02.06.2014 - 08.06.2014
I'm back on blogging duty (the writing at least) to help Issy catch up because she's been:
a- busy enjoying the trip
e- all of the above
d...wait....maybe b....wait wait c....no....must be e then. I say e.
So, after the chaos that was India, we were keen to move on and were looking forward to a few days in Nepal.
With no real agenda except a flight to Kathmandu, the capital, we went about planning our trek to the top of Mount Everest. To our complete surprise we discovered that 5 days wasn't enough to reach the summit, so we had to call off that idea! Just as well, as I hadn't packed a beanie
We had heard that Pokhara was a great lakeside city near the Annapurna mountain range and a good place for various activities, particularly paragliding which we had missed on the account of the weather in Manali.
We spent a day in Kathmandu taking in the regular tourist sights and were impressed with the sheer number of temples in the city:
Famous Durbar Square:
City streets - a subdued version of India:
We had toyed with the idea of driving the route to Pokhara by motorcycle the following day, but apparently this can take anywhere from 5 to 7 hours, despite it being only 160km, so to make the most of our time we took the overpriced 25 minute flight instead.
Pokhara lies north west of Kathmandu, so with seats on the right side of the plane, we had hoped to catch a glimpse of the Himalayas from 12,000 ft but once again, the weather refused to cooperate.
Based on a recommendation from Jess, who we met in Manali, we arranged to stay at Anadu House in Anadu village across the lake from Pokhara and away from any touristy areas. The village has no roads and is only accessible by row boat or canoe, which made it an adventure getting across with our luggage but also meant it was very peaceful once on the other side. Although costing slightly more than budgeted, we had the whole house to ourselves with amazing views of the lake. We knew the Himalayas were somewhere behind the fog and were hoping the skies would eventually clear for us...
On a small canoe that almost tipped over when we tried to get in with our backpacks:
The other canoe being emptied after heavy rains the night before - is this the one we're meant to use to get back and forth??
The perfect place to chill and read (note the Kindle):
That first relaxing day pretty much set the tone for our time in Pokhara. We briefly contemplated going for a multi-day hike but were in desperate need of some r&r after India so we decided to take it easy.
We (the royal we) managed to row ourselves across the lake to see what Pokhara was all about and plan some activities for the next few days.
Working up a sweat before breakfast:
The candy selection process - not to be taken lightly:
Issy far too busy to work on the blog:
Trying to make it back to Anadu before the daily downpour:
Sunset after the rain - not bad:
On day 3 we hired a motorcycle to explore the surrounding villages and hopefully get closer to mountains to catch a glimpse of Annapurna. As in Zanzibar, they rent them without fuel, so having learnt from our episode there, we made sure to fill the tank, not knowing how far we might be going. We headed into the mountains on some steep dirt roads, until they became too muddy and slippery to continue. It was a rainy day and it didn't look like the clouds and fog would lift so we just toured the surrounding area with a quick stop for lunch.
Our view from Sarangkot village - I'm told the Himalayas are behind there somewhere:
What it's supposed to look like (found on TripAdvisor):
Back to the Phewa Lake:
Issy: "me too, me too!" - Greg: "uh...you look like a bumble bee, not sure it was the look you were going for "
Having to cut the riding short, we returned to Pokhara with more than half a tank of petrol. We were hoping we could recoup some of the petrol cost from the rental agent but were quickly shot down and told "not how we work, customer decide how far to go and put enough petrol". Clearly a system that works to their benefit, so out of principle, we got back on the bike to see if we could sell it (the petrol not the bike). So many people use motorcycles or scooters, we were sure we would find a buyer. After some "shopping around" we found a motorcycle mechanic perfectly located next to a bar where we found a taker who agreed to pay 100 Nepalese Rupees (just 20 Rupees below retail) after some negotiating with Issy (yes, Issy does the dirty work). I figured there were probably 5 liters in the tank, so was quite chuffed when the helpful mechanic easily drained out 6 liters and was then amazed by his commitment when he got under the seat, disconnected the fuel line and claimed another 2 liters via a trickle from the reserve tank.
I think he's done this before:
I was a little concerned that we wouldn't make it back to the rental shop, but luckily it was downhill so made it without incident. Having succeeded in our quest, the agent even asked if there was any petrol left in the motorcycle, which I wasn't too sure of myself, but gave a confident yes and luckily it started up on testing, as if that was conclusive evidence. We took that as a win and left with some extra beer money.
We had scheduled paragliding for our last day, but woke up to find the paragliding peak covered by clouds, so once again we missed out on the opportunity and were beginning to accept the fact that we simply wouldn't see the Himalayas on this trip. We spent the extra time relaxing even further.
Can you speed this thing up please?
Another nice sunset despite the weather:
Why don't they have stand-up paddleboards around here??
A perfect last evening in Nepal:
The next day was spent traveling to Chiang Mai, a city in northern Thailand which will feature in our next post. We are now in Phong Nha - Ke Bang National Park in central Vietnam, a UNESCO world heritage site known of its amazing cave and grotto systems.
Greg and Issy