Monday, 28 April 2008

Exploring region around Pokhara, central Nepal

This morning I was the first guest at breakfast at 6:30am (had to order it last night to be served at that time). I arranged for a bloke to row me the 1km across the lake (250R) to the start of a track up the hill. It was a steep track, but delightful through the rain forest. Saw a snake on the track right in front of me, and many monkeys swinging through the trees above. At the top of the hill, a 300m climb, there is the World Peace Pagoda, with marvelous views across the lake. I continued down the hill on the far side, coming out in rice and corn fields, irrigated by water from the lake. At that point I saw the only tourists I'd seen.

I walked to a point where the river disappears down a 30m sink-hole. A couple of hundred metres further on I climbed down into a cave through which the rivers runs. It was worth seeing at this time of the year, but would be spectacular in the monsoon season. A short distance away I visited a Tibetan refugee settlement in the hope of seeing a carpet factory and other handicraft production. The whole settlement was closed for prayers for the protesters killed and injured 49 days before in Lhasa, Tibet, in the anti-Chinese protest. I found a large hall packed with refugees, led by a priest, chanting a prayer. It was very moving and I sat watching for a while. A fellow outside told me they had been chanting the prayer all day - it was then 11am.

I continued the 5km back through farmland to Pokhara for a lunch of tass, a set meal of marinated, grilled mutton and dry-fried rice (115R with tea) - a tasty dish that I ate in Gorkha last week. Then, at a specialty shop, followed with a lassi, the Nepali equivalent of an Australian smoothie. I ordered a mango lassi, made with fruit and yoghurt (called curd in Nepal), and thought that, at 90R, it was expensive. When it came I could understand the price: it was 750ml, with heaps of mango and ice-cold!

The electricity went off at 1pm, so back at the hotel it was too hot in my room without the air-conditioning or the fan operating. It was the hottest time of day, so decided to come to this Internet cafe. They have their own generator, but don't waste the power on unnecessary luxuries such as the fans, so have been sweating steadily.

I'll return to Kathmandu by plane on Wednesday, and the following day fly back to Canberra, arriving late afternoon friday after a 25 hour journey. Am looking forward so much to getting home, even though it will be only three weeks before Carolyne and I head to Vietnem.


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