After the peace and quiet of our community home stay this was to be a day of travel. We would be leaving the plains and heading for the mountains.
An early start was required in case of traffic delays so we were up at 6:00 am for breakfast at 7:00 am and departure at 7:30 am. We put our large bags out as instructed before enjoying another ‘healthy breakfast’ of muesli with fruit, yoghurt, and honey with black coffee.
Our hosts presented us with an hibiscus flower as we departed. Majella and I had both heard rolling thunder soon after we went to bed but I had not heard the barking dogs that disturbed her. Neither of us had heard rain but the ground did seem damp so perhaps it had rained overnight.
The morning mist was beginning to lift as we drove off but still obscured the horizon. Our route north to the main west to east highway was through the local agricultural land and small clusters of houses. We saw rice growing in paddies, wheat, and other crops. In a couple of fields we saw farmers working the soil with a plough pulled by a pair of buffalo. The houses were the usual mix of traditional build and new concrete construction extending to 3 levels with colourful decorations on those that were finished.
When we reached the main road it ran through mostly built up areas with a similar mix of housing and commercial buildings. Traffic was steady but no too bad and there was little honking even when we were in heavy traffic.
A little before 9:00 am we crossed the Narayani River well upstream of the park and entered a small town where we turned off the main highway and headed north through forest. The road began to rise and curve and our progress sometimes slowed as we were caught behind trucks or buses.
Before long we were into the mountainous area, following the course of the Trisuli River up a narrow gorge with steep craggy tree covered slopes on both sides. Occasionally we saw narrow pedestrian suspension bridges across the river perhaps 20 m above the water but probably much closer in flood times.
There were numerous roadside stalls selling a variety of goods. Some offered foodstuffs for travellers and others displayed bright coloured decorative fringes. At some points we could see narrow terraces for farming on the far side and they may have been on our side too where feasible but we could not see down that way.
The bus paused for a few minutes at Mugling to refuel. That offered a comfort stop for those who needed one. We managed to buy two small Snickers bars for 80 rupees (about $1) to refuel ourselves.
From there we crossed the river just below a junction and headed north and west following the Marsyangdi River. A little way up river we passed what looked like a hydroelectric plant on a tributary gorge.
About 10:30 am we stopped at a cafe near a pedestrian suspension bridge. They were advertising an espresso machine so first priority was coffees, cappuccino and americano. Properly caffeinated with good coffees we headed for the bridge where we could see some members of the group were already. We almost got lost when Majella led us down a steep and slippery goat track but realised our error and found the correct path onto the bridge. It arched high above the water with just a hint of sway as we walked on it.
Back on the road we headed further into the mountains. We drove over a pass and down into another river valley and then up again to cross into another valley. Our up and down and to and fro progress continued until we reached Pokhara around 1:20 pm.
The bus went direct to Sasane, a project that works with women who are survivors of people trafficking. The project has been running for more than 10 years and has been supported by GAdventures for the past few years. It runs four programs – paralegal training for survivors who have the necessary educational preparation, tourism and hospitality training for those with more limited education, information programs in schools, and community awareness programs. Our lunch was part of the second program. We were greeted by our hosts and silk scarves were placed around our necks as is local custom. Once we had sat down we were treated to vegetable momos prepared by the women. There were plenty to fill us all before we proceeded to watch a demonstration of momo preparation and try it ourselves. When we had all made momos they were sent off to be steamed and we sat down again to be served Nepalese thali – rice, vegetables, lentils, spinach – for lunch. By that time our momos had cooked and they were returned for us to try. Lunch was followed by an informative presentation about people trafficking and the work of the project.
It was 4:00 pm when we stepped outside again and were able to see tall snow covered peaks through the haze and cloud. Our bus took us to our hotel where we had a short time to rest before meeting to go for a walk by the lake.
At 5:00 pm we met in the lobby. Our route to the lake took us through each nearby shopping street where we were able to access an ATM and replenish our cash supply. Then it was on to the lake where we walked the length of the town stretch, enjoying the sunset over the water and the colourful boats moored by the shoreline. We turned around when we reached the carnival rides at the far end of the shore and walked back, coming inshore to see more of the shops we had missed on our way out.
We were all happy to go for something to eat or at least a drink so Ruby led us to Moondance, a bar and restaurant not far off. It was happy hour so Majella and I took advantage of the 2 for 1 deal on mai tai cocktails. We shared a simple pizza with tomato and feta for dinner.
It was 9:00 pm by the time we got back to the hotel after an evening of interesting conversation about everything and nothing. We have an early morning for sunrise on the mountains.