Cow and Bird at Pokhara lake
Neither one of us got much sleep last night as Cindy has a head cold and we are both worried about things going on at home. We woke up early and bid our goodbyes to Kantipur Temple House for now and walked over to Kantipath, the main road where we catch our bus to Pokhara and were pleasantly surprised to see our bus first in line. We were way early and ended up having to hang around the streets waiting for the bus to fill up and leave. We finally took off and settled in for the six to eight hour ride to Pokhara. Traffic in Kathmandu is particularly bad and we crawled our way through the city, eventually making it out to the highway. The ride was pretty much uneventful other than watching the other tourists including a couple of different Indian families.
One of them, with a particularly arrogant father who kept harassing the guy in charge of the bus tickets about something or another almost won my admiration when he picked up a piece of trash that his daughter had thrown on the bus floor from a bag of chips. When he leaned over and threw it out the window, that sentiment went away. It’s pretty sad but everywhere all over the sub-continent, people seem to think nothing of littering which takes away a little from all the incredible natural beauty here.
Man rowing in Pokhara
Anyway, we made it to Pokhara after a couple tea/lunch breaks without to much pain and there was actually someone waiting for us from the hotel that Razzu had set us up at, the Hotel Barahi, which is actually quite nice and has a swimming pool. Pokhara has grown considerably since I was here in the 80’s and Lakeside is now a sprawling, tourist center with restaurants that serve Italian, Mexican, Continental, Indian, Chinese, Swiss, German - just about anything but local food.
Some of them, actually most of them, seem to serve something from all of the nationalities above! We ended up stumbling into a little place called the “Enlightened Yak” and had Thalis which were actually good. The weather was less than fantastic so we just wandered around town a bit and looked at the lake. The mountains are completely obscured by clouds and it looked like it was about to pour so we went to hang at the hotel and relax a bit.
Boats in Pokhara
Razzu called regarding the Tibet trip and it looks like the June 12 is totally over-booked but we are wait-listed for June 14 and definite on June 16 - hopefully we won’t have to wait that long as we don’t have much planned and the weather here isn’t exactly cooperating.
For dinner, we thought we would try something different and headed to “Cafe Concerto” for marginal pizza - it was better than airport pizza at home but not a lot.
At least the beer was cold J. On the way back, after checking e-mail (no word from home) we stopped by one of the little local shops to buy refreshments in case it rained to much and got into a conversation with the shop owner who looks a lot like our friend Harjot from i2. We had to negotiate a bit for the whiskey which is a bit pricier than in Kathmandu but he seems like a nice guy.
Our friend Tika and his son in Pokhara
Well today its pouring rain so there is not much to do.
We are hoping that it clears up so that Cindy can at least get a glimpse of the mountains! After hanging around watching HBO a bit, we headed out to find something for lunch but were troubled by the fact that virtually every restaurant has the same, touristy menu. I guess the locals figure that, when the foreigners get back from trekking (one of the main things to do in Pokhara which is close to the Annapurna Range), the first thing they want to do is get buzzed and eat pizza or burritos (or rather Nepalese interpretations of the above). Anyway, we ended up eating at another local place called “Lemon Grass” that was OK but took forever and screwed up the order (but again, at least the beer was cold!)
Tika's wife and son
Later on, we ended up having tea with our shop owner friend and his wife and baby. He used to work at the hotel we are staying at and his shop is right across the street. His English is really good and we talked for a long time about how it is to run a shop there, about working in Qattar where he has been and may go again because the money is good, etc.
His wife and little boy are really cute so we are trying to help him and the local economy by drinking beers J
The Peace Pagoda in Pokhara
Pouring rain caused us to not stray far for dinner so we went to a place called “Moondance” on the corner that wasn’t bad. We tried the internet which is dodgy and unreliable at best in Pokhara but no news which I suppose could be construed as good news. Razzu was supposed to call but we didn’t hear from him tonight - hopefully there is no issue with the tickets for Tibet.
Scary self portrait after the leech hike to the Peace Pagoda
Well we woke to what looks like reasonable weather - it’s not sunny but at least it isn’t raining (yet). Razzu did call this morning and we are confirmed with Tibet seats on the June 14. Since we haven’t done much here and it wasn’t threatening to pour, we decided to take the long, scenic route hike up to the “Peace Pagoda” which is a large, white stupa way up on a hill overlooking the lake that was built by Japanese Buddhist monks and has nice views of the mountains (when they are visible which today they weren’t L)
The walk started by walking past the Royal Palace in Lakeside all the way down to Damside, then across a rickety bridge to a trail that winds up through the jungle.
Initially, I thought I found a shortcut from a boat hire place that I swear is where I rented a boat in 84 to paddle around the lake. The really nice guy there scared Cindy by telling us that we could take my “shortcut” but that it goes through the jungle and the path is narrow and there will be lots of leeches. He said the path from Damside was wider and should be better - needless to say we headed to Damside.
Steak for lunch at Boomerangs
After the rickety bridge, we started up switchbacks through the forest/jungle which were pretty steep and slippery but made it up to the top of the first hill a bit hot and sweaty but none worse for the journey. We had read of some people having problems with muggings along this hike in the past but asked several locals and they all said that was no longer true. We were still a bit cautious as we started traversing through the jungle heading towards (we hoped) the Pagoda.
