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Published: December 16th 2007
Lake at sunset
Tranquil and beautiful during the day the sunset only adds a magical touch
They say one the memorable experiences of traveling is the local transport systems well the 8 hour bus journey to Pokhara was an experience - highlight countryside and making it in once piece, lowlight the suspension system (or lack of).
Ricardo and I left the quiet sanctuary of Kopan Monastery to bounce and bump our way up through the tooting mayhem of Nepal’s roads to Pokhara. Much of the journey was painful experience from the physical comfort point of view and spent readjusting our sitting position to relieve number and tender parts. Ours was the 300 Nepal Rupee Tourist Bus and not the luxury one which now with hindsight at 200 to 300 NRP more may have been a good option especially if you take account of the cost of the meal which they have included and we didn't and cost nearly the difference. But really I am not complaining because we arrived and in the process traveled through some of the spectacular first sights of the beautiful, e and dramatic Nepal countryside with rapid rivers gorges and tree-covered rock faces with scattered villages.
Pokhara or I should be a bit more accurate Pokhara Lakeside sits on Phewa Tal,
Lets see what those Westerners eat (and pay!)
Locals checking out the menu options for one of the local tourist restaurants
a large and impressive lake with backdrop of the mountains and when visibility is good this includes the snow capped peaks of the Annupurna range. My first sight made me gulp as they looked pretty daunting with less than a week until my trekking starts.
Both Ricardo and I instantly fell in love with Pokhara even though the main stretch is crammed with the same tourist shops as Thamel, Kathmandu but the hassle factor is very lower and more often than not you can stop to browse in peace, well apart from ‘Om Mani Padme Hum’ chants drifting down the street from the numerous music shops.
For the couple of days that Ricardo was in Pokhara with me before he headed off to the border crossing into India we wandered in the area of the main Lakeside area and took a very long and extremely hot walk (memo to self - take the bus next time!) to old Pokhara to see the Newari Architecture with low hung entrances that made us look like giants - neither of us been of tall stature. The entrances were pretty low but there again this may be something to do with the
Newari House in Old Pokhara
Even I look tall longside the low slung entranaces of some the othe elaborate Newari architecture
fact rich Newars would build "handsomely proportioned brick house that are up to five storey high with tiled roofs. Symbolically a Newari house becomes ritually purer as you ascend floors”. Now having a slight cynical side to me then as I see it building a 5 story house is not so difficult if each floor is only shoulder height! Either way they were fascinating to look at if we hadn't been melting like butter in the heat we would have probably stayed longer.
Now one of the nicest things to do in a afternoon or anytime is to sit by the lake with reading though sometimes this is not easy if you leave a camera in sight. One occasion turned into a photo shoot when two eager youngsters spotted the camera and then wanted endless photos of them selves jumping into the lake, playing the in lake, swimming in the lake, standing my the lake....need I go on. Thank goodness for digital!
All too quickly - time seems to flying faster over here than at home to the point I am starting to wonder if as well as changing time zones I have changed to laws of time
Ricardo messing around with flowers
to double quick!- anyway back to the matter in hand, as I was saying it was soon it was time for Ricardo to board the scarcely overcrowded and old looking overnight bus to the borders which left me a few days on my own before I started my trek.
Though as so often the case when traveling I was not on my own for long when the very same night I ended up at Nepali Family home for dinner. I was kindly invited by their America friend (Kevin) who is a volunteer English teacher in Pokhara and I meet in their bookshop. I was serviced delicious Dal Bhat which according to Kevin is only surpassed by the cousin’s Dal Bhat. But as far as I am concerned it was the First Best. Nepali hospitality is second to none and I ended up staying the night in the spare room as it got late and with monsoon type rains outside. This proved a good idea as I had agreed to talk to the students of Kevin's English class at 6am the next morning (and our kids complain about a 9am start!!!) - so it was to be an early start.
The World Peace Pagoda
The World Peace Pagoda floating on a misty haze above the lake at dawn
I talked to 3 different classes in the end and after the initially nerves found it a rewarding experience. Would love to read what they said in the essays which were given as homework for the holiday - there again maybe not as then I can live the delusion that my nerves didn't make be an incoherent idiot!
