Sadly, the lack of roads is not going to last for long. As we neared the end of our hike at Birethanti, the bridge we crossed at the beginning, we found a huge Caterpillar, belching fumes into the air, whining and screeching, scraping away the hillside, flattening out the remaining side of the hill – I’m somewhat sorry to see that ‘progress’ is coming to this pristine area. It is destined to be built up to Ghandrung, the jumping off point for the Annapurna Base Camp – and I’m not sure how much further beyond. We’ve talked about doing the 21 day loop – and may have to do it sooner than later to avoid this intrusion into this unsullied environment.
The return to civilization? Not so sure I want to be there. Civilization includes far more cars, noise, dirt, people, hawkers, stores…I already miss the mountains. We stayed at the Shangri-La Hotel this time- a quiet, beautifully set hotel nestled just outside the bustling city. Of course, what did we do? Took the hotel shuttle down to the city center to check out the stores, various sites, walk around and have dinner. Found a great restaurant with Newari food - something we had never tried. They had dishes similar to the Nepalese dishes we had tried but they used different spices and different twists on the same staples. The green stuff was the "local" spinach - I didn't particularly care for it in any disguise, thought the dried version (brown stuff to the right of it) wasn't quite as bad. The soy beans on the left was out of this world - I could have had an entire plate of that. Enjoyed ourselves but found that we were exhausted after the long hike so went back to the hotel after an early evening. Was still nice to pamper ourselves – it was definitely the kind of place we would NEVER get to stay in in the US.
After a leisurely morning at the hotel, we headed out for Katmandu. Now, I must admit, I was a bit worried. Tserig called to say he was running late to pick us up, and very late he was. We left the hotel about 25 min. BEFORE our flight. Now I know that in the US, that would mean we missed it for sure but here…the 10 min. drive got us to the airport, no lines in front (remember, it was very small) we walked right in, checked in, got our boarding pass, and still had close to 10 minutes to wait for boarding. Absolutely amazing.