The final day dawned with a lie-in then a big breakfast, while watching the school group assemble and set off. The 13 lads and 2 teachers from Whitgift School had been really good company and looked like they were thoroughly enjoying themselves - I was glad that we bumped into them as often as we did! Inevitably with any large group, despite the porters taking their bags, they made quite slow progress so I knew we'd overtake them at some point...
One final photography session of the view towards the mountains and across the valley from Gandruk, and we set off.
Today was the easiest day of trecking and was most hiking down stone pavements and steps towards the river flowing in the bottom of the valley. The day started off with a big step descent but then levelled out into a gentle downhill slope.
We soon caught up with the school group, overtook them while saying farewell, then descended further until first rice fields then eventually a road came into view. We strolled down the road until we took to the steps again - and this time my calves really were killing me, after descending thousands of stone steps over the last couple of days and having hiked 20km the previous day!
A ricketty bridge later (there's a good photo of me somewhere on Alfie's camera) and lots more walking, and to our sudden surprise we ended up back at Nayapul, the starting point and therefore the ending point of our excellent trek.
We had lunch in Nayapul before getting the taxi back to Pokhara. Intentionally or not, he took us the scenic route, which gave a great view along the lake towards the city, with the peak of Sarankot on the left (that's where I paraglid from).
Alas, we didn't find the perfect place to get a photo of the 3 of us, but Santa saw us off at our hotel so we managed to get one of us on the roof!
Santa had done a fine job of the guiding during our trek, in that we didn't get lost at all and our hotels and lodges and transport and permits were all sorted out for us. But what really made the trek so much more fun was the fact that he was so cheerful, and easy to get along with, that we could forget that we had technically employed him and could enjoy his company for the duration of our hike. We learnt a lot more about the way a typical mid-20s Nepali thinks about life than might ever otherwise have been possible - about marriage, and jobs, and tourism, and food, and entertainment and much more. We were incredibly grateful, and rewarded with him with generous praise and tips. He headed back to Kathmandu after this, to see his family which he had been away from for Dashain, and we were sad to see him go. At least he's on Facebook!
If I were to go trekking again here, as well as (obviously) choosing a more adventurous route such as ABC or the Annapurna Circuit (10 and 18 days respectively), I would definitely hire a guide - even if we didn't need to from a navigation perspective. At $15 a day, they are very affordable! However, I don't think I would get the trek as a 'package', and instead I would pay for the lodges, food, trecking permit and other fees on a case-by-case basis. It would have been much cheaper, and no problem splitting the guide's expenses; but as this was Alfie's and my first trekking experience, it was nice to have all the administration taken out of our hands.
After settling into our very nice room in the Hotel Stupa, I went back to Blue Sky Paragliding to pay my dues (which hadn't been possible on Dashain) while Alfie stayed at the hotel and welcomed some new guests, yes the school group had turned up here as well!
I went off search of a shave and massage. The shave went very well - the massage was rather more weird, which I will explain in detail if you ask me to, but involved me being led into the back of the barber's to what was clearly this guy's own bed and having a rather rough attack on my shoulders and legs while neither of us wore a great deal...
So, after all that excitement, we had a bite to eat in the evening (and about 4 pots of hot chocolate) and a lovely restaurant near to Blue Sky that I plan to frequent when I return, followed by an early night. Travelling back to Kathmandu the following day was trivial, apart from the fact the coach was about to leave and I suddenly remembered that I had the room key in my pocket so I paid a taxi driver to return it to the hotel! The 6 hour journey was actually 9 and incredibly bumpy for the main road between the country's two biggest cities... But made more pleasant by my headphone splitter.
We got back to Kathmandu, dropped off our kit, thanked Santa again very much then headed back to Lokanthali. Pretty knackered all in all but an amazing excursion :-)