The ever-helpful 3Sisters Adventure Trekkers called just as we collapsed into our suite after our airport ordeal (see Day 7) – alternate arrangements are made. Since the weather is not expected to change tomorrow, we abandon hope of flying to Pokhara, the central starting point for trekking the Annapurnas east of Kathmandu. They have arranged to pick up us at 6AM in their jeep and take us to Pokhara. It is an 8 hour ride over a road which is probably the best in Nepal outside of Kathmandu, since it supports the all-important tourist trade. (That doesn’t mean there weren’t some white-knuckle moments!).
I’m not a big fan of SUV’s but in Nepal a large four-wheel-drive vehicle actually makes sense. The road passes through rural country and busy villages; traffic alternately easy and harrowing. The passing lorries are elaborately painted with pictures of gods, flowers, and strange beasts, set off with ornamental grille work also elaborately painted, and often sporting banners flying from the fenders. These ornaments help take your mind off how very closely they pass on the narrow road clinging to the mountain side – art at work!
The Chetri Sisters Guest House is friendly and comfy, though not as isolated as the pix on the website would have you think. It was full of other trekkers, either families planning to trek together or other groups of women.
Although the 3 sisters started out as a service devoted to women trekkers on the well-established Annapurna circuit, the slower pace, moderate burdens, and nightly accomodations have attracted families and other groups which include men – they have even added a couple of male tour guides to the staff (who also enjoy the benefit of the humane load limits imposed by 3 Sisters management).
Pokhara is a tourist town, with all the tourist ameniteis including souvenir shops, ATMs, and restaurants of every persuasion. We ate lunch down by Fewa Lake along with several other women who will be traveling with us for the first two nights, shared a bit of a beer and chat. Celebrated view of lake surrounded by snowy peaks invisible; instead we had a foggy Chinese-y landscape of gray lake and gray sky and darker gray foothills swimming out of the mist. (Can you spot the hills in this picture?) We returned to a mandatory orientation meeting with our guides-to-be, a presentation on Empowering Women of Nepal (3 sisters NGO), and a dinner of the Nepalese national dish, dal bhaat – rice, lentil soup, curried stew (sometimes this includes meat, sometimes not) and a pickled vegetable. (Watch out for little pebbles in the lentil soup!) We went to bed to the sound of rain pounding on the roof and gushing down the gutters – hoping this augurs clear weather for tomorrow.