Aaron Martina is an Florida based programmer and an international man of mystery. Well, he's not all that mysterious but he does travel the world now and then taking photos, eating interesting foods and diving the depths.

Himalayan Photography Trip - Pokhara and the end of the trek

This is part of a series that document my trip to Nepal. You can find all of the blog posts here. I was awakened around 5:30am. I guess I just got used to waking up really early. I stayed in bed and wrote in my journal and listened to music for about an hour. Once I roused from my bed I started to empty my bags with the intent of reorganizing and repacking. I attempted to get everything back into my large purple duffel but I was failing miserably at getting the zipper to close. I resigned myself to place a fair bit of clothing into my secondary duffel after which I was pretty satisfied with the distribution of my gear between the two bags. At around 8:15am I grabbed a shower and attempted to wash my hair again. I then headed down to the dining room to join my fellow trekkers for breakfast. We ate and chatted for about an hour. During the course of the conversation I mentioned that the water must be hard or something because I wasn't feeling like my hair was getting clean. Damion then made a comment about the fact that I had conditioner. Of course I was a bit embarrassed but it provided a good chuckle for the rest of the group and I have to admit I laughed a bit myself. In my rush to buy something that looked recognizable I didn't take the time to read the label. I had indeed purchased conditioner instead of shampoo. Oh well, you live and learn.

I excused myself as I needed to run a few errands. I was in need of a stamp for the postcard that I had purchased approximately a week prior in the middle of the trek. I walked to some nearby stores as they were opening for business and asked around. I finally found what seemed to be a book store/newsstand and the proprietor sold me a stamp that would work to send a postcard to the States. I dropped the stamped postcard off at the front office of the hotel and I returned to my room to put the finishing touches on my packing before staging my gear for the trip to the airport.

As I was sitting in my room Shaun busted into the room exclaiming that the U.S. had killed Osama bin Laden. This was approximately 10:10am local time. I was in absolute disbelief as Damion and I left our room and shuffled over to Shaun and Thilo's room to watch the news coverage on CNN. The coverage was mostly of the crowd that was assembled in front of the White House celebrating the fact that we had killed the person responsible for the September 11th attacks. After 10 years of war in Afghanistan the for this elusive man was over. The CNN correspondents speculated on what this meant and so did the occupants of this hotel room in Western Nepal. I was still in disbelief but at the time all I could think of were thoughts like this.

After a good 15 minutes or so of watching and discussing we had to shift back to packing and leaving the hotel. I lugged my bags downstairs and stacked them with the others then I went into the hotel's lobby/waiting area. The television was tuned to some (we assumed) Nepali soap opera with an unfortunate girl with huge ears that seemed to cry way too much. We made many jokes in bad taste at this poor girl's expense as we killed time awaiting the arrival of the bus to take us to the airport.

Out shuttle bus arrived and we all piled in with our gear. The ride to Pokhara airport took just over five minutes and we again disembarked from the vehicle. We trundled into the airport with our bags and Karma dealt with the ticket agent. We dropped our bags and stood around twiddling our thumbs.

The gang at the airport

Karma returned to our group with another man and suggested that we adjourn to the restaurant above the terminal while we wait for our departure time. I guess at small airports like this there isn't a really strict schedule. The departure time is more of a guideline than set in stone. Frankly, I guess that's the way all airports are anyway.

We moved our bags over to the ticket counter and then proceeded upstairs and ordered a round of Fantas. Karma joined us and let us know that our flight was about an hour delayed. Delayed flights is the story of my life. Our flight was now scheduled to depart at 11:40am and just a few minutes before that mark a man entered the restaurant and announced that the flight would be ready for boarding soon. We gathered our "carry-on" bags and headed back downstairs and through security. Security consisted of a security guard asking if you were carrying any knives, weapons or lighters in your "hand baggage" and the proceeding to take a cursory look in the bags (well he only took a look in one of my two bags) followed by a quick pat down. We then waited in the "departure lounge" for 5-10 minutes until our plane arrived. At that time a ticket agent called for our flight and we handed over our boarding pass and walked out toward the plane. Our group sort of hung out on the tarmac for a few minutes to allow the other passengers time to get on the plane before us and then we boarded and got situated. By the time I got seated, I barely had enough time to get my seatbelt fastened before the plane lurched forward and was rolling down the runway. Within a couple of minutes we were airborne at which point the flight attendant came of the PA to let us know that we should buckle our safety belts.

