Saturday, June 30, 2007

Nepal, fresh air to Pokhara

(Pokhara signpost)

It was amazing how fast things changed once you got into Nepal. To be sure the first 5 km or so after to border could have been still in India, but after that, things changed. The country, the people, and thank God, even the traffic got better. The first thing that struck me is that it was somehow cleaner than India. Second the people were different, now they had distinct mongoloid features, rather than the very dark complexion which characterized much of northern India. Personally I find the Nepali much more attractive. After a few km, I found that the air was cleaner and lo and behold the road started to go into the mountains. There was little traffic, and beautiful vistas as the road followed a river valley into the hills. The road to Pokhara is a very long winding road, with plenty of views, very interesting little villages along the side of the road wherever there was enough room for them, and though the road wasn't all that great, it was certainly passable, made even more so by the lack of traffic. I was having so much fun, that I actually made it all the way to Pokhara, something I hadn't really planned to do. It was a very long day, so I was really happy to get there.

(Heading towards Pokhara)

This was what I had been missing since I left northern Pakistan, some great mountain roads, little traffic, great vistas. No wonder that I was ready to get out of India, this is what was waiting for me, and I knew it.

(Strider and the Annapurnas)

Pokhara is a great place to unwind after norther India, it is very scenic, has all the amenities of a tourist town, and it is cheap. Of course these amenities don't come without a price, and that is the concentration of hustlers is very high. Nevertheless, it is truly one of the nicest places to hang out in that I have been that doesn't have a beach. The biggest drawback was the fact that I had picked the wrong time of the year to be here. The spectacular Annapurna range was for the most part hidden away behind clouds or it was so hazy that the view just gave you a hint of what was hiding up there.

(Heading towards Pokhara)

I did walking around the town, and in the hills above, which afford a great view of the town. One day I was feeling particularly energetic and took a walk around the lake. Something that started out as a hour walk down to the Dam, turned out to be a 7 hour walk all the way around the lake back to where I had started.

(Phewa Lake, Pokhara)

It was really wonderful, there are a number of little villages across the lake from the town, and the hills go up and down and around the hills. There are always paths, going in all directions but it was still easy to find your way. There were practically no people around, and a couple of dogs kept me company for at 3 km through three villages, before turning back home.
Close to far side of the lake I had a choice to make, I either continue walking along the hills or wait try to get a ride across a canal separating me from the river valley and eventually the other side of the lake. I had seen a couple of school kids coming from the opposite side of the lake, walking across this large river delta, so I knew they had a way to cross. It turned out that the families had canoes and when called would row over and get their kids and bring them back across. So when I got to the spot, I waited and sure enough someone came along, called and a girl came down rowed across and brought him back. When they got back to my side I asked if he would take me across and he cheerfully did (for 10 Nrs). On the opposite side, once I crossed the large river delta, there is a road, so it was an easy, if hot and dusty walk back to the village.

(Hills around Pokhara)

A few days later I took my motorcycle an rode to the end of this road, and it goes quite a way back into the river valley, and ends at a small village which is split in the middle by river which feeds the lake from the mountains.
Also there are some great rides up and around the hills in the area in every direction. But it is best if you have a bike with some power, as the hills can be pretty steep, with plenty of boulders and loose rocks.

More Later...

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