————— beginning of detailed Nepal trek postings —————
We left the hotel for Pokhara airport at 5am in three trips by motorcycle to beat the Maoist roadblocks, which went in place at 6am. We later saw people rolling suitcases on foot, and we were glad we didn't have to do that.
The air had been cleared by the evening rain, so we had our best view yet of the front of the Himalayas from Dhauligiri in the west to beyond Manaslu in the east. It used to be clear like this every day, but now pollution has made it a rare sight. We might have benefited from the Maoist strike's keeping vehicles off the road.
The flight to Jomsom was a 30-minute thrill. Sitting on the right side of the plane, we first watched as the plane rose over the Modi Khola river draining the Annapurna Sanctuary. The plane then flew over the treetops of the pass near Ghorapani and turned up the Kali Gandaki valley. The north face of Annapurna I was visible as well as the high pass Maurice Herzog's team crossed to get to it. The plane finally landed on the paved runway at Jomsom.
Today was a rest day built into the schedule to allow for delays. Although we planned to go there again on the way back, we decided to stretch our legs with the 90-minute walk to Marpha. It was quite pleasant walking along the road without the noise or dust of jeeps – much like this area must have been 20 years ago.
Marpha is everybody's favorite village. Compact with a monastery at its center, it is one of the most prosperous and best-maintained villages in Nepal. The local economy revolves around tourism and apple-growing. We had thought of visiting the local brandy distillery, but it was outside town and probably closed. So we settled for buying a bottle of “medicine” for our trip.