Thursday, June 22, 2017

Pokhara Nepal

View of Machapuchare from the hotel balcony
Arriving in Pokhara after another harrowing bus ride from Tatopani at the end of the Annapurna Circuit was a huge relief. The next issue was finding somewhere to stay. The main road into town was barricaded so we were dropped off far from the tourist district. Happy to be off the bus, but hot and bothered in the 35 degree humidity, we soon started arguing about which way to go to find a hotel. Kyle was frustrated with my haphazard navigating and wanted to stop and figure it out. After a few snappy comments back and forth, we stopped for a cold pop to cool the tempers. Thinking a bit more clearly, we realized that we were only a few blocks from where we wanted to be and took off in the direction of some of the hotels recommended by Lonely Planet. We were intercepted by a guy who saw our guidebook and convinced us that we should check out his hotel instead. The room was clean, there was A/C and the price was right. We also were not very interested in wandering around haggling for a room. Hotel Penguin became our home for the next few days.
Showered and excited for a beer after 2 weeks of trekking
Pokhara is a city situated south of the Annapurna range and sits on the shore of Phewa Tal, one of the largest lakes in Nepal. It is the tourist capital of the country and is full of hotels, restaurants and shopping stalls. We spent our first day exploring the lake front, eating a variety of non daal bhat foods and doing some shopping.
Beautiful sunset over the mountains and Phewa Tal
Busy nightlife in Pokhara's tourist district
Kyle really wanted to rent a scooter to check out the tourist attractions in the Pokhara Valley. We managed to find a guy that would rent a scooter for 24 hours instead of just for the day. This meant that we were able to use it for an afternoon, then again for the following morning before returning it. He explained that if we were pulled over by the police that we were to tell them that it belonged to a friend and to not give them the papers or he would have to pay a fine. I left my drivers licence with him as collateral and we were off. It ended up being $15 for the day and there was no deposit.
One of the many rental scooters
We spent the day zipping around town and the surrounding valley, visiting as many sites as we could. It was fun being a part of the chaotic traffic, where people just drive wherever there is space. I was glad that Kyle had lots of motorcycle experience and he adapted quickly to driving on the left side of the road.
Sight-seeing by scooty
Aquaducts above the Seti River Gorge
Off road scooting
One of our stops was at "Bat Cave." This ended up being pretty cool except for the fact that we got scammed by a tour guide who convinced us that we needed to have a guide to enter the cave and that we could decide what to pay him at the end. We realized as soon as we went in that this was a total lie but we were stuck with him. He hurried us through the cave, occasionally telling us about the limestone formations and bats before showing us out a narrow hole in the rock. "Now follow me" he said and we got on our scooters and drove a few minutes to the nearby Mahendra Cave that he toured us around also. This cave was much bigger and was full of bats. He took us into some small chambers and the bats were flying everywhere. The ground was super slippery with guano and was sketchy climbing over the slimy rocks. Another rushed tour complete, the guide then demanded a ludicrous amount of money for his services (1.5 hrs). It was far more than we had payed for ANYTHING in Nepal and we basically just laughed at him. Our book had suggested paying about 20x less than he was asking. We offered that and he got pretty upset. Back and forth we argued about the price and we were getting pretty mad. This was wrecking our day. Finally I caved and paid the guy much less than he wanted but still far more than we had wanted to pay. Kyle just looked at me with an expression that said, "seriously!?" and the guide seemed stoked. Oops. I had just wanted to get out of the situation. It had totally sucked but we were very careful to ask for prices for everything and have an agreement for services from there on out.
Emerging from Bat Cave
Kyle checks out some of the bats in Mahendra Cave
Only three days had passed since we had left Steen in Jomsom, but it had felt like an eternity. He messaged us when he arrived in Pokhara and we met up for 2 for 1 cocktails. This turned into a few more drinks, delicious chick-n-falafal wraps and a hunt for chocolate cake, which we eventually found. Steen was so excited (even more excited than when we had Yak Donalds!). We had agreed to go up to Sarangkot the next morning to watch the sunrise, so after a short sleep, we hopped on the scooter and were off. My early morning navigating skills were not at their peak and I directed us off in the completely wrong direction for about 20 minutes before I realized my mistake. Back on track, we arrived at the view point just after the sunrise but we still got amazing early morning views of the lake, mountains and valley.
Oh no not this guy again!
Sarangkot sunrise over Pokhara and the Himalayas in the clouds
Team Canada
More views from Sarangkot
We said our final goodbye to Steen, then carried on ticking off the other tourist attractions we hadn't had time to visit before we returned our scooter.
Shanti Stupa, the World Peace Pagoda
Monument to the mountaineers who have lost their lives at the International Mountaineering Museum
Great explanation of a cam at the International Mountain Museum
There was a whole exhibit dedicated to the Yeti
Lakeside lunch

Water buffalo just hanging out
Our last day in Pokhara was spent exploring the area on mountain bikes. For $15 you can rent a very worn out hard tail that is somewhat functional. The first bike I tried was basically unridable, so after riding about a block, we turned back and asked for another bike. I was given an old stumpjumper that was in need of a full overhaul, but at least it wasn't going to fall apart as I pedaled it. We made a plan to do a short loop around the lake and up to the World Peace Pagoda that we had visited the day before. By the time we started riding it was already close to noon and it was a very hot, humid day.
Mountain Bike adventure around the lake and up the the Peace Pagoda
Now I see why they are called water buffalo
Crossing a bridge at the end of Phewa Tal
Rice paddies and farmers
View down to the Peace Pagoda
The trail was all unpaved road and involved a horrible steep climb up to the top of the ridge. We quickly ran out of water but managed to make it to a restaurant at the top of the hill before the Pagoda. We stopped there for a late lunch and a few glorious litres of water.
Kyle dying after a long, steep climb (note the rice paddies way below). Its way to hot for this!
Curious children on their lunch break wanted to know what we were doing
Restaurant at the top of the hill
The ride back down was super fun, following the hiking trail that connects Pokhara to the Pagoda. It was a fast descent!
Slimy rocks on the trail down
After 4 days in Pokhara, we were ready to move on. Check out my next entry for the final leg of the journey through Nepal.
Rooftop views of Annapurna I, Machapuchare, Annapurna III, VI and II
Boats on Phewa Tal (there were lots on the bottom of the lake too)

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