Two am and Jacquie and I were both woken to the sound of the snap of sheets being shaken out. Turned out Jackie’s night on the window ledge wasn’t so comfortable after all and she was being plagued by an attack of creepy crawlies. We left her examining her sheets by torchlight and went back to sleep.
Only a few short hours later and it was time to get up for real. The Dera might not be the most comfortable hotel in the world but the view of the sunrise was magnificent.
After a breakfast of omelettes – Jackie was most precise about how she wanted hers – we were ready to check out and head off on our trek. It started out with a steep uphill; it was hot and we were exhausted before we had even started. After that the steep downward path was far from easy to negotiate. Made from uneven sharp rocks it was tough on the knees and we had to watch where we were putting our feet all the time. We felt somewhat embarrassed when young women in saris and flipflops came laughing and chatting up the track towards us. Apparently their job is actually to make the path as it gets washed away each monsoon. We were even more embarrassed when we spotted men coming up the path bearing heavy loads on their heads.
We hadn’t actually thought about the wild animals that might be all around us on the trek but our guide showed us paw prints of leopards and we saw large holes in the ground which had been made by bears digging for roots. We wouldn’t want still to be trekking in the dark!
As we got lower the temperature got a little cooler and we needed to negotiate some small streams without getting our feet wet.
We were actually pleasantly surprised when, after as couple of hours, Sipi said we should stop and take a breather as we had reached our half way point.
Moving on again, after a while our guide turned us off the path and started to head up a really steep slope with no cover whatsoever. It was hard to know where to put your feet and I was glad I had long sleeves and long trousers as there was some pretty heavy whiplash from the thorny bushes. And it was hot. So hot. Mind over matter, one foot in front of another. We could do this.
Eventually, after what felt like forever, we reached the top and started to make our way down the other side. Suddenly everyone’s phones started beeping with messages as we obviously moved into signal range.
After another long walk downhill the terrain started to flatten out and we could hear voices and bleating. Turning a corner we were confronted by several herds of goats; some being driven by adults and others by children.
A left hand turn and we passed through a gate and into the welcoming sight of the garden of Ghanerao Jungle Lodge. Hot, sweaty, slightly achy but we had arrived.