Everything was cool until Cindy felt something crawling on her ankle which prompted her to scream - rut roh, Leeches! I came over to assist in knocking them off her shoes and pulling one of them, a hefty little bastard, off her ankle (which yes I know you aren’t supposed to do but if your wife is screaming “Get it off! Get it off!” then what the hell would you do?) The rest of the hike, at least to the tea house at the summit, became a hilarious jaunt with Cindy running from rock to rock, then frantically checking her boots. They are sensitive little things (the leeches) and can “smell” blood and start inching towards it as soon as they do. Every few minutes we would stop to knock them off our shoes, trying to avoid the piles of wet leaves where they live and stand only on rocks. We made it up to the summit and stopped for a Sprite, both checking to make sure there were no hanger’s on. We were safe with only minor bites - a charming morning!
Machapuchere Fish Tail Mountain in Pokhara (not my pic)
The Peace Pagoda itself isn’t all that special, especially when the mountains are 100% obscured by clouds.
The views down to the Lake are nice but even those were foggy/hazy so we hung out for a bit and headed down, taking the more direct route. When I suggested that we could go back the Damside trail and possibly visit the waterfalls, Cindy’s response was “I have my own money - I am taking the boat”.
A photo from Pokhara in 1984
It was quite a scramble down the shorter path but we finally made it to a small local village where you could hire a boat to row you the 20 minutes or so across Phewa Tal Lake. A nice, older man hopped in our canoe and started rowing, explaining in broken English that, since he was from the village and not Lakeside, he could only drop people off and was unable to pick up a return trip (no doubt a shameless guise for a tip which we did give him because we liked him…) Apparently, there are a bunch of different “Boat Unions” that sound vaguely like early American Chicago or something.
We had another stellar (not really) lunch at the “Love Shack” restaurant of Nepali-Italiano Pasta or some such concoction. We ended up watching the third game of the Stanley Cup in which (previously unbeknownst to us) our local team, the Anaheim Ducks were playing (and astonishingly, winning!) We capped off the day hanging at the pool which is actually quite nice.
A little girl in Pokhara from the 80's
After all that exhausting leech hiking yesterday, we decided to enjoy the tiny bit of sunshine we saw and hang by the pool a bit, eventually wandering out for a really nice steak lunch at a Lakeside restaurant called “Boomerangs”. I have been on a quest to find this one restaurant by the lake that I ate at a lot in the 80’s and have a series of pictures of a little infant girl pouring a bowl of yogurt all over herself in. This place looked like it might have been a vastly renovated version of that but I am not sure.
We were sitting under a veranda, just about done with lunch when a local couple who were on their honeymoon asked if we would mind if they sat at the other table under the veranda. They are from Kathmandu and just got married and this was the first time that either of them had come to Pokhara. His English was really good and he is in a hotel and restaurant management program as is she. He is about to go to France for four months for an apprenticeship (actually his second visit which is pretty impressive for Nepali’s, many of whom can’t afford to travel).
We decided to walk to the lake and look around after lunch where we started to talking to a young woman from one of the several Tibetan Refugee camps around Pokhara. The next thing you know, she is showing us her “small shop” which was a backpack full of all sorts of Tibetan jewelry and telling us how many American’s always help because they like Tibetans. Hard to deny, hard not to buy so we did….
Well guess what it is doing today? Raining! So much for the Himalayas in Pokhara. We took a long walk after breakfast through some of the back streets of Lakeside and, after deciding against riding bicycles into town, sat down at the “Tea Time Bamboostan” restaurant which is one of the really old places that I no doubt ate in last time. There was an older, dread-locked guy sitting with a local Nepali guy, both of them smoking pot while we ordered lunch. A young Danish volunteer came in and after a bit, ran into a friend of hers, another volunteer from Sweden who has been there for months and knows the Nepali guy from riding motorcycles. Dreadlocks left and Nepali joined Sweden and Denmark, smoking another joint along the way which is apparently legal for personal consumption here. We ended up talking to them for a while. The Swedish guy lives with a local family up in the hills and wants to stay another six months but his visa is running out. At one point, the Nepali guy said something like “No offense but the best thing in America is Tom and Jerry”. I guess he lived in New York at some point (and if he was stoned and poor in New York, you have to admit, Tom and Jerry helps pass the time for free and is mildly entertaining!)
We stopped by a travel agent and booked a bus to Dumre tomorrow which is as close as you can get to Bandipur by bus. From there we take a jeep up the mountain. Still no word about events at home but we remain hopeful as best we can.
We wanted to go to a recommended local place for dinner called Pokhara Thakali. Actually, we stopped by last night but weren’t hungry enough for the big menu. When we got there, a large table of Japanese and Nepali guys was in the garden celebrating something. We sat inside and ordered a beer. Many of the restaurants have a happy hour and I asked the waiter (who’s English was basic) and he smiled and said “Yes!”. When I asked him what it was, he said “I am very happy to see you at my restaurant!” Too funny. Two beers and over an hour later, the food had still not arrived and we were contemplating bailing but it finally showed up and was quite good. Tomorrow, we are off to Bandipur which is supposed to be a great little Newari mountain town nestled away in the hills.