Wednesday and another active day.
Narayan wants to take us up to his village so we leave the hotel by taxi at 8.30am and stop to pick up Dick and Honey, a Dutch couple who sponsor Narayan's brother's children and who are going up to the village the easy way. Unlike us.
So the taxi drops us at the side of the road in the river valley the other side of Sarangkot to Lakeside. And before we know it we are trekking up the steep cliff for about an hour. My body goes into shock. I am still not 100% and my legs feel heavier than ever, even though they are not, but you know what I mean. And I can feel my heart going crazy, what with the strenous nature of trekking up steep steps without a walking pole to ease the pressure.
We stop every so often, Ewan trying to keep my spirits high, and I am almost pleased to find that Narayan is sweating rather profusely, seems we are all finding it hard work today. About 2/3rds of the way to the top, we pass an old man sitting outside his simple house with baby goats playing in the garden. Ewan and I have got this thing about the cuteness of baby goats and so we stopped to take a photo. The man being of the older and thus particularly hospitable generation, invited us in for a glass of fresh buffalo curd, which he churns by hand having first milked the buffalo.
It is an intersting taste. Quite nice really. Although one glass was quite enough for me, Ewan was sweet enough to take another glass so as not to offend the kindly gentleman who even invited us into his house so we could see how he churns the stuff manually. For Ewan this was his first glimpse into a village house and was a real treat for both of us.
Back on the trail, the intensity had eased somewhat. I do love getting up into the villages like this, they may not be far away from Pokhara here but it feels like a totally diffeent world. One very much lived in connection with nature. As Narayan tells us, you can live in the villages without really needing much money except for clothes and electricity (yes, amazingly the villages are slowly becoming connected too) because most people live from the land.
Not that this is easy. In fact it looks like back breaking work. The steeped fields are skinny and need to be ploughed by wooden plough dragged by oxon. Then there is all the other work involved in cropping and drying and storing all the rice, corn and vegetable supplies and dealing with the monsoon and the colder weather in the winter.
The views at the top, up near Dhampus, are magnificent. You gain a different perspective of Machhapuchha, otherwise known as Fishtail, and from this angle Narayan took great delight - hilarity in fact - in showing us how the mountain peak resembles a tiger. Which it does. We chuckled over that one for quite some time believe me.
We carry on along the ridge, passing more villages and indeed villagers - the women are often out collecting leaves and wood for the animals and fire resepctively and it is quite incredible how much they carry on their backs so that they often resemble a walking hedge and put us to shame with their strength and ability to still smile and say "Namaste". Which is basically what everyone says over here all the time. Each day we must say a hundred "Namastes" to the people we pass. It is all rather lovely.
So we walk for what feels like ages but is only actually 3 hours, with the wonderful view of the mountains to our left and even a few eagles overhead, before we finally trek up the last bit (and believe me by that time, with the midday sun overhead, it was all getting a little tough on one's energy levels)to Narayan's village, Astam, where his brother, Netra, lives with his wife and currently Dick and Honey staying who are helping him do some painting on his house.
Dick and Honey are a true inspiration. 65 and 64 respectively, they have visited Nepal many times. This time they are here for 3 months and have been doing an awful lot of trekking and staying in tents, very impressive actually. They have been sponsoring Netra's 3 children for many years, ever since he was their trekking guide on one of their first treks. They have also provided initial financing to implement a scheme to provide each villager with a clay oven so the people can cook in their kitchens without the usual stench of firewood, which ends up affecting the health - and indeed eye sight - of the people.
They are all waiting for us at Netra's house. Dick is already working on the house and Honey is resting up with some knitting in the garden (she had managed to do something to her back on one of the treks and was in need of time out to encourage it to settle and heal). Netra had prepard Dahl Bhat so we enjoy our second dhal bhat of the trip sitting outside Netra's house and enjoying the views of his vegetable garden and the mountains in the distance.
After lunch and a cup of fresh lemon grass tea, Narayan takes us for a look around the local village school before we begin the hour or so descent back down to the main road where we took a taxi back to the hotel at Lakeside.
Back in town, I practise Yoga on the roof of the hotel, the sunsetting behind the Peace Pagoda and the orange glow of the mountains ahead of me. My body enjoys the opportunity to stretch and release all the trekking-tension from my thighs and calf muscles and literally stretch and twist out the kinks. Plus it is a lovely opportunity to be quiet and still on my mat too, just absorbing the pulsating energy of the environment out here, one of my favourite times of the day when everyone is preparing dinner.
Lucky us, we did not think we would have a chance to get into the mountains this time, but thankfully Narayan provided the opportunity and we only wish we now had more time to do a proper trek, this is what is so special about Nepal, getting out into the villages and testing the mind as much as the body with the relentless walking terrain.