On that millennial eve, Pokhara Lodge had been operating for just over a year. The trees and wild landscaping had yet to mature around the honey-coloured stone bungalows, hand-cut from a local quarry, clustered like a local village adjacent to our community forest neighbours. The swimming pool bamboos were still in their infancy, but the peaks were already mirrored in its shimmering blue surface on a breathless morning as eagles, vultures and kites wheeled overhead.
Sir Edmund Hillary had done the inauguration honours, stooping stiffly to light the votive brass lamp on the broad slate veranda one clear October day, with expansive views of the Himalaya range stretching from Dhaulagiri to Manaslu. At various stages of construction, monks and priests had blessed the hilltop site, selected by Colonel Jimmy Roberts as the first campground on Prince Charles’ original Royal Trek in 1980.
I had walked the first recce of that route for Mountain Travel with Pertemba Sherpa, a circuit now driveable down unappetising dusty rutted roads, because Colonel Jimmy’s hips were already failing him and his walking days were over. I stayed behind to manage the media that early December day 40 years ago, as the Prince of Wales strode uphill towards the silhouetted skyline tree that now bears his name, accompanied by Prince Dhirendra and a royal retinue. “The mountain views were ‘gin clear’ for all four days,” Colonel Jimmy noted in satisfaction.