Namastay from Nepal! Our adventures have taken us further afield putting our Indian Adventure temporarily on hold as we take 2 weeks having an Nepalese Adventure.
Our two buses from Varanasi were not the comfiest of affairs, I (Toby) managed to grab a couple of hours rest lying down across a row of seats, but in general it was a pretty sleepless night. Not helped with the bus stopping at midnight for dinner then having to cross the border and find another bus at 5am. It was during our second of two buses from Varanasi that I realised it was only 72 hours since we were sat looking over the Taj Mahal and the fairly rapid pace we had set in the previous week. With that in mind we took the whole of yesterday off, relaxing around the lake side, and taking in Pokhara.
Our arrival into Pokhara wasn’t without drama. When buying our bus ticket at the border, the delightful bus company who, though slightly more expensive, had said they dropped you in the Lakeside area (where the guesthouses are) rather than the unsightly central Pokhara. Upon arrival they then declared that central Pokhara was their final stop. They evidently didn’t realise they were dealing with budget travellers rather than tourists willing to throw their cash about and forgive the odd lie. Thirty minutes of refusal to get off the bus, taking pictures of the vehicle, grabbing a security official and general arguing we eventually stepped off the bus by Lakeside – That South African couple were right: You don’t mess with us!
Nepal is a huge contrast to India. I think in our 8 weeks in India we had acclimatised to the general dirtiness of it, so the cleanliness of restaurants, hotels, and the city in general was a bit of a surprise to us! The people are very different too. As well as facial appearence they are much more fashionable, take better care of themselves, and much prefer football over cricket! All this makes small talk with these friendly people very enjoyable. It`s also pleasant to be able to walk down a street without being tirelessly hassled by every shop owner trying to sell you complete tat. Nepal is far more developed for Tourism than India with WiFi practically everywhere and many upmarket establishments. Nepal also has a paper currency that is very difficult to tell it’s value, and is bizarrely 15 minutes ahead of India (I guess anything to distinguish itself) putting it at 5 hours 45 minutes ahead of the GMT.
We are taking on Nepal without a guide book, as they were expensive in India and we are only here a couple of weeks. We had managed to do a bit of research prior, but arriving without a map was a bit disorientating. Luckily Joe had found a lovely and great value guest house online, which turns out is as good as it describes itself (it even has a hot shower!) so we got ourselves settled in.
Yesterday was our day of rest, so Joe and I did our own things getting ourselves re-energised and researching the local area. I have acquired a needle and thread, so that I can make my own repairs to clothing as I no longer have my usual fixers in the form of my sister and Sara! Yesterday I reattached a string onto my traveller trousers (I’m cool), but I sense a button coming loose on my shorts, so some more googling may be required to learn how to attach that. Be prepared for Andrews clothing launching at a shop near you!
Last night we went out for dinner at a lakeside restaurant and we both had fresh fish from the lake, my first fish since leaving England. Having been spoilt with it over the summer in Italy I had been really missing it, so a full grilled fish was fantastic.
Today we have had a busy day that turned rather frantic towards the end. We started the morning with a gentle boat ride across the lake to the base of a hill that hosted the national peace pagoda on its summit. The path upwards was well sign posted and maintained, making for a nice stroll up, revealing our first hazy views over the city and region. Atop the hill lay the glistening white pagoda with the golden Buddha sat within it contently looking out over the land.
We traversed our way down the reverse of the mountain on the much less sign posted route towards our next stop the caves and Devi’s waterfall. During the trek down children on several occasions attempted to jam our progress by creating a human chain barrier annoyingly singing and trying to force money, candy and even mobiles off of us. Unfortunately for these children they are yet to have developed enough visual skills to differentiate us from the many Japanese and Korean tourists who always seem more than willing to part with their Yen at the slightest suggestion, so found themselves being removed from our path by whatever means was necessary, including semi lifting a child out of the way.
As we made our way down, a fairly crammed bus plodded it’s way up the winding road to the Pagoda evidently the PPP (Pokahar Peace Pagoda…bus): Pokhara’s answer to the BBB, the Big Buddha Bus (see Jamie’s blog for his experience in Hong Kong – tinyurl.com/RW-Hkong ). The cave took some navigating to find, but we made it and explored down the cavern to the underground waterfall, which was fairly cool – our first proper waterfall of our journey.
This afternoon was permit-sorting time. Using research carried our yesterday (involving a couple of maps other travellers had left at our guest house, and me pretending that I was ”Yes definitely interested in booking your $240 trip, but would you mind describing the route in details, and the path conditions, how about the cost of accommodation if we decided to book that but separately”..) I have planned us a 4 day trek in the Annapurna mountain range nearby, for which we need two seperate permits.
Typically these two permits have to be obtained at different offices and required not one, but two passport photos each; this meant an annoying trip back to the hotel. We headed back up to the second office with photos in hand, and our $10 fee at the ready, only to find out that the fee had changed to 2000 Nepalese rupees and that as it is festival time the office is shutting in 15 minutes. I had the rupees on me, but Joe was fresh out, so a nervous wait entailed as Joe ran off to the cash machine. As the minutes ticked by I smiled nicely at the permit lady and tried to make some small talk, hoping that if Joe took a bit longer than 15 minutes she would surely wait a bit longer for the lovely English gentleman.
Luckily I didn’t have to sell myself to keep the ticket office open as with 5 minutes to spare Joe jumps out of a taxi and runs over to me saying the ATM was out of order so he had to run all the way back to the hotel, but found 1500Rs there and hopefully had the rest in his wallet. He did, otherwise the blog post would be in an entirely different mood! So with permits and hire equipment sorted, we are ready to go!
We’re flying solo (or should that be duo) on this trek with no guide or porter. The route is following a well used trail and we will be staying at local ‘tea houses’ in small villages each night. From the development we have found so far in Nepal I wouldn’t be at all surprised to find the route very well signposted, so no need to fear family and friends! It’s time to put my D of E skills to good use (albeit without the camping, or the food cooking, or the heavy load carrying..)