It wasn't a great night of sleep, partly because of jetlag and partly because I knew that we had to get up early to get to the airport. At about 5:30am, I got up, showered and finished packing up my gear for a 5-day trek in the Annapurna Conservation Area located in central Nepal. The weather wasn't promising - light rain and heavy fog.
Our driver dropped us off at the domestic terminal of the Tribhuvan International Airport and we checked in for Yeti Air flight #675 (no joke!) to Pokhara. This 35-minute flight was a better option than the 6-8 hour drive over congested roads, over and through multiple mountain valleys. The waiting area was crowded with Chinese and Japanese tourists waiting for the daily 'mountain flights' that take tourists up to see Mount Everest and the surrounding snowy peaks, but by mid-morning all of those flights got cancelled for the day. Our 8:30am departure comically got pushed back by 30 minutes about every half hour as the fog refused to lift.
By 1pm, we were frustrated. We cancelled our tickets and arranged for a driver to get us to Pokhara, figuring that we would lose a day of trekking, but that we could start early the next day; there was no guarantee the weather would be better and we didn't want to spend a second day waiting in the airport. Just as we recovered our luggage from Yeti Air, we found out the flight would leave in the next hour, so we quickly got our tickets reinstated and managed to go wheels up for Pokhara not long after 2pm.
The flight was a bit bumpy, but uneventful. If you've ever wondered where Northwest's old regional propeller planes ended up, I can share that they might have been repainted with the Yeti colors. Our guide, Ricci, picked us up at the airport and we went straight to the nice Barahi Hotel and met our porters, Jay and Sandeep. We talked through the plan to get an early start the next day and then grabbed a late lunch. Food poisoning, however, hit one of my trekking companions and me later that day and the next 24 hours wasn't fun. Between the bad weather and illness, I was wondered if all the good fortune I had two years earlier while trekking in Tibet was now being balanced out.
We met Ricci for breakfast and once again changed the plan to use the day as a rest day to recover and then get an early start. The second delay meant that we would have to adjust the trek to 3.5 days, and instead of doing a scenic loop, we would instead hike up to the high point of Ghorepani and then come back on the same path because it was shorter. The weather wasn't any better, but I managed to spend the day drinking Gatorade and eating some plain toast and small bananas to start recovering my strength. I had no appetite, but knew that I needed to get something in my stomach to start recovering.
Ricci and the three of us took a short walk around Pokhara in the gloomy afternoon after the rain mostly stopped and enjoyed seeing Phewa (fee-wah) Lake despite the clouds limiting the views. After resting most of the day, I had some ginger ale and noodles for dinner, took a shower, and got to bed early with hopes that our fortunes would improve by morning.
Up next: There is a silver lining to the clouds as the morning sun lights up the Himalayas. We depart Pokhara and finally get a start to our trek. Sunny skies and warm weather make for a great day of hiking up the valley for almost 6 hours, and we spend the night in the village of Ulleri.