I sleep quite well despite the thin walls, after the discovery that James’ snoring is greatly attenuated if he lies on his back. There is an almighty racket at 4.20 am as another group rouses itself for the pre-dawn Poon Hill ascent. We reckon this is unnecessarily early and give it another twenty five minutes before meeting downstairs.
Nearly tripping over a wooden board set into the ground underneath a sign proclaiming ‘Well Come to Poon Hill’, we begin our way in the silver moonlight up stone steps, still half asleep. Above us Orion and the Plough are clearly visible, and Venus is just above the horizon ahead of the sun. As we walk, the translucent glow on the horizon is slowly broadening.
There are already many people at the top when we arrive, either huddled into groups or staking out positions for their camera tripods. A steel observation tower stands in the middle. Somehow, it all rather lacks the kind of atmosphere I had hoped for. This is more like an audience arriving for a son-et-lumière show. Camera flashlights are firing all around. Prontaprint will have to order extra quality-control stickers at this rate. I find a spot just off the summit, in an attempt to get a few photos with at least some degree of originality. Annapurna South is the first to get some orange light on it. By the time the light gets to Dhaulagiri it has already lost its sunrise hue and the sky is bright.
I don’t notice that the others have already left and have to run to catch up. Back at the lodge, breakfast is ready. As we leave, I realise that I have forgotten to fill my water bottle and end up running after the group for the second time.
It is an uninspiring walk down to Tikhedhunga, mainly in the woods. We are privileged with another sighting of languars—what appears to be some kind of family dispute. We make a single stop for drinks. Walking with James, I discuss the music group at St Nic’s, which I have been struggling to lead. Performing thorough character assassinations of all the key villains passes the time admirably, and we are soon within sight of our destination across the river. The suspension bridge is disappointingly steady even as James attempts to dislodge me.
The rooms are basic again with plywood walls, although this time the lower half appears to be a double-thickness. We have a rather late lunch—my noodles are rather lacking in flavour and James’ vegetable curry appears to have arrived sans curry. Tikhedhunga is quite an attractive little village, the brick houses painted in blue or white, and maize cobs hanging from the balconies.
Later on, we amuse ourselves playing volleyball with the porters in the school playground high above the lodge on the hillside. The ground on one side of the court falls away precipitously, and a couple of times a miscalculated hit sends the ball over the edge, and one of the porters hurtling after it.
A cacophany of cowbells announces the arrival of a donkey train in the main street below our room. The head donkey evidently became distracted, and now they are all standing in the road facing in random directions, one apparently studying the whitewashed wall of a house with mild boredom.
After dinner, it is back to ‘cheat’ with the cards. Siling’s innocent looks belie a devious mind and he trounces all of us.