13 April: Tatopani to Pokhara
MI: a transportation day getting off the Annapurna circuit and back to Pokhara. Said farewell to our various international trekking friends over breakfast then found we had to wake up Himal and Dipesh who had over slept.
Raced down to the bus station (dirt/gravel yard) found our bus and got on. Unfortunately it was pretty full so we got the back seats, meaning a bumpy journey would be guaranteed. The positive was that Harm could sit in the middle and extend his XXXL legs. Five seats between the four us was shear luxury.
Within 20 minutes we had been bumped and bashed, our extra seat had been claimed and the aisle was full of bags and bodies. The three hour trip to Beni, where we were changing to a Jeep actually only took two hours. An 'experience' is probably the best way to describe it, with the general consensus being that that was one of the top two worst pieces of road we had ever travelled over, the other being the day before!
When we arrived at Beni we were pleasantly surprised as the jeep was only $35 to Pokhara and we had been expecting it to be over $100. $35 for a 3 hr trip, brilliant. The driver was good but had a couple of interesting incidents including a Mexican standoff with an oncoming bus driver, neither backing down for around 10 mins, and the driver being fined for something at a transport police checkpoint.
Hotel Nirvana was unable to accommodate us on our return so they arranged for a place down the road. All very nice (for Mark & John at least!), so we decided not to relocate to Nirvana the next night, although gave them a donation for one room as we felt guilty. The town was significantly more busy, partially as a result of the trekking season now being in full swing and also because it was the Nepalese New Year tomorrow.
Headed into town for lunch with Himal and Dipesh, as our final farewell to them. Bit of a debacle meeting at the bar for lunch. Dipesh had gone on ahead to the bar, I decided to wander there while the others were getting out money. I was looking the Titi Bar or possibly the City Bar, and actually was the Chilly Bar. Ended up bumping into Himal on the street looking for me 30 minutes later! Great lunch, cold beers, nice farewell. We gave them both tips without any song and dance which we're hopeful they were happy with.
The afternoon became really monsoon feeling as we rushed back to the hotel for showers before Gobinda ( our original guide) came and picked us up on his walking bus to head to his house for dinner.
A really nice experience, with Gobinda, his wife Gita, and their two daughters - 11 year old, and 16 month old Alisya. Cool family, tiny flat. We sat (on the edge of the family double bed) in the 2.4m x 7m room that was the bedroom/dining room/ office/lounge. Next door was a room of a similar size that was the kitchen/ wet area. We think the toilet was downstairs. All very clean and tidy.
They cooked Dal Bhat, which was yummy. Harm had a number of gifts for them, the wind up crocodile being the big winner with the young one, and the 11 year old into everything. Had a game of snap and last card, with plenty of laughs. This was such a good way to conclude the trekking part of the trip.
We now move into the next phase with as much gusto as the last .... Shopping.