Very very tired this morning. And freezing my butt off. Still, off to work at 5:00am. I try to unchain Sundur Kali without waking Ali but that doesn't work and his head pops out from under his blanket. He is obviously quite sensitive to someone trying to steal his heffalump, ha ha. He sees it is only me, says good morning and then puts his head back down. I take Sundur Kali to the water pump and she decides she's quite dehydrated and insists on returning her trunk to the water flow numerous times. This is exhausting work in the afternoon, but at 5:00am I find myself urging her to "drink up, hurry it along" all the while feeling my arms turning to lead. When she is finished torturing me, I take her back to the stables where we find Ali up and busying himself boiling water for himself and Saki. I sit myself on the floor and begin making koochie for breakfast. Ali joins me eventually and we both make sure Sundur Kali has her belly full for the day. She seems content enough but just when it comes time to strap on her 'box seat' she decides she is going to pull a large, mangled koochie from her mouth and dump it on her head. In addition, she thinks it would be really funny to throw hay all over herself. Saki who is just about now waking up sees this and starts yelling at her. Ali taps her legs and trunk with a stick, telling her to stop fooling about. I am laughing but it is apparent this is not as funny as I believe it to be. Saki comes striding over, furious and grumbling. We lead Sundur Kali out of the stable and Saki commands her to lie down. Once she is down, Saki instructs me to begin beating her with one of the empty sacks. Well, I say 'beating her' - what we're actually doing is clearing all the hay and soggy food off of her. As all the other elephants begin making their way down the road and we are left cleaning ours, I can see now how this is actually a nuisance and not that funny. Considering how slow Sundur Kali is, by the time they get to Chitwan National Park, most of the tourists will have gone with other mahouts, and therefore Saki might lose out on a morning's earnings. I will keep the "don't do that" stick closer to hand from now on.
I head back to the guesthouse at 7:30am (slightly late due to the hay incident) and then crawl back into bed to try and warm my bones until 9:00am. Then I have a quick shower (cold as the hot water isn't on yet. Brrrrr) and then it's back to work at 10:00am to make koochie for lunch. My hands by this point are on fire. I am honestly trying my best but the hay is so tough and the constant folding and twisting is testing my soft secretarial hands to the limit. I have cuts (much like papercuts) and blisters on almost every spare inch of skin. I grimace but persevere, aware that I am getting slower with each daily shift. The lunch shift is the worst as Ali is at school so it is up to me to make about 30-35 koochie. No easy task! Saki and Sundur Kali return from the jungle at 11:15am and Saki tells me that they did in fact get a booking. I'm pleased. We unstrap the 'box seat' together and we feed Sundur Kali one koochie at a time. Her Big Sister and her mahout come past our stable a little while later and Big Sister decides she likes the look of our koochie, sweeping in with her trunk and curling around 4 of our bundles in one go. Saki and the other mahout 'exchange words' but Big Sister pays no notice and strides off with her loot. I set about making more koochie.
Did you know elephants purr? I didn't! When Sundur Kali is happy, she makes a low rumbling noise, much like a purr. It's the sweetest thing and makes me giggle every time. Today she is purring quite a bit - obviously today's koochie is very much to her liking.
At 12:15pm, I go back to the guesthouse for lunch and talk with Dal for a bit before heading into the village to update my Blog at the internet cafe. It is cold cold cold today and I literally can't get warm. I have on as many layers as I can - even wearing my thermal pyjamas underneath my clothes. Back at the guesthouse - I have time for some sweet black tea before my evening shift - I talk with Dal about the cold. He agrees that, although it is the same temperature here as in England, the cold here gets right into your bones. And once it's in, there's nothing you can do. Hence why many people here go to bed at about 8:30pm. Getting into bed is really the only thing you can do to get warm! I have developed a cough during the day and Ram (one of the waiters) brings me a hot lemon and honey.
At 5:00pm, I cross the road to start my evening shift. The temperature has dropped further in the last hour and I am shivering continuously. It is near impossible to make koochie as my hands shake and my back is seizing up on me. An old injury to my knee is also playing up considerably making the cross legged position I have to sit in on the ground almost unbearable. This is the worst shift yet and I am - embarassingly - close to tears. I try to explain to Saki the problems I am having but his English is very poor and he just tells me to "work slowly". Just before 7:00pm, I can't take it anymore and I stand up. My knee is screaming with agony, as is back and pretty much every part of me. I take a moment to lean against Sundur Kali's side and she returns the favour and leans back against me as well. It's actually a lovely moment and I forget all the pain for a minute or two. Elephants are so healing.
