Tikhedunga to Pokhara; Trek day seventeen and a half; The end of the epic

Today was the last day of our Himalayan trek. I was really tired of bad meals, food-poisoning and constant walking, and had been ready for it to end a couple of days before, so it wasn’t with much regret that I woke up that morning. There were only a couple of hours left to walk to Birethanti at the end of the trail. There was hardly any countryside left at that point - it was all just stone paths, guesthouses and villages. We were definitely back in civilization (or rural Nepal’s closest approximation) - hardly anybody we met on the trail said hello as we passed. We stopped in Birethanti for tea and to clear the last checkpoint, and walked on to the village of Naya Pul, twenty minutes on through shacks and mud.

A rattletrap local bus took us at insane speeds around the blind hairpin turns down out of the mountains to Pokhara in an hour and a half of white-knuckled terror and motion-sickness. I felt sorry for the other passengers - after two and a half weeks of trekking we didn’t smell very good at all. I’d gotten so used to it that I hadn’t really noticed until then. It’s a bad moment, when you realize that you smell worse than a bus full of peasants.

The bus dropped us at a bus stand in Pokhara’s northern outskirts. We’d been expecting to be dropped somewhere closer to the middle of town. The problem was that we had no map of Pokhara and had no idea where the the cheap hotels and restaurants were. We’d decided not to carry our heavy guidebook on the trek, but in a fit of brilliance had photocopied a few of the important Pokhara pages. Those pages had somehow gotten lost in the meantime and I couldn’t even remember the name of the right area of town. That pretty much stopped us from taking a taxi or a minibus, so we set out to walk. I knew we were in the north part of the town because we’d approached from the north, and since we hadn’t passed through much of it I reckoned that we’d just keep walking in the direction the bus had been going.

This turned out to be the right strategy. After a couple of kilometres things got a little more populated. Three weeks ago we’d both have balked at the thought of carrying packs for an hour through a city, but after 300km of mountain trekking, an hour or two extra seemed like pretty small change. In fact, it was a really nice treat to be walking on flat pavement without ankle braces and a trekking pole. The walking was suddenly a lot faster. Pokhara’s traffic was strange even by Nepali standards - a wacky mix of vehicles, including a lot of two-wheeled tractors that looked like over-sized rototillers hitched to a trailer with a seat on the front for the driver, who held onto its long handlebars. Very noisy and very weird, and they all looked as if they’d been built from spare parts.

When we reached a T-intersection we stood around for a minute trying to guess the best way. Some friendly locals having a drunken picnic under a tree by the side of the road called us over and asked us if they could help. As it turned out, Pokhara’s tourist ghetto is an area of town called Lakeside (which we both remembered as soon as we heard the name). It was another couple of kilometres off down the road to the right. Lakeside is Pokhara’s answer to Kathmandu’s Thamel - lots of tourist restaurants and guesthouses, souvenir shops and trekking equipment stores. Three weeks of absence wasn’t enough to make me look back on Thamel with any fondness, but Lakeside was a lot quieter and mellower and it was very welcome after the hardships of the trail. The guesthouse we found was lovely, and even though the price tag was four times the hundred rupees we’d gotten used to paying on the trek, it was a lot nicer than plywood walls and concrete floors.

The trek had really wiped us out, we realized. As soon as the constant need to walk was gone, we fell on our faces. All we could do was drop off all our stinky laundry, find some food, and then collapse. Pokhara’s nice, though. The weather was warm and the breeze smelled like flowers. We were clean and there were lots of restaurants nearby that served other things than chow mein and fried rice. We weren’t cold or wet or sick or covered in donkey crap, and nothing hurt. Nobody was going to hear any complaints from me.

The long trek was finally over. Three hundred kilometres, seventeen days, and 5,400-odd meters of altitude. We’d nearly been trampled by a herd of yaks, nearly crushed by a landslide, and had inched carefully over precarious wooden bridges high over white water. We’d shared the trail with donkeys, goats, cows, horses and water buffalo, and watched the indestructible Nepali men and women carrying on their backs giant loads of supplies, rocks, chickens, steel girders, and aged grandmothers. We’d seen avalanches and landslides, eagles and caterpillar-hunters and high windswept villages streaming with prayer flags. We’d braved altitude sickness, snowstorms and rancid yak meat and by god, we did it. I feel like I’m justified in being a little bit proud.

Chris Liberty - Dispatches from a Gentleman Adventurer
Being the internal dialog of a vagabond who chased his own tail across five continents for 4 years and 2 days from May 2008 to May 2012, in search of something that never really became clear.
This travelogue comprises 16,426 photographs and 402,515 words in 307 dispatches written from 335 places in 52 countries on 6 continents around the world.
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