Day 7 – 23 September 2011
I don’t remember if I had a shower that morning, but if I did, it certainly didn’t cut through the anesthesia of a 5am start after a hard trek the day before. Packing, then trudging up those bloody steps, was done in a trance, interrupted only by the pain of each step rippling through my thighs. Dumping my bag in the lobby, I was directed to clamber over a broken wall and up a steep mud path to what I imagine might be called an observation point. I was a little late and it was already fairly light, though the sun hadn’t yet broken over the mountains on the horizon.
If the weather had been clearer, we would have been able to see Everest; a sight Drew had particularly requested and one of the reasons we’d climbed to Nagarkot. Not only was the sky full of cloud, but poor Drew had, on his approach to the ‘observation point’, slipped down some stone steps and bruised his hip. Deciding to rest, he never saw the sunrise. He didn’t miss much.
Content that Mother Nature wasn’t about to flash us an early morning tease on the way out of the bedroom, we climbed down and said our goodbyes to Jen, who would be making her way down by foot. We jumped in to our micro-taxi-bus-thing for a race to the Kathmandu bus park.
All driving in Nepal is pretty hairy, but Ben regretted (he was in the front seat) telling the driver we were in a hurry as we hurtled down the mountain in our flimsy micro.
The journey was uneventful, but there was some confusion as to the exact location of the Greenline bus stop that meant we missed its departure (even though, using our first ever Nepali connection, we had been able to delay that departure by 10 mins). Our man at Greenline quickly arranged for the bus to stop and wait, and our taxi driver to take us to it, somewhere in Kathmandu. So we hopped back into our cab and set off in search of the now very delayed bus.
On the way, our cabbie was stopped by traffic police and, after some dejected discussions, his licence was confiscated; but we were allowed to continue. Bizarre.
When we caught up with the ‘luxury’ Greenline coach-bus-thingy, our bags were hastily and aggressively stowed and we were hustled aboard; to meet a sea of glaring tourist eyes: clearly we had not made a good first impression.
Deprived of our VIP booked seats at the front of the bus, we took our places as naughty boys on the back row. It felt like being on a school trip all of a sudden. This feeling was exacerbated when we stopped half an hour later in a monumental traffic jam and I took that opportunity to ask the driver if I could get some stuff from my stowed bag. As he opened the hold, he shot me a disapproving stare and snapped, “Why were you late?” Dumbfounded, I mutely replied, “The taxi was late.” I almost added “Sir”.
Restored to my throne at the centre of the back row, I finally relaxed. Right. We were in for a 7hr coach trip along part of what British television considers one of the most dangerous roads in the world. But we weren’t moving. A look out of the window gave us some clue: we could see the road trace a several mile long queue of traffic, draped across the mountains like a string of diesel-and-sweat-soaked spaghetti; but only in one direction. The other side of the road was occasionally the brief home of opportunist or impatient little cars; and then an ambulance.
Until that point it hadn’t occurred to me what would happen if there was an accident on these roads. How long would help be? In what form? To where would you be taken? While the grim truth of it all was, at the time, either suppressed or simply overtaken by other experiences, it bothers me now, as I write this, that the general state of mind one needs on these roads is not one of considering consequences.
The next hour and a half was stationary; and when we finally started moving, it was a trickle of traffic that was far far too closely packed for this road. Once through though, we were well on our way; although the driver clearly felt he had some time to make up. It seemed like the perfect time for a nap.
Ben woke me at the first snack stop with exclamations about how I possibly could have slept through such a bumpy journey and that I’d missed the exceptional views of the enormous Trishuli river, cutting its way through the valleys as we followed its course. Snickers, Sprite and a smoke, a gentleman’s breakfast, then we hopped back in to our temporary home-cum-coffin to continue our cross-country slog.
Refreshed from my nap and now taking up the window seat, I found landscapes that set my eyes wide with awe.
We arrived in Pokhara to find Mr Indra Baral, who runs the Green Park Hotel, who had been waiting over two hours for us, poor chap. A very quick taxi ride to the hotel and we were settled in.
I cannot say enough good things about Indra and his business partner Gopal. If you ever come to Pokhara, you must seek them out and stay in whichever hotel they’re running at that point. Wonderful people, so kind and welcoming and – as you will find out is quite common in Pokhara – literally able to sort anything out for you: safari, trek, food, drink, cigarettes, SIM cards, guides, massage, internet, clothes, etc.
They also have a Facebook page: Green Park Hotel