Tuesday, 29 April 2008

People & countryside around Pokhara, central Nepal

Yesterday afternoon, after leaving the Internet, I walked south along the road that skirts the Phew Lake shore, to find the track that climbs up the hill to Sarangkot at the top. I found the track all right, and enjoyed the late afternoon atmosphere with people heading home and the air cooling. Some people were swimming, kids were playing everywhere, and neighbours were chatting. On my return I stopped for a beer at a small place out of town, sitting on the roof, watching a large group of kids playing on the ground a few metres away, with the lake in the background and the sun setting. There were about 30 kids, boys and girls, ranging in age from about 5 to 15. Their play was so innocent and inclusive. The 15 year old boy was much bigger and stronger than the rest, but he clowned around and didn't abuse his size. They played triple jump and cartwheels that I recall.

I ordered curried fish (from the lake) and chapartis for dinner. As has been the case in all small restaurants, it took a long while to be served - about an hour - as the cook prepared the meal from scratch. The only other guests were a funny kiwi and several young, local women. He was a wizened old hippy, who smoked pot steadily and bought the women sweets. I was surprised when he told me he was only 52. For a while I thought he might have been living with the women, but it transpired they were just friends who were there for the free food and his chatter. He got one of them to go to buy several large packets of sweets, which he proceeded to chuck at the kids. The kids appeared to know him, and loved the fun of chasing the sweets scattered around in the fading light. It was good fun, and I didn't leave till 7:45pm to go back to the hotel.

This morning I was awake at dawn - now 5:15am - as usual, and was at breakfast again at 6:30am. I then headed along the lake shore and climbed the steep, stony track to Sarangkot. The first part of the walk was through rain forest, then through small farms. It was very pleasant, but hot (maximum 33 degrees and humid), with the top of the hill marked at 1,595m. There were lots of small shops and restaurants, but I was the only tourist! I had been told climbing the track alone would take close to 3 hours, but it took me 1:45, so I've retained some of my fitness. There were wonderful 360 degree views from the top, but I took no photos because of the thick haze. Of course, I couldn't see Annapurna and the other magnificent high peaks.

I walked back to road, about 1km down, and headed back along it towards Pokhara. There was little traffic, and the road wound along a ridge through rain forest. About half way down a vehicle from a paragliding company stopped and gave me lift back to the lake side. I wouldn't have minded walking, but it would have taken me at least another hour. I was hot and sticky, so drank another delightful mango lassi. I bought both the English-language Nepal newspapers (Kathmandu Post and Himalayan) and had a double espresso (a LONG way short of the standard we're used to). Then went for a yak cheese and salad sandwich at an eatery overlooking the lake shore. Chatted to two friendly American women (they were in the paragliding vehicle coming back down the mountain), then back to the hotel for a much-needed shower.

The next three days will be focussed around travel. My flight back to Kathmandu is scheduled for 12:45pm tomorrown (Thursday), so will leave the hotel at 11:30am. Have arranged for taxi driver, Prayas, to meet me at the airport (or more accurately, about 800m from the domestic terminal, as that is as close as an empty taxi is allowed to go). Will collect a bag at the Hotel Thamel then proceed to the Shangri-La where I've booked and paid. Will take a bit of organising to get my gear within the 20kg limit. Then a car will take me from the Shangi-La at 11am on Thursday to start the long journey home.


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