Up until 15 days ago for the last 3 years, 7 months we have never been apart from more than a few hours at a time. We are a unit, our little overlanding family. We might argue and constantly get on each other’s nerves but we’ve made it more than 3/4 of the way round then world so far together. Most of our friends and family were laying bets that we’d not even last a few weeks. All of that changed on the day we got back from our trek, when Steve flew off to London to get his Pakistani visa. Having been told he could only get it in his home country, there seemed no other alternative.
Pakistan looks like our only driving option left since the border between Nepal and Tibet has been closed since the earthquake and Myanmar’s border with China is closed due to unrest. We made a decision that we won’t take the girls through Pakistan, after looking at the FCO advice etc. We might be being overcautious but we would never forgive ourselves if anything happened to them. We’ve heard so many good things about the Pakistani people and having travelled there myself 20 years ago my main memories are of warmth and hospitality but we are playing it safe. Steve is just happy for a chance to catch up with me on his country tick list but I’m so jealous he gets to drive the Karakoram Highway. The girls and I will meet him on the other side in Kashgar, China.
So while Steve was off, the girls and I settled into a routine in the outskirts of Pokhara, parked up in a grassy carpark of almost always empty August Resort. Having been there before the trek too, we reacquainted ourselves with our neighbours. We used the time to do double school, 4 hours a day compared with the usual two. Being stationary meant that we could do lots of art and crafts. As always, a lot of the girl’s studies are based around the countries we are in so we skipped ahead a bit making Tibetan prayer flags and sand mandalas, as well as Chinese opera masks.
The other great thing about being stationary for a while was the chance for the girls to have a little more independence and responsibility. Alisha was very happy popping to the neighbourhood shops to pick things up by herself. Lucy made good friends with Prassana, a little boy who lived next door. They bonded over his family’s baby chicks who roamed in the carpark, everyday they spent ages playing with them with the other neighbourhood kids. Lucy was even invited to his birthday party. Everyone in the area was very friendly and we felt very relaxed. The girls and I were so tempted to sneak a sweet young stray dog, that we saved all our scraps for, into the truck and adopt her.
One afternoon we took a sewing class with Back Street Academy at a women’s fair trade cooperative and made iPad cases. Alisha absolutely loved using a treadle sewing machine and the warm-hearted ladies were very kind about my complete inability to get the dam thing going.
I had been worried that I would feel a bit lonely but on our first afternoon, a friendly young German Overlander knocked on the door and introduced herself. We were having such a good chat that she ended up staying for supper, and the following day she brought her van to the carpark while her husband went off on a rented motorbike for a few days. We hung out, ate, hiked and sheltered from the heavy thunderstorms every afternoon. It was great to have the company of such a lovely girlfriend. The next door cafe also had lovely people in it, so I wasn’t at all lonely. After her husband came back, we hung out with him too and a few days later, Ester and Thomas – Swiss Overlanders turned up in their MAN truck. Having seen only one overlanding vehicle and one group of bikers in the whole of Asia, it was great to spend time with people who understand this way of life. Food, stories and skills were all shared, we were very thankful for the company and that now our new windscreen fitted in Delhi no longer leaks.
We missed Steve but our time gave us an opportunity to mentally regroup and prepare for the challenges of the next 5 months, which looks like it will be some of the most challenging parts of our trip so far. I think we were almost a bit sad when we got the great news that Steve’s visas was ready. With him back a few days earlier than we had anticipated we found we had just enough time to do a 7 day trek up to Mardi Himal, which had caught our eye on our other trek. We’d heard it was a great quiet trek with amazing views, so I persuaded the rest of the family to try to squeeze it in before we have to head south-west to India again.
I was lovely when Steve finally arrived back after an exhausting long flight via Bangkok. We had just one short evening for a join birthday celebration, Steve spent his birthday at the Pakistani visa agency in London and I will have mine on the trek next week, with our new friends.