By the Lakeside of the Lake City was where we were supposed to be for the Christmas Eve celebration. But as fate (and our zeal) would have it, we (kind of) celebrated Christmas up North, in the cold embrace of the mountains. Not the Christmas I’d envisioned for myself on my long pending homecoming. But, being under the darkest of night skies in the most formidable of places turned out to be far more appeasing than all the former festive evenings; spent under the vibrant lights, in air-conditioned rooms of distant cities with the clamor of the human ocean for company.
We had set out from Kathmandu with high hopes of spending some quality time in Pokhara. And, if the weather was clement enough we would also be hiking to Dhampus and to the nearby Australian base camp. But, as the long bus trip to the Lake city unraveled, our plans gradually began to change. We started considering the prospect of heading out way beyond Pokhara and my mother and brother began whispering about a distant but familiar base camp…
As it happened a couple of weeks ago, we had considered trekking all the way to the Annapurna Base camp. But, due to the cold weather and the unpredictable climate in the Sanctuary, we voted against going there. However, as we got closer and closer to the mountains themselves, I could hear the ABC trek topic come up more and more frequently. And before we knew it, after seven hours of travelling by the bus, we were standing at the bus stop, waiting for another connecting bus. Only this time, the bus would take us to Ghandruk. The last bus was supposed to arrive at 3:45 pm. We arrived in Pokhara at 3:30 and heeding the advice of the bus driver, we got off immediately, caught a cab and rushed over to the bus stop. On reaching the stop, the bus was nowhere to be seen. Upon inquiry, the local jeep drivers said that the buses were done for the day and only the jeeps would be able to bear us further. To make matters worse, the price they demanded was exorbitant and almost quadruple of the bus fare. I was almost dejected, after being so thrilled at the thought of getting to see the Annapurnas at such close proximity from Ghandruk. Even the notion of spending the night in the beautiful lakeside started sounding prosaic in my head, given the near anticlimactic realization. And that was when I heard the sound of a bus coming in to the stop with the conductor screaming “Ghandruk! Ghandruk!”
Music to our ears! We all were elated beyond measure. We got onto the bus and even managed to get good seats . The twilight had deepened around us and the enormous shape of the Machhapuchre had started to glow faintly in the light of the fading sun. I had the window side view and I enjoyed every bit of the view. Still, I refrained from taking the pictures then because I knew the view from Ghandruk would be far better and I wanted my cameras to be fully charged for the awe-inspiring sights yet to come.
(We got to Ghandruk. But, our adventures did not stop there. Our plans for this trip were characterized by continuous improvisations and thanks to these on-the-fly decisions, we would be in for the trip of a lifetime.
We did return to Pokhara 5 days later, all weary and weather-stained, but hardened and proud nonetheless; with countless realizations and numerous stories to tell. We only spent one night in Pokhara, the entirety of which was spent by the lakeside, contemplating the serene ambience of the Phewa lake, listening to the ripples in the water, while still in awe of the adventure we had returned from. )