Bandipur to Pokhara

We were up at 7.30am after a fairly restless night, mostly because of the heat and humidity, but also because of a stray dog that seemed to have spent most of the night bark, bark, barking (I’d had to get up in the night and put in my ear-plugs).  Nevertheless, we were excited to begin the new day and see what the next part of our Nepalese adventure had in store.

We ate a leisurely al fresco breakfast in the morning sunshine in the pleasant terraced courtyard at the rear of the hotel, which overlooked the lush, fertile land and the little dwellings and farmlands.  We could see many banana trees and tall maize plants; maize seemed to form a staple part of the Nepalese diet, and the corn-cobs would be sold (and sometimes roasted over a wood fire) at roadside stalls.

Breakfast consisted of muesli and home-made yoghurt, as well as fresh fruit salad and warm bread.  We washed it down with fruit juice and coffee and, just as we thought we’d finished, the staff brought out plates of eggs (omelette) and tomatoes.  As I mentioned before, we certainly weren’t going to starve this holiday, and the quality and quantity of the meals that were included in the total cost has so far been exceptional.

Once breakfast was over, we returned to our room, ensured everything was packed up, then the ever-obliging hotel staff lugged our cases down the steep wooden staircase, ready to trundle them along to the minibus.

As we left the hotel, the proprietor bestowed upon each of us a sort of satin fringed scarf, as well as applying the traditional Hindu tilaka on our foreheads.  The tilaka is similar too (but not the same as) the Indian bindi, and the main differences are as follows:

  • tilaka is always applied with paste or powder, whereas a bindi may be paste or jewel.
  • tilaka is usually applied for religious or spiritual reasons, or to honour a personage, event, or victory. A bindi can signify marriage, or be simply for decorative purposes.
  • bindi is worn only between the eyes, whereas a tilaka can also cover the face or other parts of the body. Tilaka can be applied to twelve parts of the body: head, forehead, neck, both upper-arms, both forearms, chest, both sides of the torso, stomach and shoulder.
  • Typically the bindi is worn only by women, whereas tilaka is worn by both men and women.

Once we’d all said our thanks and goodbyes, we followed our guide through the streets and back to our waiting mini-bus, where Madern greeted us and loaded our cases into the rear of the vehicle.  Then we were all ready to set off just after 9.30am, next stop Pokhara.

Off we went back onto the winding mountain roads; some of the route took us back along the same road we’d come along yesterday.  Anal estimated it would take about two and a half to three hours to reach Pokhara, but we were never bored because there was always plenty to see out of the window, and our minibus was comfortable and air-conditioned.

After about an hour, we pulled up at a rest stop where Anal said we had about 20 minutes to stretch our legs, go to the loo or enjoy a coffee or cold drink.  Another mini-bus and its occupants also arrived; we got talking to one of the ladies who said she was from Antwerp in Belgium.  We asked her if she knew last night’s football result of the England v Belgium match, and she took the greatest delight in informing us that Belgium had beaten England 1-0.  It didn’t really matter, because both teams were through to the next round anyway.

We enjoyed a good hot cardboard cup of ground coffee then, with some trepidation, I decided I needed the toilet as I wouldn’t be able to wait until we arrived at our hotel.  As usual, the toilets were less than salubrious, and the stench in the heat and humidity was terrible.  I made sure to wash my hands thoroughly and finish with a liberal squirt of anti-bacterial hand gel.

Back on the minibus we continued on our way, and just before 12.00 noon we made our way along a rutted path to the banks of Lake Feva.  Our hotel, the Fishtail Lodge, was situated in the verdant landscape at the other side of the lake, and we had to get across on a raft, with our luggage being sent over separately.

The rafts were certainly a unique form of transport.  Each consisted of a flat wooden base with a metal frame above over which was stretched a tarpaulin to provide shelter from the sun (or rain).  To each side of the raft was attached a stout green rope the same length as the width of the lake crossing, and the raft “operator” simply hauled on the rope to pull the raft across the water.  As he pulled on one side, the slack rope on the opposite side just paid out into the water, ready to be hauled up again for the journey back.  Simple but effective!

