Pokhara - The first instalment


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October 2nd 2012
Published: October 8th 2012
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2nd - Oct ’12 Pokhara

We slept like logs and I didn’t wake up until 10 am. I pulled the curtains open but the views are still hazy, maybe tomorrow. I love just sitting out on the balcony though, just watching life going on around me and I feel so much more relaxed already.

So after the wonders of a good night’s sleep we went out to find breakfast and discovered a great little place just down the road that does the most delicious pancakes, so it look like that’s going to become another regular stop for us!

We walked along the main road and past the Royal Palace – you can’t see anything but the wall, and into the central area of Lakeside (the tourist part of Pokhara). It’s just one main road lined with small shops and restaurants with lots of hotels and guesthouses on the streets leading off it.

People say Namaste and ask you to look in their shops but there is no hard sell or hassle. We encountered a couple of people begging, which included an old lady leading an old blind man around and a Saddhu, but there isn’t much at all. There are quite a few men wandering around playing musical instruments which they try to sell you, so far I haven’t seen anyone buy one which is a bit sad. There are also lots of Tibetan ladies with their jewellery spread out on blankets on the floor who also call out to you to come and have a look.

The lake is huge and you can hire boats to go out on it or to take you across to the other side from where you can walk uphill to the white Peace Pagoda, which we fully intend to do but not just yet!

We only just made it back to our hotel before the rain started and boy did it tank down! The wind was really strong and there were large claps of thunder and streaks of lightning forking down to the mountain tops. It was so bad for so long Howard had to eventually reluctantly agree to eating in the hotel!

When we got back to our room we found a large pool of water on the floor which had blown in under the balcony door and the bottom of our quilt (which had been touching the floor) was soaked but there were no spares to be had!

3rd Oct ‘12

Not a lot to say, we wandered down for food, lazed around a lot and enjoyed the views, went out for tea and had to stay inside the restaurant as the rain was torrential. Once it stopped we set off back up the road but it was like a river rushing down at us! I just paddled up it and kept finding myself calf deep in places as I couldn’t see the road and it is full of potholes and broken up sections.

4th Oct ‘12

What a surprise I got when I woke up today and looked outside – I could see tall snow covered mountain peaks poking through the clouds! Wow I hadn’t expected that!! I grabbed the camera and took pictures to show Howard when he woke up as the clouds were back covering them by then.

We had a stroll along the lakeside and met a lovely young Tibetan lass who stopped us as she had spotted my tattoo. She told us her parents fled Tibet in 1959 and ended up in a Refugee Settlement about 20 kms from Pokhara. She was born there (she’s 25) but doesn’t have Nepalese nationality and although she is Tibetan she cannot get Tibetan nationality either.

She talked about what it was like to be caught in this situation, not allowed to get a job, unable to return to Tibet and forced to make what living she can by making jewellery and trinkets to sell to tourists. She spoke really good English and said she had to learn it and fast so she could improve her chances of making money but that her written English was not so good.

We talked about the large numbers of young Chinese who are travelling now (there are masses of them in Nepal), she felt this was positive as ‘it opens their eyes to what is going on in the world and for Tibetans’ but that none of them can speak out about it. She also said they are unwilling to spend their money on Tibetan Refugees products and until there is a change in China (governments attitude) there is absolutely no chance of returning to Tibet.

I bought a few things from her, I would have liked to have given her more money but there are so many Tibetan Refugees in the same situation here.

When we came to the end of the path we walked back up to the main road and tried out one of the lakeside garden cafes that we had spotted on our walk. So we spent a few hours in the garden, gazing at the scenery, reading, chilling out and flicking ants off the table.

We called into another place The Busy Bee to have a look around, hardly anyone was there but we did spot a poster for a kind of Battle of the Bands that’s taking place over the next couple of days, featuring rock, punk and metal, finishing with a festival in a local park. An Australian band is headlining so we will probably check that out.

Meanwhile back at the hotel they seem to have lost the plastic fob that turns the power on in the room which was attached to our key ring this morning. However, yet again the power is all off anyway so no-one can be bothered to do anything about finding it yet.

As we were about to go out for tea
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Early morning
(trying to time it so we don’t get caught in the rain!) the power returned and we finally managed to get another fob from the staff but what a performance!

So it’s curry again and another down pour and a quick paddle back upstream to get back to the hotel. Ah yes I forgot to mention we have now struck up a friendship with the lovely gentle smiling man for the little shop stall nearby. The first night we stopped there for a diet coke but he only had warm ones, I still bought one and he said he would make sure he kept some in his freezer for me (we told him we would be here for a while). So every time we go back he has an ice cold can ready for me – now that’s great customer service! And he has the cheapest price and the best smile ever!!

5th Oct ‘12

Today we were woken up at some unearthly hour (6am) by the people from the next room. They were in the corridor talking at the tops of their voices to some friends all in Chinese. So I thought what the hell I’ll
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Machhapuchhare
have a look out of the window and for the first time since we arrived all the snow covered high mountains were fully visible!! Even Howard got up to see the spectacle and what an awesome sight it was!

Today also the curtain pole came away from the wall so getting that sorted should be interesting! When we went down to reception we tried to explain what was wrong and just got stared at blankly, still we left the key with them on the off chance they might have a look.

