A month in Nepal...
Pokhara Travel Blog› entry 1 of 1 › view all entries
'Hello Madam, this way please' - was this person speaking to me?! I couldn't believe my ears... 'Please, this way Madam, that man can help you'... I had just got off the plane from crazy Varanasi and it would appear I had landed in Heaven. Clean, quiet, polite, helpful. I was in love with Nepal straight away. A hassle free taxi ride from the airport into the friendly bustle of Kathmandu City. Just a short flight, but a million worlds away. This city is fairly new - shoddy buildings haphazardly patched together - but there is an sense of optimism and growth. The roads are slightly better than I had become accustomed to in India, only hitting my head a couple of times in the back of the Toyota that was nearly as old as me.
I arrived at the hotel that had been arranged by our charity agency, and I couldn't wait to see my friend Jana - she had arrived from Prague the day before and I ran upstairs to see her. How lovely - after all this time to see such a friendly, familiar face; a little slice of home! I was, however, suffering from and 'Indian hangover' of an illness and spent much of our first evening together shivering, sweating and sleeping (sorry Jana!).
We showered and braved the outside again - this time armed with rain coats! We headed to the famous Swayambhunath Temple, or Monkey Temple, just ouside the centre.
ONTO THE MOUNTAINS
The next day brought an air of excitement for us both - we were heading to Pokhara, Nepal's second largest city, to undertake a voluntary program at a children's home and the stay in a monastary nearby.
Still, we arrived in one (shaken) piece and were delighted - Pokhara is a quiet, touristy, lakeside town - with a wealth of shops, restaurants, cheap accommodation and an amazing backdrop of the Annapurna range. We loved it. We kicked back, made our new home in the guesthouse with the family involved with the children's home and ventured out.
We made our way to the children's home to meet the man behind it and the children - 12 of them. It was quite a hike up, but the house is generous, on a hill top with beautiful views of the lake and lots of rooms for the kids. When they came out of their class with their teacher - they each in turn welcomed us with 'Namastee Auntie' in THE cutest voices - it nearly brought a tear to my eye! They were all adorable, with bright eyes and wide smiles. I was looking forward to working with them - although not looking forward to having my heart strings tugged so much!
Our tasks were simple for the week, pick the kids up from the home, take them to school, get bread and milk, pick them up, take them back, feed them afternoon snacks, play with them, entertain them, help with homework, help prepare their evening meal and enjoy their company! We could do that! The kids were aged between 4 and 14, mostly from hill villages and takento the home for a better life.
OM MANI PATME HUM
Saturday soon came and so did our day off! we had befriended fellow traveller Aron, from San Fran, in Kathmandu and we had arranged to take a taxi to Sarangkot hill at 5.30am for sunrise. Sarangkot is a tiny hill top village just outside Pokhara, with total 360 degree views of Pokhara and the Annapurna range. It was spectacular - a real sight. We climbed to the viewing spot (and were greeted by 20 Japanese tourists) - we battled our way to a good spot and proceeded to take too many photos - it was too beautiful. And when the sun eventually peeked it's sleepy head over the mountain, there was a cheer from the crowd - very sweet! Annapurna and Fishtail mountains were tipped in a pink-orange glow, the sun changing the sky from lilac to orange to pink and back, the view was crystal.
The following week saw us packing up our things and moving into Pema Ts'al Sakya Monastary just outside Pokhara Lakeside, but a world away! The monastary sits on top of a hill over looking a Tibetan settlement. Aron, Jana and I were shown to our spartan but lovely rooms in the grounds and given a tour. Home to 84 Tibetan monks, aged between 4 and 42, the monastary teaches English, Nepalese, Tibetan, Social Syudies and philosophy - along with anything volunteers can bring. Only staying a short time meant we were down for a duty close to Lama Kunga's heart - gardening! That was fine by us - taking cuttings, planting, trimming, clearing and feeding plants in a beautiful setting with beautiful people!
Our first dinner was such a treat and one of the most incredible sensory experiences of my life: once we had devoured our temos (Tibetan dumplings) and cabbage, the monks began chanting - evetually they were all in sync, rocking and chanting in unison at their tables.
As part of our stay at the monastary, we were also invited to partake in Buddhist Philosophy class taken by our 'teacher' Tenzin. Every evening he taught us the 4 noble truths and basic philosophy adn thinking behind it - some was enlightening, others were difficult for us westerners to get our heads around or even begin to comprehend - our worlds are so severely different. Still, it was a mind opener.
The next day and we were all (including the monks), were in for a treat - Hollie was arriving, from glorious Skegness, to bring a bit of that Lincolnshire sunshine to us.
One thing we haven't touched too much on is electricity. It's a simple thing in our 'normal' life, it's there, always - at the flick of a switch. Not in Nepal. It is at the forefront of saving the planet by using only hydroelectricity.
MY KNAP SACK ON MY BACK
We has a trek planned for 3 days on our return and we were looking forward to the challenge... honest... And a challenge it was - the famous Royal Trek, or Annapurna Skyline Trek, completed by Prince Charles in 1980, we were sure it'd be fine. It was tricky. Amazing though - some of the most beautiful scenery seen to date. We stayed in remote hill villages, the accomodation was barn-like, complete with buffalo, goats, chickens and the infamous bucket shower. Our first night saw us stay in Lipyani, a small hillside village serving some of the best dhal bhat ever! We were weary and the aches of the day were not shy to come the morning.
Us girls treated ourselves to a much deserved massage on our return to Lakeside and relaxed on the roof top of our guesthouse - it seemed to be getting hotter everday. Another visit to Sarangkot for sunrise, a boat ride on the lake for sunset and some Nepal Ice Lager - and our time in Pokhara and Nepal had come to an end. We had loved it - and being off the beaten tourist track had helped to see a little slice of West Nepali life - although I think many of us can do without dhal bhat for a while.
We all headed off to the airport for our various flights, sadly leaving Jana for one more day, and it was next stop - Bangkok and South East Asia.
And so - thank you Nepal, you chilled us out and hushed busy minds, you mesmerised with your landscapes, opened our minds and treated us with trekkers Cadbury's and HobNobs (and Signature whiskey), danyebad.