I dutifully awoke at the appointed hour, 6 a.m., so as to breakfast at 6:30, catch a taxi from the hotel at 7:00, be driven to the wrong bus plaza then race over to the famous “bus park,” and find one of the many “tourist buses” headed for Kathmandu. Many bleary eyed foreigners were milling around with all their gear, decked out in local bloomers, scarves, funny headwear, and all with big packs. There are Nepalis around too, of course, and the whole scene is full of anticipation as people find their buses, stow their gear, fend off vendors hawking pastries, glossy photo prints of the mountains, the little fiddles seen everywhere, and so on.
Once the bus leaves, we have a nice view of the mountains turning pink. We then descend from the Pokhara plateau into a series of fog-shrouded valleys. Beside the road, what little can be seen, is not a happy sight as squat huts, ramshackle houses, and little businesses contend with the noise of traffic and incessant dust raised by vehicles heading on to the shoulder to avoid head-on collisions. What a life to endure conditions like these.
After a brief rest stop for breakfast at a place every tourist bus patronizes, we are soon in downtown Dumre, where I am the only person who exits the bus. There is a greeting party of five men waiting for me, offering taxis to Bandipur for 500 rps. I negotiate a 350 rps price and I’m outta there, away from the clamor and heading up a steep hill, my driver speeding around corners and laying on the horn the whole way.
To my surprise, the road keeps going up, and I’m getting my money’s worth for the ride. Eventually we round a corner and I see a lone building perched at the edge of a hilltop, surrounded by terraced fields. “Wow, what a view of the mountains that place must have,” I think to myself, never imagining that, in 15 minutes time, I would be walking little paths to that same building: Hotel Depeche.
My host Mandan gives me the best room in the place ($30 w/ breakfast and the punitive 27% value tax added in) where I can see both Himalayas (Annapurna, Machapurchare, Manaslu in one cluster, and then Dhaulagiri in another–although the second group can only be seen from the window above the toilet) and two local mountains he refers to as “our Machu Pichu.” The rooms are rather dark due to the earth color walls and ceilings painted black, and there’s no heat, but it is quite removed from the village proper and so is blissfully quiet: no barking dogs, roosters, or construction sounds in the immediate vicinity. I will discover in the middle of the night that there are foxes that roam the fields, and that their barking and yipping has a sharp edge to it that coyotes’ do not.