After breakfast we took a taxi up to Sarangkot high up in the green hills overlooking Pokhara. The taxi travelled through the town where a whole world of normal everyday life was taking place not that far behind where all the tourists stay in Lakeside and yet is seemed like a million miles away.

We took a small side road that wound its way higher and higher up into the hills passing tiny little homes clinging to the hillsides overlooking the valley. The taxi driver was beeping the horn at every bend which was just as well as empty paragliding trucks were hurtling back down in the other direction.

Eventually we arrived at the viewpoint area which sees most of its action at sunrise or sunset normally. The small stalls and cafes were all empty and just about deserted at this time. So we had the whole place to ourselves. We sat and gazed at the view, the mountains looked almost unreal and then watched the paragliders taking off from a higher nearby hillside; the sky was that full of them it was quite a sight. Yes Kathryn I’m tempted, but too much of a coward to give it a go, plus my track record with adventurous activities is not so good!

Back down in Lakeside we found ourselves back in the garden again for the afternoon as it was far to hot to do anything else.

So it’s now evening and so far there hasn’t been any rain! Could this mean the monsoon is really over??! Unsurprisingly the curtain pole was still hanging off, Howard just patched it up.

6th Oct ‘12

Back to clouds over the mountains again with just an occasional peek of a peak.

On our way out we reported the curtain pole again and this time got one of the guys on the desk to come up and have a look at it. We left the key with them and they told us not to worry it would be fixed. They also told us breakfast was included in our room rate – oh well it’s only taken 5 days to find this out!!

And so we began our ritual morning trek around to the Lakeside. Today however we caught one of the small boats over to the island. It was packed with young Nepalese carrying baskets of offerings to take to the temple on the island – the Varahi Mandir is a hinu temple dedicated to Vishnu.

On the way over I spent my time passing a camera backwards and forwards between some girls who were taking photos of each other. The boat circled the small island before pulling in and everyone clambering out.

We walked around the tiny temple with all its bells strung around the sides and dragon guardians, then caught the boat back again.

We tried out a different lakeside garden before walking back and then continuing on past our road in the other direction to try and
From SarangkotFrom SarangkotFrom Sarangkot

Paragliders
find the park the Battle of the Bands was taking place in. As we passed our usual tea time haunt – the Laxman we stopped to chat to the young lad who runs it and he told us where the park was, whilst looking completely bemused by the fact that two old westerners liked heavy metal!!

We easily found the park and you could see the ‘arena’ from the road, it was a rectangle of grass surrounded by rusty old metal sheets with a stage at one end. There didn’t seem to be a lot going on or many people there at this time in the afternoon. When we reached the main park entrance thee was a table set up with a few posters and three young lads sat at it selling tickets.

They advised us to come back later but to buy our tickets now as there were only a limited number – hmmm, but we splashed out £1 each on them and went back to the hotel to cool off for a while.

Once the sun was down we headed back again and took a short cut down into the park, dodging lots of giggling
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Building Nepal style
young children who were running about playing and calling out Namaste. Already we could see how boggy the ground was getting.

We reached the entrance, handed over our tickets and one of the panels was dragged back so we could go inside. There were two concrete paths crossing the field and they were lined with young lads sitting on their motorbike helmets. There was a very small crowd of hardy souls down the front near the stage in the quagmire and on the far side of the field was the beer tent – a small tent with a few boxes for a table with a pyramid of cans of tuborg on one side and bottles of water on the other and as it got darker a few candles were lit next to them. All we need now is a merch stall said Howard, but we didn’t spot one!!

We waited about 20 minutes while a sound check was carried out and then the first (for us) band started. The lead singer had clearly been studying how all the western bands do it and was trying to get the audience whipped up, he was speaking in broken English and despite all his efforts only managed to get a few hoots back in return, but the lads did get up off their helmets and stand and watch. The band gave it their all, the two spotlights glared out into the dark crowd and there was even a smoke machine going for a short while. Some of the people at the front were head banging for all they were worth and one of the members of the Australian band got on stage and whipped his hair around. The lead singer thanked him and then got the band’s name wrong and everyone laughed. The crowd politely applauded and I suspected that very few of this band’s fan base had actually made it to Pokhara.

Then it was back to squatting on helmets and for us jigging from one foot to the other while we waited through yet another sound check. The next band though had a much more professional sound and were pretty good, the crowd loved them, they didn’t bother with the patter – so no more c’mon you muva fukas and people went wild when they played one particular song, whose name sounded like Momos to meet but I doubt it actually was.

At the end of their set we were told t-shirts and cd’s were available to buy, so the table by the entrance must have been the merch stall!!

We decided to call it a night and splodged and slipped out before the Aussies took the stage. The whole thing was due to finish at 8pm so we didn’t miss much. Attempting to get out of the park in the pitch black wasn’t easy though and involved more wet feet but we spotted two locals leaving so we just followed them, climbed over a wall and got back to the main road.

Back at the restaurant the staff wanted to know if we had really gone to the concert and when we said yes they were really grinning! Then we had to tell them what it was like and if many people were there. It turns out ‘many many people in Nepal loves rock but very small number like heavy metal’ and our novelty value rating clearly went up a good few notches!!

Meanwhile back at the hotel we were told they had rung ‘the man’ to fix the curtain pole but he never came……funny that. So one of the young lads came up with a screwdriver, whacked it a few times, went away, came back and I don’t know what else he did as I retired to the balcony, but so fat it’s stayed up.


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