lalit singing.
I got up, put on my clothes - kept confortably warm inside the sleeping bag - and stepped out the door. The Annapurna! oh! you can't get used to it! not in one night. Lalit, indead. We said good morning and I asked him where was a sink to wash my face, as usually there is one somewhere, not in the toilet but outside downstairs. "There isn't here" he said "When we go down, there you can find one."
A sink outisde at 4.000 m isn't a good idea, I should know... "Ok, no matter" I was. There was plenty of snow so I took a handful of it and washed my face with it", "No! no! don't do that!" Lalit exclaimed He was looking alarmed and I was surprised. "Don't use it! your face get dark and your skin get sick!" he explained. I was puzzled. It wasn't the first time I washed my face with the snow and I thought a guy from Solo Khumbu was also used to do so. By the way, my face didn't turn dark and my skin was ok. "Feel, it isn't that cold" I said touching his hands with mine. "True, it isn't cold" he doutbful admitted. "But it's your country, you know better" I added. I thought he had his reasons, and he told me indead.
"Once I have been camping on the Dhaulagiri. In the morning I came out my tent and washed my face with snow. My face turned dark and my skin got sick.", "Oh! I see... Probably it was very very cold there...", "Yes, it was very cold." Maybe that was the first symtom of frostbite.
It wasn't that cold in the Annapurna Base Camp, it had been down to -15 degrees during the night but now it was around 0 degrees and it was expected to snow. We were better to descend because the stage was long and hard: that night we had to sleep in Sinuwa.
We started around 8 am. I was behind with Lalit who once again was singing a beautiful Nepali song. I was feeling good, just enjoying my way, but someone in our group had had a crappy night due to mountain sickness, couldn't eat a proper breakfast and felt weak all day.
At 1 pm we arrived to Bamboo and stopped for lunch. Sinuwa was still far away and the weather was worsening.
It was raining hard now. Two hours to go, a long series of slippery stairs to climb, the dark of the night coming soon. I asked Lalit if it was possible to open my bag to take off my raincoat, "If you want, you can" he said, so we went to my porter, I found my jacket, put it on and said good bye.
It wasn't nice to walk in the pourring rain on that hard terrain, moreover because it wasn't cold and I was sweating under the raincoat. I haven't gone far when a porter joined me. he was carrying my bag but he wasn't my porter. He's name was Bibi, he said, and I think he was the only one wearing a decent raincoat, so Ran Bir had sent him after me with my stuff.
Now it was raining a little less and I was able to enjoy the magic of the forest. No humans in sight, silence, some monkies, a big dear in the middle of the track, and I all excited: "A DEAR! A DEAR!", "Yes, a dear". Calmly. Because a dear for Bibi was nothing new.
We arrived in Sinuwa in the evening. It was New Years Eve, we had a guitar and we were determined to celebrate. After dinner we gathered around the fire, trekkers and porters, singing "Resham firiri" and laughing a lot. We had fun until midnight. And we were so loud that a man came complaining because people couldn't sleep. "But we are celebrating the new year" Lalit said, quitly but stubbornly. The most of the porters had already gone to sleep. The new year begins in April for them, still Lalit thought it was important to celebrate with us.
....MORE TO COME...