Now feeling that I should explore a bit further that the main streets of Pokhara and with a guide in tow provided by the hotel I spent a day visiting the major sights Pokhara has to offer - namely The World Peace Pagoda, Gupteshwor Mahadev Cave and Devi Falls.
It all started with a rather sedate and serene rowing boat ride across the lake to the far shore before commencing the steep but steady climb up to The World Peace Pagoda, which until this time had been a small dot on the hill line above Pokhara. I arrived only to be slightly to find it under renovation so the closest look I managed of the 4 Buddhas adorning it was from ground level by craning my neck or standing on pillars where available. The Buddha's are styled using images from
the World's Buddhist Cultures - Japan, Thailand, Tibet and ???. But it was still worth the effort to see even at a distance and to enjoy the views of Pokhara and the Lake from this high vantage point.
Though my climb felt safe despite the Lonely Planet's guide warning about muggings of tourists - maybe because around the next bend there always seemed to be another tourist heading up or down through the scenic woods and lakeside trail. But having said that my route back down was though the less popular path on the other side and with the only tourist been me. I was glad of my guides company and Nepali skills to answer the questions form the kids that seemed to pop up from nowhere as we passed by and with the only English words known as “Hello” or “Bye” and oh and one other all important word for a kid - “Sweet”!!!! I was even more glad of his company when a rather lively and slightly aggressive buffalo blocked the trail and he was able to ask the owners to move it to a safe distance. Generally docile creatures this bull was an exception I am
told - let’s hope as there seems to be quite a few roaming around free without owners in sight.
We continued our gentle walk down and managed to avoid too close an encounter with a rather poisonous snake on the trail, after which made it without further incident to the suburbs of Pokhara.
A strange narrow wind down an alley in the said suburbs had us arrive at the entrance to the Gupteshwor Mahadev Cave, a Hindu worship sight in an underground cave. The walk though to the waterfalls from here was not possible as the lower cave was still flooded after the monsoon so we went above ground to the Devi Waterfalls, from this end we could see the rapid flowing succession of waterfalls heading down to join the water in the flooded cave below.
With a couple of days remaining until the trek I decided on one last excursion - a visit Sarangkot, a high vantage point. With a trek imminent I decided to opt for using horses legs instead of tiring mine. Well that was the idea and it seemed a good one at the time. The horse that appeared at the hotel was
a nice looking horse - so it all started good though I felt more than a pang of guilt when I found that the little boy accompanying me for the 6 hours (yes 6 hours - John Wayne impression here I come!) was to be on foot the whole time. But as it happened when we made it to the hill to take us up to Sarangkot the horse refused to go up any further. When questioned the boy explained in halting English that only ponies go up to Sarangkot. Hating to stress the horse and been quite clear that if we continued I was going to end up carrying the horse not the other way around then decided it was best to turn back. A flash of annoyance crossed in my mind why was I given a horse not capable of it but having only just left a Buddhist retreat I recounted some of the teaching and viewed this as a good time to practice Patience and Tolerance.
But the good news is I did get to the top of Sarangkot, only just the next day and on the back of a small, sturdy pony having talked to
The horse that I nearly had to carry
The horse that didn't quite make it to Sarangkot!
the owner of the stables in question. I paid a bit extra to have the boy accompany me also on horse back. The ponies made it with ease but my butt and legs defiantly didn't survive the experience as well. Four hours in a rather lump harsh saddle with a equally lumpy and harsh gaited pony left me in more than a little discomfort on the day before I started my trek. Not helped by an afternoon on an old suspensionLESS bike searching for trekking provisions. And sadly after all that effort and pain the spectaculur view of the snow capped Himalayas that can be seen from this point normally remained hidden behind a curtain of haze with only fleeting glimpse to be had.
So strangely enough the end of my time in Pokhara finished as it started by suffering the joys of bouncy and uncomfortable transport but I have a feeling that I will be more than glad of even suspension less modes of transport after a few days trekking in the Annupurnas!
So next blog should come after 11 days up in the Annupurnas - hopefully that is if I make it.
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