Annapurna Sunrise

Around 10pm the clouds disappeared revealing not just a heaven full of bright twinkling stars but way down below was the equally jaw dropping lights of Pokhara, as if this was not enough the horizon randomly flickered and flashed with electrical discharge creating a light show that left an imprint on your retina. Amazing. Standing on the balcony we could have watched this free light show for hours, but the problem with altitude is that at night it gets freezing.

We moved inside to the warmth of our room. We had left our heater on all evening and its welcoming glow as we opened the door promised a comfortable night. Not so for the other members of our party who did not have any source of heat in their rooms and were huddled together around a wood burning brazier, putting off the inevitable return to a chilly room and an equally cold bed. We left our heater on all night, though just on one bar. You can have too much of a good thing. We both had large single beds, though Sue had a mattress mine only had a board for a base. This was the same in other rooms.

I did fall asleep straight away, but awoke probably an hour later with aching bones and muscles. I chose the wise option, relocated and joined Sue. A lovely, snug and cold free sleep ensued until the alarm went off at 6.00am.

Quickly dressing we joined the rest of our group on the restaurant balcony. They had not had a good night’s sleep. We said nothing. It was still a clear night, lights were still twinkling but now there was a thin line of orange across the distant horizon.

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Marching up the mountain path at the back of the hotel we joined the hundreds of other excited people intent on witnessing dawn over Annapurna. Climbing in the dark was twice as exhausting as in the daytime, not sure why, but it was. We paid our 50 rupee ticket to reach the platforms at the very top and found a place among the throng of photographers and waited. It was cold. The sky gradually brightened and changed colour from a line of orangey red to an expanding band of yellow, until some 15 minutes later the sun peeped its head over the mountains. The excitement was tangible with the clacking and clicking of cameras and ooohs and aaahs as the golden disk rapidly cleared the distant mountains and took off into a mauve coloured sky. Wonderful. We could now see the clouds flowing over the Annapurna range as if being poured from a cauldron. Magical.

All too soon, disinterest took hold and people started to disappear like the dark of just a few moments ago. Our party stayed awhile and took selfies and then of each other against a still un-matcheable back ground of mountain, rock and snow. We retraced our steps to the hotel and breakfast.

Appetite satisfied and the sun soaring overhead pouring down heat on all, we checked out and assembled for the trek down to Pokhara. I was hoping to see my canine friend of yesterday, but I was disappointed. I had squirreled away part of last night’s evening meal for his consumption, but he was no where to be seen.

We set off back down the trail. There was now a bank of cloud below, obscuring the city and Lake Fewa promising to make at least part of our descent a cold and wet one. In the end this was not to be as we enjoyed a clear hike all the way down when the clouds blew away as we reached their level. There were frequent stops for muscles to recover, drinks to be taken due to the increasing heat and wildlife to be ogled at. We saw small birds of many species, leaving Jeff (the twitcher) to tell us what they were and even more impressive, much, much larger birds; Griffin Vultures, Kites, Buzzards and a solitary Golden Eagle. The thermal currents had now been triggered by the rising sun and among the circling birds began to appear brightly coloured paragliders. It was fascinating to see them wheeling and mingling,  round and round as if rehearsing a dance. The further we descended, the greater the number of human and avian dancers took to the sky. How they didn’t collide was down to individual skill. Wish I was there with them.

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We passed through a small group of shacks, outside one a family was sitting and enjoying the sun. They had two puppies gambolling amongst them. Seizing the opportunity I called to the little woofers, to which a puppy and children came rushing over as I ferreted in my rucksack.Oh, how disappointed the children were when I produced the remains of my dinner and gave it to the puppies. If looks could kill, this blog wouldn’t have been written. I moved quickly on.

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We started to meet would-be paragliders on the trek upwards. The carried their machines in huge packs on their back. I chatted to one, stopping him briefly on his journey. He informed me that his pack weighed 19 kg and that he was going to feed the vultures. He had a supply of meat and a whistle. When he had taken to the air, he would use his whistle, hold out a piece of meat and the birds would take it in flight. Aaaaah! so that is why the two were dancing so tightly ! Marvellous. I wish I could do that.

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We eventually reached our starting position of yesterday and boarded the minibus.

Returning to the hotel we checked in and agreed to meet again after lunch at 2.30pm at the end of the road to go boating on the lake. Sue and I chose to eat at the Rainbow as from its balcony we could see our meeting point. We ordered our meal and drinks and was engaged in consuming them when most of our party appeared in the street below and came and joined us. They ordered food and drinks. We finished our food and chatted. By 2.30pm their food had not arrived, but the rest of the party were at the meeting place. Sue and I left to explain the delay. Eventually we all arrived at the lake-side and began to work out how we were going to go boating. There are different rules for Foreigners than Nepalese, we had come across this frequently when paying for tickets and visiting temples and museums etc.  Interpretation of rules led to frustration by  some members of the party, particularly as the place was packed with locals intent on getting a boat and we appeared to be way down the list of priorities for allocation. Four left in a huff.

I decided enough was enough and picked out the one who I thought was the most senior of the allocators, smiled at him sweetly, explained what we wanted and slipped him 100 rupees. Sue went off with him to procure a boat.

The six of us enjoyed our hour on the lake. We took photos of the mountains, now clear of any cloud. We came across a lot of species of water birds (luckily we had the twitcher on board) and our oarsman managed to ram several other boats in our meandering.We stopped at a small island which seemed to be the focal point of most of the boats. It had a small temple in its centre with many worshippers. Other than that it appeared to be of little interest. I have no idea who the deity was that the temple was dedicated to.

Returning to shore we made our way to the hotel. I stopped on the way to purchase two Nepalese hats. I had bought myself one earlier in the morning at Serangkot and Sarah had been impressed by my photo of it sent on messenger, she wanted one, so I got Charlotte on too.

We met up with most of our group later that evening at the Paradiso Bar and took advantage of Happy Hour and 2 for 1 cocktails. Not a lover of these drinks but they had a band playing and they were good. Even ‘Stairway to Heaven’ was included in their set. We chose to eat there. We were the first to leave as I wanted to write this blog before retiring and tomorrow was another early start as I am going Zip Wiring down a mountain. Hope I don’t have to trek up first!

 

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