The flight in this turbo prop lasted only about 40 minutes and we landed safely at the Kathmandu airport. We exited the plane and entered a shuttle bus that moved us over to the domestic arrival area (aka an outdoor zone with a gate). We regrouped while waiting for our luggage to be delivered. Karma made a deal with a couple of guys who seemed to be very attached to their luggage carts to help us transport our bags from the arrival area to the parking lot. They attempted to get extra tips from us but Karma shooed them away as we awaited our transportation. The heat was beating down on us as we waited in the parking lot. Luckily we didn't have to wait too long. Our ride through Kathmandu was typical and our first stop was at the Manaslu Hotel (where we had stayed before the trek which seemed like eons ago) where people could pick up any items that they might have left. I had not left anything so I took the opportunity to whip out my iPhone and connect to the hotel's free wi-fi connection and surf Facebook and check email.

Nirvana Garden Hotel

We departed from the Manaslu and headed over to our new residence at the Nirvana Garden Hotel. We got our keys and a bellman carried our bags, two huge duffels at a time, up the five floors of steep steps and delivered them outside our doors. I used the facilities in the room that I was sharing with Shaun (Damion and Thilo both got single rooms) and then I went back downstairs to where the group was gathering. Clarence had rejoined us so we all went to the garden to get something to eat.

The service in the garden was severely lacking. This was very unusual as the service in almost every other respect while being in Nepal was prompt and friendly. We ordered drinks and a bit later I was able to order some fried rice and pork spring rolls. This was around 1 or 1:30pm and we knew that we would be having an early team dinner as Clarence was going to be leaving in the evening. The food took over an hour to be served. The food was alright but we were all very hungry.

After "lunch"; Shaun, Damion and I walked around Thamel as Shaun intended to purchasing gifts for friends and family back home. Damion and I just hung around looking around the stores and getting proportioned to buy all sorts of knick knacks and "smoke". The latter happened about five times. I guess the scruffy beard and trekking looking gear labeled me as some sort of neo-hippy and therefore I was on the lookout for some "smoke". We walked around for about an hour and then returned to the hotel.

We had a reservation at Rum Doodle for 5pm and we left about 10 minutes before that so that we could walk there in time. As we were leaving the hotel we ran into Jill who was a member of a previous "Rest of Everest" workshop. She could definitely talk a lot. We ended up talking with her for about 15 minutes before someone realized that we were already late and that we should get a move on. Jill decided to accompany us on our walk to Rum Doodle. We made our way through the streets of Kathmandu and arrived at our destination and were immediately seated on the rooftop patio. Rum Doodle is a huge landmark for trekkers in Nepal. It's an institution. There are painted boards in the shape of stylized footprints that trekkers that had visited this restaurant and decorated and signed and then the restaurant had plastered these all over the restaurant. During our time at the restaurant we also filled out one of the footprint boards so that it could be hung up for display somewhere in the restaurant.

Rum Doodle coaster

I ordered the steak stroganoff and garlic nan for dinner although it was alright it was not what I expected. Babu, Karma, & Depen ate with us which was nice because we hadn't seen Babu since before we left Kathmandu. Chris gave another short speech and handed out our customized t-shirts for the workshop. After which Clarence and Karma said their goodbyes as they left to take Clarence to the airport. Shortly afterward Jill rejoined us at the restaurant and brought along a very cute German woman named Sophie that she was attempting to hook Thilo up with. I need to check with Thilo if that ever came to fruition. After another drink or two the group split up and headed back to the hotel.

I made a bee line directly for my room and prepped for bed. Sleep didn't come immediately so Shaun and I chatted for a bit. Eventually we did go quiet and then to sleep.

Himalayan Photography Trip - The return trip and conclusion

Himalayan Photography Trip - Trekking day 12 - May 1st, 2011