I've still another thirteen days before I'm expected back at work. Originally I had planned to go overland from Nepal to Delhi, but I've changed my mind. I'm not comfortable with being on my tod for the two day train ride as theft is very common on the Indian railways. If I was with another person I'd be ok with this as there would always be someone to watch my kit as I go to the dodgy toilet. Secondly, there is limited assurance that I would be able to even get to the border as the terai (the lowlands between the Himalayas and India) is often the subject of bandhs, or strikes, that close the roads indefinitely. Vehicles that break the bandhs get stoned. Sometimes they get set on fire while the army watches, and in protest at the army doing nothing another bandh is arranged. And so on. So I'm not doing that. Instead I'm off for a walk. I'm back in Pokhara for a night before me and my guide climb up then around Poon Hill. This is a five day walk on the edge of the Annapurna Sanctuary. Annapurna I, the highest of the Annapurnas, is 8091m high. From the top of Poon Hill (3210m), I'll be able to see multiple 7000m+ high mountains. It will also get me away from the roads.
Yesterday, I flew alongside the eastern Himalaya as far as the Big Boy, which could and possibly should be called Sagarmatha or Chomolungma.
I've been fortunate to spend much of the last two weeks in the company of my pal Sarah, who has been an excellent travel companion. Mainly because she is a top woman, but also because she has spent much time in India (at least 12 trips, I think) and therefore knows the haggling process, and the right questions to ask when buying services. She is also an enthusiatic, yet rubbish (or chronicly unlucky) yahtzee player, which has resulted in my learning to be a gracious winner. She flies home today. Thanks for a great fortnight, mon amie.
Four days of my visit were spent in Tansen, where Sarah and Mike and the three wee ones live and work at the UMN Mission hospital. It's the only hospital for 50 plus miles, or, more importantly, two or more hours driving. Mike has a year-long placement as a surgeon. In a months time he might be redundant as the hospital is likely to run out of water.
This afternoon I have some shopping to do for the walk. If anybody wants me to bring back some cheap but authentic pashmina you need to email me specifying colour and I'll see what I can do. Within reason!
After the walk I'm finally back off to India. La vache and I are off for Lady Di pose at the Taj.