We didn’t have to keep the heating on over night, down at this altitude it is much warmer and we slept well. I had to rise early as I had an appointment with a harness and cable, but Sue opted to remain snug in bed while I dressed and went down for breakfast. As I finished my curried potato pancakes Sue arrived for her helping, just as I departed with four of our group to walk to the meeting point of our morning activity.
After completing in the obligatory disclaimer forms we boarded a ramshackle minibus. We were joined by two young Chinese girls and a Nepalese from Kathmandu. As I have already mentioned the roads here are atrocious, however this journey took it up another level. In fairness the authorities were trying to improve the road, but working on the road surface without stopping the traffic is down right dangerous, especially when any mistake is rewarded with a several thousand foot dive to the valley floor. I guess we tourists would have got high marks for style but scored poorly on technique and execution!
Despite many near misses and after passing the hotel we had stayed in Sarangkot (trekking up would have been safer) we eventually reached the top station of the Zip Flier.
It was a gorgeous day. No clouds and Annapurna across the valley was as beautiful as could be against a blue backwash. More photos. We read from the information board, listened to the heavy Nepalese accented instructions and prepared ourselves for the flight down.
We were to fly in pairs and I was to be in the 3rd flight. The two Chinese girls were first, after being strapped in and last-minute instructions had been given, the gate that they were pushing against with their feet was opened and they flew. Screams I guess all the way down. I can’t be sure as 1.8km is a long way and I lost sight of them very quickly as they disappeared into the landscape.
I was paired with the guy from Kathmandu. After instructions: if you see a white flag, pull on the right-hand rope, and if you stop, pull on the left hand rope. Good. No problem there, I had no intention of pulling on any rope and this Nepalese was going to eat my dirt!
As the gate opened I gauged I had stolen a march by launching my body forward to gain momentum. That was when the race was over and done with. As he dwindled behind and I picked up speed I felt the rush of the wind increase, and the flesh on my face became increasingly contorted. Tears began to be forced from their ducts, but I couldn’t wipe them away as I had to fight the straps to keep me falling straight, at the same time attempting to keep my legs straight and splayed out wide. It then dawned on me that the instructions to keep legs as wide as possible, though seemed counterproductive at the top, now made sense, streamlining at this speed was not needed, using your legs as air brakes was! I kept my legs out.
To be honest everything is a blur. Looking at your harness, trying to focus on the scenery passing swiftly by, with a howling tornado in your face is not easy. Remember, when over the river focus on the flag. Well there was the river below, where the bloody hell do I look for a flag? Oh s**t, there it is, too late, no point now, goodbye world!
Ooooooooh, how did that happen? I stopped with hardly a judder. What was all that about at the top? If you don’t slow down enough you will slam into the buffer, so brake on the white flag. Perhaps miracles do happen.
After all of us had flown, we watched some Chinese bungee jump from the platform in front of the restaurant. Most had to be pushed, and all screeched demonically on their way down.
The journey back to the Pokhara was in a Landrover and very uncomfortable, but thankfully shorter as we had obligingly shed 1.8km in height, which is the equivalent of several thousand bends in the road here.
I arrived back at the hotel to be greeted by Sue from the 3rd floor balcony. We exchanged stories of our mornings activities. She had been shopping and bought a jacket and a much treasured Christmas bauble. After a coffee we set off on a walk down through the town and back along the lake shore. We stopped at a restaurant and had a rather larger lunch than planned. We were joined at our table by a guy from Leigh on Sea, who I guessed craved British company. He had just arrived from a 14 day trek around the high Annapurna, and had only his sherpa for company. He showed us some of the photos on his camera, and we exchanged stories of past holidays. He was a postman and had saved up 3 weeks holiday and this is what he did. Brilliant.
He finished his meal before us and moved on. We carried on with our low Annapurna trek around Lake Fewa, stopping at a bar when we came across a couple from our group. We took refreshments with them before returning to the hotel. Sue to watch BBC world news and me to snooze.
Later that evening we packed our cases in readiness for a very early drive to Chitwan and then had a walk into town to see and listen to the Pokharan way of life for one last time. We stopped at a very comfortable bar, choosing pavement seats to watch life go by. I have been to some places but this one is certainly different. Progress will change it I am sure, the Chinese will see to that, they are certainly here in very large numbers. However, on an optimistic note, when we first started coming across the Chinese on our travels they were certainly unique, different, odd, but over the years they are slowly becoming westernised and I guess soon they will be no more worse than your average stentorian American.
Returning to the hotel we discovered most of the rest of our party still in the bar and much the worse for it. Glad we chose to say goodbye to Pokhara!!