This morning we left Kathmandu for Pokhara. We were due to leave our various overnight lodgings at about 9am although this being Nepal matters didn’t go entirely to plan.
We were aware there were to be major road closures, most noticeably the one we would take to the airport, due to an event involving the visit of a senior foreign dignitary. We had been advised the closures would start from 10am, hence our planned departure at 9am.
At about 7:30 we received a call from our agent (aka most excellent fixer) saying he understood there had been a change of plan and the roads would be closed at 9am and if we didn’t leave very soon we would be stuck.
At this time following remarkably calm consideration a 3 point plan was put into action.
1. One of the team put a call though to the British Embassy security team to ask the truth of the matter. He would call back with an update as soon as he had investigated and the phone was to be manned.
2. A runner beat a hasty path to the local swimming pool to retrieve the person who was to drive us out of the compound. (We could have walked of course but she insisted as she wanted to see us off).
3. The escapees were alerted to put aside their toast and to be ready to walk to the airport should the driver not be found in time.
In no time at all, although regrettably not before the bedraggled driver had been pulled from the water, the inestimable security team called to advise there was indeed a change of plan. The roads were to be closed at midday. Hardly believing their ears and trying not to chuckle the recipient of the m phone call asked for confirmation that the roads would be closed until midday. No came the response, they were to be closed FROM midday. Panic over – breakfast resumed!
The moral of the story? In Nepal expect the unexpected and avoid early morning swimming if you’re on driving duty.
Perhaps due to the impending closures or maybe due to the bustling presence of our agent smarting from having been misinformed, the airport appeared less busy than usual. The departures hall had been smartened up. Gone was its hangar-like appearance with massive queues, every piece of baggage weighed on dubious machines and the onward passage of apparently overweight luggage often assisted by, ahem, palm grease, and every item carried from sight by hand. In the place of those gates of torture were a row of smart travelator-linked check-in desks manned by uniformed staff each of which bore the name of a local airline: Tara, Buddha and others including the airline with which we were booked ‘Yeti’. The Yeti corporate logo was proudly displayed: ‘You come first’. And we did. Things were definitely looking up.
While waiting to board I was delighted to see my bags loaded into the small hold on the Jetstream 41 which was shortly to whisk us to Pokhara. This British Aerospace plane held 29 passengers in a small but adequate cabin with one column of single seats on the right and pairs of seats on the left. Tim and I were happy, as you can see, to grab a pair on the left.
If the proximity of the propellor could be ignored seats on the right got the best views of the mountains to the north as we flew west.
The flight was just 40 minutes yet the appropriately diminutive and impeccably attired stewardess handed us a boiled sweet and a snack of some peanuts bearing a different Yeti logo ‘we fly with you’. It must have been at the back.
The airport serving Nepal’s second city turned out to be a gem. Small, personable, and, for an airport, beautiful with a mountain backdrop.
Our bags were produced in no time and around 10 mins after landing we were on our way in 2 cabs to the hotel on the outskirts of the city. Happily ensconced in the last nice room for over 3 weeks it was nonetheless necessary to head to a supermarket for last minute essentials such as dried apricots, dioralyte, wet wipes and trekking essentials before taking lunch at a delightful little restaurant beside the gorgeous Fewa Lake.
There is really nothing more I can tell you to compare with this stunning view from our sunny lakeside table. Not posh. Not expensive. Just perfect. An easy time eh? Yes, but it all changes tomorrow when we are on the early (pre-breakfast) flight to Jomsom.