Once we were all across, we negotiated some steps and arrived at the reception area of the hotel, which consisted of separate lodges as accommodation, with the bar and dining room beyond reception.  The beautifully-landscaped gardens also contained a swimming pool and a “Dip & Sip” cocktail bar and massage spa.  It all looked very comfortable, and we noticed in the reception that they had a “wall of fame” of photographs of famous people who had stayed at Fishtail Lodge in its 49-year history.  We spotted Prince Charles and former US president Jimmy Carter among the dignitaries’ pictures.

We enjoyed a cool glass of fruit juice while our room keys were given out; Trevor and I were allocated lodge number 3.  Anal asked us all to be in reception for 12.30pm so we could get the raft back across the river; apparently we were going to a restaurant in Pokhara for our lunch.

Our lodge was really lovely.  It had a cool tiled floor, twins beds, a large window-seat, dressing table, desk, wardrobes and a spacious bathroom, and it was comfortably decorated in orange and cream shades, with mesh screens at the windows to keep out any insects.  We felt we’d have an enjoyable couple of nights here.  🙂

Back in reception we met up with the rest of the group and took the raft across the river once again, and boarded our mini-bus.  It was only a short ride to the Monsoon Restaurant, in the heart of the town, amongst lots of colourful shops, bars, restaurants, workplaces and houses.  It looked a lively place.

We took our seats and a table outside, and the proprietor set up a large oscillating fan to provide us with a cooling breeze.  Once again it was a set meal from a limited menu; you ate what was brought for you, and I enjoyed some salad to start with followed by chicken and vegetables; it was more of a Western-style meal than local dishes.  It goes without saying that Trevor and I washed ours down with a nice big bottle of chilled Everest each.  🙂

After eating fit to bust (uncomfortable!) Anal said we could either get the minibus back to the raft crossing, or walk back ourselves – it would only take about 15 minutes.  We all opted to walk back, as it would give us the time to look around the shops and explore a bit.

We had a look along the street, just soaking up the atmosphere and looking at the local clothing shops and handicrafts.  Wooden and brass ornaments featured heavily, as well as handmade textiles like pashminas, throws, cushion covers, hand-knitted items made out of yak wool, and intricate tapestry wall hangings.  We spent some time browsing but I didn’t see anything I wanted to buy (yet!) so we just wandered back to the raft, and got pulled across to our lodge.  By now it was about 3 o’clock, and we had the rest of the day at leisure.

We were both hot and sweaty after our walk back, so we decided to get changed into our cossies and make the most of the hotel’s inviting-looking pool.  We slid into the cool water which was sheer bliss, and we spent a good 50 minutes just swimming lazily around.  At some point John came along and joined us, then we decided to finish off with a nice cocktail while resting on a sun-lounger; I had a sangria and Trevor had a beer.  After our substantial lunch I’d decided I was going to give dinner a miss tonight; it certainly wouldn’t hurt me!

We sat outside for a while then returned to our lodge to get washed and changed and hang our cossies up to dry.  Then we had a half-hour power nap before looking outside; we noticed it was raining quite hard so we had to wear our cagoules to go over to the restaurant for dinner at 8.00pm.  Trevor joined the others at the table but I just sat at the bar, enjoying a margarita and doing some of this blog.  I only joined the others at the coffee stage of the meal.

Afterwards Trevor and I returned to the bar for another drink, but it emptied out quite quickly (the bar I mean, not the drink!) until we were the only ones left.  Once again it seemed as if everything stopped at 10.00pm, and the bar staff hinted broadly that they wanted us to go, by closing the bar and turning out the lights!  Unperturbed, we took our drinks back to our lodge and enjoyed them there; Trevor watched TV while I did some reading.  We wondered why the raft-service was advertised as being available “24 hours”; if everything closed at 10.00pm what was the point of going back into the village?

Not to worry though; we were both pleasantly tired by now so, lulled by the monsoon rain lashing down outside, we slept very well.

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