Yesterday we caught a helicopter out of base camp and flew back to Karkara. When we arrived in Karkara we were told by Kazbek from the Khan Tengri Mountain Company (who we had organised the climb through) that there wouldn’t be a bus leaving for Almaty today. This was despite having been reassured in base camp that vehicles leave every single day, and that no organisation was necessary. We asked if another vehicle could be organised, but was told that this was impossible.
Given that we had been receiving twice daily medical treatment in base camp, and it would be nearly 2 days without any medical attention, we decided to engage our insurance company (International Health Insurance Denmark – don’t overly recommend them, see rest of story). They agreed to pay to charter a car for us at a cost of a couple of hundred dollars to get us to Almaty.
As soon as there was money involved, a car quickly materialised by Kazbek! He made some pathetic excuse about not understanding our injuries. This car had to be paid for by us and we should be reimbursed by the insurance company (we hope). Any rate, we arrived at Almaty last night and were taken to the Khan Tengri Mountain Company office where they had a “doctor” waiting. This doctor, although very nice, didn’t know too much and we asked to be taken to an International SOS Clinic. This had been suggested to us as a preferred place to visit by the insurance company.
We were taken there by a driver & accompanied by the Khan Tengri doctor. These SOS clinics are really great. They are like extremely small hospitals, run by local people, but always headed up and supervised by a Western doctor. The standard of everything is exactly what you would receive in a hospital at home. About 5 hours & $US1800 later, we had been thoroughly checked up, tested and given lots of shots. Occasionally the western doctor would leave the room and it quickly turned into something akin to a Fawlty Towers episode. The local doctor would completely ignore what had said in relation to Fiona and concentrate solely on me! The supervising doctor asked for a 38 degree bath for our feet & hands, instead she brought out ice packs! Her English was pretty good too! The western doctor said that this what we could expect if we went to a local hospital.
We are now seeing this doctor twice a day who is giving us the shots we need to prevent infection and keep our blood thin (this is important to assist with circulation in the affected toes and fingers). The doctor last night said we should get back to Australia ASAP, and we agreed. So last night we advised this to our insurance company who after considerable pushing from the doctor here, agreed to pay to fly us home sooner than our scheduled Aug 17 date with Asiana Airlines. That decision was made at about 2am last night, it’s now late in the afternoon and the insurance company still hasn’t confirmed any flight details. We think that to take this long to organise a simple flight is outrageous. Khan Tengri are trying to charge us an extra $US270 for their support last night. We don’t mind paying for their time, but in country where a doctor gets paid $US100 per month, $US270 on top of the transport is an extreme rip off.
We are both feeling fine now but are unsure as to the extent of our frostbite and keen to start getting some consistent advice and treatment at home. Needless to say, we are a little frustrated and looking forward to some more positive news soon.
Paul & Fiona in Almaty.