At 7:00pm I am released from my duties and limp back to the guesthouse, colder than ever. I call Rupa to explain the situation and she says she will relay this to Saki for me. She calls back an hour later but I am in my room putting on a third pair of socks and an extra hat so she speaks to Dal instead. When I reappear, turns out that Dal and Rupa (and Saki) have all decided that I am likely to keel over and die on them (and they don't want a dead Brit on their hands) and so I am no longer allowed to do the 5:00am-7:00am shift due to the cold. Also, if my knee continues to act up, I must make koochie sitting on a chair. I feel slightly like The Car The Couldn't Go ("I think I can, I think I can") but at the same time, I must admit to breathing a sigh of relief. My cough has got worse and I do believe I have a temperature coming on, although I can't really tell as, in this kind of cold you generally feel 'out of sorts' a lot of the time.
After dinner (I just have some soup to warm me up), I wander down to my previous guesthouse as I realised earlier today (when my mobile died) that I had left my plug adaptor - and headtorch - there. I am met in reception by the Manager and enquire whether my things were found in the room. He shakes his head and says "Sorry, no". It then strikes me that there is something familiar about one of his accessories - the headtorch is he proudly displaying on his forehead is mine. I politely ask for it back and then enquire, again, about my adaptor. He fumbles about in a drawer, appropriately embarassed, and then asks me to come back tomorrow when he has been able to ask the other staff. I agree and head off down to the internet cafe to email my mom. Feeling as cold as I do, and with my knee threatening to give up on me, all I want is to be at home in the comfort of my own living room with my family. But alas, emails will have to do for the time being.
Back at the guesthouse, I flop straight onto my bed. Ooops, forgot my malaria tablets. I try to get back up but my body has become a dead weight and the aches and pains that I have been feeling all day in my bones are now searing through me as I try to haul myself back up. Eventually I manage it. I just pray I don't need the loo in the night because I am not looking forward to that kind of effort at 'stupid o'clock'.
Okay, I am definitely sick. Why do I always get sick when I go away?? I take vitamins, use hand sanitiser, drink plenty of water. I have had a very restless night. One minute boiling hot, taking every layer off and throwing back the blankets - at one point I seriously considered going and lying on the cool tile bathroom floor and turning the cold shower on. Then an hour later, waking up freezing cold and shivering uncontrollably and having to put everything back on. I wake briefly and note from the level of light outside that it is probably not even 6:30am. I use all my remaining energy to ignore the throbbing pain in my head and drift back to sleep. I next wake up at 2:30pm with someone knocking on my door. It is Sujan. I groggily tell him that I will be with him in a minute and he goes to wait for me in the dining area. I pull myself up and curse Sujan in the most uncharitable fashion. After layering up, I limp over to the dining area, pull out a chair opposite Sujan and flop my head onto the table. He explains that he telephoned Dal this morning after breakfast to ask how my knee was (word had got to him through Rupa) and Dal had said I was still sleeping. Apparently he phoned again just before 1:00pm and when he was told that I was still sleeping, he thought I quite possibly really had died. I don't have the energy to laugh but I do reprimand myself in my head for the silent cursing I gave him when he arrived. I have a hot lemon and honey at Sujan's request but then explain politely that I really must go back to bed. Sujan says he will telephone tomorrow to see how I am. Just before he leaves, I manage to relay the headtorch/adaptor story to him and he assures me that he will go and get my adaptor back for me. I make my way back to my room, make an attempt at brushing my teeth and flop back into bed.
At 7:00pm, a knock at my door interrupts my slumber again. Would people please just leave me to die in peace! It is Ram telling me that Dal is insisting I have some food now. That sounds quite sensible but when I get to the dining room, food suddenly seems a terrible idea. I force down some soup with a lot of ginger in it and am back in bed by 7:20pm. This is when the next stage of my illness decides to introduce itself. I now have 'Delhi Belly'. Yes, I know I'm in Nepal before anyone points out the obvious. But seriously, I have never had my bowls turn against me in this manner so this is the only thing I can ascribe it to. After several trips to the loo - I wonder at one stage whether I should just move my sleeping bag and pillow in there - my head finally hits the pillow and I manage at least half an hour of sleep before I have to make a mad dash again. It is during one of my many nightime visits (is this Blog post descriptive enough for you?) when I am feeling particularly gross that I consider brushing my teeth. It is then that I remember this afternoon - I was feeling very groggy at being woken up, I was freezing cold, with a banging head and in a rush to get back into bed. What did I do? I brushed my teeth. Yes. Good. But no! Oh nooooo! Not good, not good! I brushed my teeth with tap water which - in case you didn't know - is not clean here. Even the locals can't stomach it. I hold my head in my hands and prepare to get to know this room much better over the course of the next few days *groan* I want my mommy.