After the Panchase Temple, the tedious part begins. Down and down through thick forest, the stone stepped path winds in tortuous patterns in the dull late morning. Those who charged in front are now suffering from sore knees and feet. Marion lags even further behind. I go at my own pace, and am on my own – blessed peace – in the middle of the Nepal forest. Tenzi my Sherpa companion has gone hot foot down to bring up more drink for Marion.
I find it harder to adapt from the Australians to the English people than from the 1st to the 3rd world. The sherpas, guides and Nepali people are warm, friendly and interesting. My fellow travellers are still a bit alien to me, with their talk among themselves of previous holiday experiences, and not much reaction on what we’re seeing and doing at this moment.
I come to a fork in the path: left to Kande via Bhadawe Derali, right to Pokhara and Phewa Lake (spelt Fewalake) via Thulaket. I sit down for yet another drink of water and wait for Marion and her sherpa companions. Eventually she comes into view, red faced and suffering. I give her a couple of electrolyte pills, some more water and a bite of my protein bar, then we proceeded left, my legs going quicker than hers. An hour further on a couple of Sherpas approach with refreshments. Another half an hour and I am met by two more, carrying our lunch, but we both make it to lunch at the village.
Away again down the cobbled and windy village road, past a woman weaving fine cotton. We wind again down and down, through habitation now, passing buffalo, chickens, goats, children and babies.
We round a corner into more forest and come to a deep ravine with a trickle of water at the bottom; a long silver footbridge sways before us, slung between its banks. Sally is afraid of heights, but John holds her hands, facing her and stepping backwards all the way, talking steadily. We all sway over the bridge. On and on, up but mostly down; on and on. My legs are like automatons. A tarmac road.
Youths playing volleyball, some are absorbed in a board game with discs, flicking them into corner pockets like pool, but with their fingers. We stop for a soda and children ask for pens.
It starts to rain and as we all put on our waterproofs, I get left behind because I have to put my binoculars and bird book away, and then take out my umbrella. I trudge through a town, then up a tortuous steep path off the road to arrive in camp at 6 p.m. drizzling wet, darkish and miserable, but not as cold as last night.
We are in Naudanda, have walked for ten hours, and achieved 10.8 miles as the crow flies (you can double that for actual distance covered, John says). Marion, with Peter as company, comes in half an hour after me with Udaya and Mahesh in tow and we all cheer.
They bake Marion a chocolate cake for pudding that night (still hot), iced with egg white and sugar.