After hiking down from the Annapurna Sanctuary we camped in the village of Bamboo. During dinner that night Tasi briefed me on the itinerary for the last four days of the trek. The next day was not very long. After that we had two half days where we would stop for the day at lunch time. The last day was short and we would reach the road in midmorning. That sounded like a pretty leisurely pace. I really like to hike but I am not much of a camper. Just sitting around camp doesn't appeal much to me. I'd already finished all three books that I had brought along on the trek by this time. When I backpack in North America it is usually to reach a destination that can't be done on a day hike, not because I like camping in the woods so much. So far we had been doing about seven to eight hours of hiking per day which had been just right for me. The hiking filled most of the days but I was usually tired rather than exhausted at the end of the day. But the last few days sounded too light on hiking and too heavy on camping for me.
I asked if we could just hike our normal full day and walk out in three days instead of four. Tasi talked about some possibilities and very quickly we agreed on a plan. We decided to call Mr. Tenzing the next day from Chomrong. Tasi wanted to confirm that the change was ok with his boss. I wanted to check that I could get into my hotel in Pokhara a day early.
Next morning we were walking down the long hill to the canyon bottom to cross the river to get back to Chomrong. We came across a bit of an altercation. There was a man who looked to be Japanese carrying a large pack. He was walking uphill and looked very hot and red faced. He didn't seem to be doing very well at all. A Japanese woman was with him and he was yelling at her as loud as he could. He was definitely angry. I didn't have to know Japanese to understand the conversation. Obviously something about I don't want to be here - this sucks - this was your idea - it's all your fault. I wish I would have known how to say "Just chill, dude" in Japanese. Tasi seemed really bothered. He thought the guy carrying on in public was really bad. I had to agree with him there.
From Chomrong we called Mr. Tenzing. He was ok with the change. He just wanted to make sure that I wasn't unhappy with something. When I assured him that I just liked the new itinerary better he was ok. I also emphasized that I wasn't looking for a refund because I was getting out a day early. I expected the crew to get their full pay as well. He checked with the hotel in Pokhara and called us back to say that everything was arranged. My thirteen day trek was a twelve day trek now.
We stopped for lunch at a tea house beyond Chomrong. I could really see some of the changes that were occurring in the hill country in Nepal. Even though we were still two and a half days walk from the nearest road, the girl at the counter was watching a movie on her portable DVD player. The lady who owned the tea house would get calls on her cell phone occasionally. Things were certainly different than they were twenty years ago. If it was me choosing, I would have prioritized a flush toilet over a cell phone and DVD player.
After lunch we hiked through the village of Jhinu. It is very famous because there are hot springs nearby. The original plan was to use one of our free afternoons to visit the hot springs. I think that is a vestige of the old days of trekking. Years ago hot springs would have been a real treat after two weeks of trekking. But with all the lodges along the trail I was getting a shower at least every other day. So we cruised right through. We made our camp at the small village of Himalpani. It was at the bottom of the canyon right next to the river, the lowest we had camped since the first night. There was a beautiful waterfall that fell down the cliffs right behind our camp. It was so warm that we didn't even bother setting up the dinner tent. We borrowed a regular table and chairs from the nearby lodge and had open air dining for dinner and breakfast.
In the morning there was a beautiful view of Annapurna South looking up the river canyon. After breakfast we started off on our last full day of hiking. We had lunch at a lodge where the whole family was working right next to the dining area. Mom was washing clothes. Grandpa was watching a small boy who was full of energy and zooming around every second. This was a tough job. Gramma was working on the bee hives next to the lodge. Since I am NOT fond of bees this got my attention, but I didn't see a single bee fly by even though the hives were only twenty feet away so didn't get excited. Gramma had a fly swatter and would stand by the hives and every once and a while SMACK! something. Tasi said they had a problem with wasps invading their hives and attacking the bees. So she was watching for the wasps and killing them whenever one landed by a hive. Definitely not the job for me.
After lunch mom and Gramma decided that the boy needed a bath. So one grabbed the kid and the other a pail of water and he got a shower right then and there. It was entertaining to watch but it looked pretty cold to me.
Late that afternoon I stopped to take a picture and my camera batteries died. Pretty good timing I thought since the trek was almost over. I only missed getting photos from our very last evening. We camped in the sizeable village of Dhampus, which actually can be reached by jeep trail. There was a huge party going on in the village to dedicate a new high school. It had been built as a project by a charitable group in Belgium, so there were a lot of Europeans there. People gave speeches. There was lots of music playing. There were county fair type games set up. It was quite an event.
Since it was our last night on the trek we had a party after dinner. I bought beer for everyone and we all piled into the dining tent. The local beer was called Everest. It came in big 650ml bottles and tasted pretty good IMHO. I gave out the tips which made everyone happy. I had a "Singapore is a Fine City" tshirt that I had brought to give to Tasi as a souvenir gift. I made him explain the pun to the other guys in nepali. Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves although Sarkey got a real shock when he tasted his beer. Not only was it his first time on a trek but it was the first time he had ever tasted beer. He didn't like it. I was worried that it was a pretty large bottle of beer to let it go to waste, but Bouday came to the rescue and graciously volunteered to finish Sarkey's beer for him. What a guy. I wish my camera had been working to get some pictures.
Afterwards I went through my gear and picked out things that I wouldn't need anymore. Stuff like my warm hat, some of my hiking clothes, water bottle, etc. I gave them to Tasi and he distributed them among the porters. Since they have so little money getting a used tshirt or jacket is a big deal for them.
The next morning I got my last spectacular view from our camp. It took us about two hours to walk down the ridge to the road. We saw a lot of kids out asking for money. It was Deepawali which is a multiday festival in Nepal. One of the days kids go out and ask for money - kind of like Halloween trick or treat in the west. They were supposed to do it the next day but the kids were taking the opportunity to hit any passing trekkers a day early. It was kind of annoying but Tasi tended to get pretty mad and would lay into the kids for begging. The day actually was "Dog Day" when everyone dresses up their dogs as part of the festival. Laney would have been a celebrity for a day if she had been along.
We reached the road and Lakpa made our last lunch while we waited for a van to come and pick us up. After lunch we put all of the equipment into the van. There was even a goat that was put in the back. It's horns were lashed to a tiedown in the back so it couldn't move around. It wasn't very happy about that. Tasi said it was being taken into Pokhara for the festival. From what I know of how Deepawali is celebrated in Nepal, the goat would have been even more unhappy if it had known that.
The ride back to Pokhara took about an hour. I sat up front and had an interesting conversation with the taxi driver. He had lived in the US for several years in Nashville. When I told him I had never been there but was going at Christmas to visit my son, he gave me the full rundown on all the things to see and do while I was in town.
We reached Pokhara about noon. All of the trekking staff were going back to Kathmandu by bus that afternoon. They dropped me off at my hotel and I said goodbye to everyone. The trek was over.