My sleep is interrupted several times by a dog barking outside and James’ snoring, and I am not at my best when I finally emerge for breakfast in the morning.
The mountain peaks are just appearing out of the cloud as our slightly ancient bus takes us rattling out of Pokhara to the start of the trek. We stop briefly for photos, and then continue. There is a faint whiff of burning somewhere in the bus, and as we continue, the burning smell becomes stronger and more acrid, and as the bus moves slower and slower the driver is obviously fighting the gears. Smoke begins to pour out from around the gear lever and we grind to a final halt and pile off the bus for an early start to the trek.
We walk for a mile or so along the road before beginning a hot and steep climb to cut the corner off a hairpin bend to reach the trail head at Khare. From there we climb steeply out of the valley, passing through villages where we are greeted with cries of Namaste! Eagles soar high above us and the air is generally hazy. The path finally levels out and in the shade of moss-encrusted trees it becomes much cooler. On reaching Pothana, we stop for lunch and, for efficiency’s sake, all order the same meal of vegetable noodles.
The walk continues along an easy path, paved in places, through the woods, with the occasional tantalising glimpse of Annapurna South between the dense trees. A steep and slippery descent brings us down into Bhichok, with more fleeting views of Annapurna South between the clouds and trees, and we arrive quite late on in the afternoon at Tolka (1700 m) where we are staying the night. Our room is basic, but I am pleasently surprised to see an electric light. The solar shower is almost out of the day’s water, but I feel much better afterwards. There is a good view of Annapurna South from the veranda—a splash of orange light on the high snow caught between clouds as the sun disappears.