The road to Pokhara

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October 1st 2012
Published: October 5th 2012
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1st Oct ’12 Kathmandu to Pokhara

After a quick brown water shower it was downstairs, settle the bill and then six of us were led to the bus station by a tiny little man we hadn’t seen before. On the road outside the main bus station was a humongous line of buses and we dodged our way past tourists, bags, people selling water, snacks and fruit and then found ourselves cut off from our man by a large van on the pavement. We couldn’t get past as the van was moving and a continuous stream of people were coming towards down both sides of it in the other direction.

Eventually I forced myself through and there was no sign of our guy so I just headed along the pavement and then a little old man asked me which bus I wanted. I told him and he led me about 3 feet to where our original guy was standing, the little old man then took my rucksack and Howard’s and handed them to the bloke stowing the luggage in the boot.

We climbed in the bus and despite being seats 15 and 16 were told to sit right on the back row, well I wasn’t having that and told the seating organiser man that our numbers should surely be further up and after much muttering in Nepalese he moved a carrier bag off the seat in front of the back row and we had to settle for that. I wouldn’t mind but a Chinese couple from our hotel who booked after us got given seats further up the bus. We came to the conclusion that it doesn’t matter what your ticket says they just make it up as they go along.

Suddenly the little old man appeared in the bus next to us and asked for money for luggage handling! Well I guess it’s a sign of our knackeredness that we didn’t see that one coming!! Definitely a bit slow there!! Still he was only asking for 50 rupees (about 30p) and it just seemed mean to quibble about that, poor bloke was only trying to make a living after all.

Well the bus had definitely seen better days but we have definitely been on worse. So we sat back, the bus set off bang on time and joined a convoy of buses who all seemed to be heading for Pokhara or Chitwan. We crept along at a heady 9mph through the streets of Kathmandu passing a military academy where all the recruits were being put through their paces and inched towards the city outskirts.

We stopped to pick up a local family and then the bus stopped for 30 minutes while they changed a tyre – good start! Then the very large Nepalese man sat behind us started what turned out to be a pretty constant stream of hawking and spitting out of the window – he was the only person on the entire bus who was doing this!

We started going up the winding mountainside road and began bumping and rattling along, which as we were sitting over the rear suspension meant that we were lifting up in the air and being thrown forwards rather a lot! I soon figured out that by turning slightly sideways I could brace myself against the tiny footrest and push myself back into the seat again. Meanwhile Howard’s seat decided to recline itself by itself and he spent the whole journey alternating between lying right back and being shot back upright. The poor Dutch lass on the centre back seat kept sliding off her seat as her cushion wasn’t fixed in place but luckily for her she was getting off in only 3 hours time!!

So we made our way over the mountain and down in the valley, passing ramshackle villages and heavily forested deep green mountains. We had a couple of stops for food, drinks and use of the loo – a feat of bravery, one Chinese girl emerged from one loo and immediately started retching which was slightly off putting!

The young bus lad rounded everybody up and made sure no-one was left behind, he also made sure everyone got off at the right stop which I thought was pretty impressive. So about 6 ½ hours later and after travelling through some lovely countryside we arrived in Pokhara. We stopped in the main town for a police checkpoint and two officers plus a lovely Labrador got on, he sniffed around us all and I guess no one had any drugs or bombs as we were quickly allowed to carry on.

We piled off the bus at the Tourist Bus Station and immediately lots of men surrounded us offering taxis and hotels. Luckily I spotted someone holding a Hotel Orchid sign and he put us in a taxi, all in all it was a pretty smooth journey really.

Then it was the moment of truth, would the Hotel Orchid live up to our expectations?, it had looked wonderful online when we booked it. Howard had found it while trawling the net from his sick bed and it sounded gorgeous, the pictures looked great (but we know how misleading these can be!), it only had two reviews on Trip Advisor but both of them said excellent (but had the family put them on? ha ha). So we had high hopes but tempered with knowledge that on Trip Advisor the Hotel Silver Home in Kathmandu had scored 8th place!

We turned up a small rough road, drove up past a few hotels and our hotel was the last one before the local homes took over. We were met by a little group of smiling, friendly lads calling out Namaste and they led us in.

When Howard told the man on the desk who we were he broke into a huge grin and said ‘ah yes Howard, welcome, welcome’, he then asked us what floor we would like to stay on and I said a high one for the views – well it seemed like a good idea when we were on the ground floor! He then grabbed some keys, whizzed round the desk, shook our hands and led us up to the room beaming and laughing. I made 4 floors ok but the 5th one had me reconsidering the wisdom of wanting the views!!

He opened the door to the room and oh my God it was lovely! There are huge windows on two sides, a balcony, a bathroom with a real toilet, soap and toilet roll, there is air conditioning and it was spotlessly clean!! I told him it was beautiful and he beamed and thanked me. The thing is, it really, really is! Oh JOY!! Definitely worth paying more for, and at £25 a night to be clean, comfortable and to get some sleep, not too bad at all.

From the windows and the balcony there are fabulous views, you can see endless green mountain ranges and the lake peeping out between the houses. At the back and side of the hotel are small shacks with tin roofs held down by bricks or stones, surrounded by different crops, trees and flowering shrubs. There is the odd little haystack in some of the yards and chickens strutting about. Further out are larger three storied homes with large balconies and washing drying on the roof. It is just idyllic.

Our first venture out and about and as we walked down the road lots of people called out Namaste and hello and everyone was smiling. We encountered a young lad wobbling up the road on his bicycle who stopped to say Namaste, polished his glasses and then told us he was a tour guide and could take us trekking. After explaining we were in no fit state to trek he then said he could arrange a taxi tour up to the viewpoints and wanted to show us his book of recommendations. We thanked him and said not at the moment but we did take his card and didn’t have the heart to tell him we didn’t have a phone.

A couple of barbers tried unsuccessfully to induce Howard into their shops for a shave and we wandered along looking at menus and marvelling at how dust free and comparatively quiet the place is. We didn’t get very far before we noticed the clouds closing in from the end of the lake and spots of rain began.

So we headed back and decided to go in to one of the restaurants as the heavens were just starting to well and truly open. So due to rain we were forced to spend a couple of hours drinking beer in the Laxman Restaurant, which just happened to be having a happy hour!

The rain was so torrential that even the cows (yes there are cows wandering the streets here) took shelter alongside the boatmen. Everyone vanished off the streets and the few that didn’t were totally drenched!

There was only one other couple in the place and after seeing their food, which looked amazing we decided to stay put and eat also. And so Howard had the first of what he declared in a very loud voice to be the Best Chicken Tikka Masala he had ever eaten in his life and my chicken korma was none too shabby also.

After a couple of hours the rain stopped and the other couple came over to talk to us. He was from Manchester and had spent months living out here and she was French I think. They both said it had been cloudy and raining like this each day but as the monsoon season was now supposedly over they were optimistic that things would soon improve and we would see the spectacular mountain views. I think it’s pretty enough now so I can’t wait to see it in all its glory!

Back at the hotel we sat on the balcony watching the sky darken as the sun set and the twinkling lights appearing in little clusters over the various mountain sides – stunning. While Howard continued to wax lyrical about the joys of his curry and how he was going back every night to eat it again while we were here!

That night it was bliss to be sleeping in a comfy bed in a cool, clean room.

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