The Pleasures of Pokhara

We got up about 7.30am and looked out of our window; we were pleased to see that the rain had abated a lot.  Outside, the air smelt gorgeously of damp earth but the morning was already warm and muggy.  Anal had advised us that our itinerary would change slightly today; the boat trip that was arranged for this afternoon would now take place first thing, in case there was any more rain.

We went along to the pleasant dining room for eight o’clock, and were surprised to find we were the only ones there; the others had either breakfasted early or had not come in yet.  I enjoyed some porridge, fruit juice and coffee, then we returned to our lodge to get sorted out for the day; we were advised to wear stout shoes or trainers and carry waterproofs, as we’d be negotiating some uneven terrain.

I wore long trousers, trekker shoes and socks and attached my bum-bag full of essentials such as toilet paper (!), hand gel, insect repellent, lip salve and my waterproof phone case which goes around my neck on a lanyard and so keeps my hands free.  Trevor carried our cagoules in his rucksack.

At nine o’clock we made our way to the lakeside where the raft-crossing was, but this time we weren’t going across; instead Anal led us to where some long rowing boats were moored up.  Each boat could hold four passengers in addition to the oarsman/woman.  We were each given a life-jacket to put on, then it was decided that the three men (Trevor, John and Charles) would go in one boat with a male oarsman, and the three women (Vee, Julie and I) would go into another boat with a female rower.  I hoped it wouldn’t start raining again as Trevor had both the cagoules!

Off we went along the calm green waters of Lake Feva.  There was spare paddle so Julie and I took it in turns to help out our rower; we let Vee off because she was a non-swimmer and was fairly nervous in the boat.

It was lovely and tranquil in the boat, just gliding gently along.  We called out and waved to the men’s boat as it went past, and I got some good photos of Trevor rowing away.  We passed other small boats and lone fishermen sitting placidly on the banks waiting for a bite.  At one stage we passed an interesting-looking island in the lake; it contained a temple and what looked like a very busy market, and thronged with people.

At this point our boat went around the island and we started to go back the way we came, eventually disembarking at the opposite side of the lake from the Fishtail Lodge, near where the rafts came in.  Our minibus was waiting for us, so once we’d handed in our life-jackets and accepted a bottle of cold water, we all climbed aboard for our next destination, the Bindhya Basini temple.

We had a drive of about 20 minutes through the sunlit, frenetic Saturday morning streets.  We had quite a lot of steps to climb up before reaching the temple, but the views over the colourful, ramshackle city buildings towards to distant Annapurna mountain range was worth it.

There were lots of local people around, all dressed in their best; the ladies looking beautiful in traditional robes, saris and headdresses, and the men more in Western style suits and ties.  It appeared that quite a few weddings were taking place; there were many flowers and we could smell the senses-stirring aroma of incense and essentials oils.

Some of the male wedding guests appeared to be Gurkhas or retired Gurkhas; one of them was wearing a red, white and blue tie featuring the Union flag; I shook his hand and asked if I could take his photo; he agreed so I got a picture of Trevor sitting with a real live Gurkha.  🙂

After looking around the temple, watching some of the weddings and just enjoying mingling with the locals (hardly any tourists at this time of year), we made our way back down all the steps and onto the waiting mini-bus, where we went a short distance to a village where Anal wanted to show us the distinctive, typically-Nepalese Newari architecture.  Then it was time to make our way to a lakeside restaurant for lunch.

The restaurant was cool and clean and, after making a loo visit, we made our to a table next to the large windows overlooking the lake and the distant peaks, looking a hazy blue-grey colour with the clouds just above them.  I enjoyed a chicken biryani washed down with an Everest beer, while Trevor opted for pizza.  Once again, the dishes were tasty and plentiful.

It was around 2.00pm when we finished lunch and all piled back on the minibus again.  Our next stop was to the well-known Devi’s falls (often misread as Devil’s falls).

When we arrived, we had to make our way along several walkways, along which we were accosted by the inevitable hawkers trying to sell us holiday tat.  At least if you just kept walking or said “no, thank you” they weren’t too persistent, unlike other places we’ve been where the hawkers are nothing short of a nuisance.  We passed several stalls selling flowers, bells, wooden carvings, hand-made jewellery, postcards and toys, among other things.  Eventually we came to the falls, which was really one big torrent which had been swollen by the recent heavy rain.

The waterfall cascaded down over rocks and rushed into a deep gorge below.  It wasn’t the most impressive waterfall we’ve seen by a long chalk, but it was still quite interesting.

Afterwards we went to the nearby Mahendra Cave, and we understood why we’d been advised to wear stout shoes, as the ground was extremely uneven and rocky as well as quite slippery from the water dripping from the roof of the cave.  The cave is a natural limestone cave and contained small stalactites and stalagmites.  The cave extended back about 100 metres and would have been completely dark but for the occasional, low-wattage light bulbs along the way.  You really had to watch where you were putting your feet or you could easily have twisted your ankle or fallen.

At the end of the cave had been placed a lit-up statue of the Hindu Lord Shiva, and a guy was there to give us a traditional Nepalese “blessing”, during which the inevitable tilaka was pressed onto our foreheads again.  Then it was time to make our way back out of the cave, the same way that we’d come in.

Our final stop for the day was to the Tibetan refugee camp which, despite its name, wasn’t a camp as such (with tents and things) but consisted of one- and two-storey buildings, a stupa, and the Shree Gaden Dhargay Ling Monastery.  The monastery doors were closed and locked and, when Anal knocked on the door, he didn’t elicit a response.  We couldn’t see many people about, so we just wandered around and looked at the little dwellings, a lot of which had colourful washing hanging outside them to dry.  Nearby were fields containing cows, goats and chickens, and there were also some stalls set out where the owners tried to tempt us to buy traditional Tibetan handicrafts and trinkets.

We arrived back at the Fishtail Lodge about 5.30pm, and once again agreed to meet for dinner at eight o’clock.  This gave us time to have a power nap and get showered and changed into clean clothes.  I contemplated going for a swim in the inviting pool again, but as we were leaving Pokhara in the morning I doubted whether my swimsuit would be dry on time.

Once we were ready, we went over to the bar to enjoy a cold drink before dinner.  The others came in and joined us, and we watched the start of the Argentina v France football game before making our way to our ‘usual’ table.  A lot of local people had come into the bar and rearranged some of the seats in rows, so they could watch the World Cup football on the large screen.

Once again the meal was a mixture of local and Western dishes, and was very tasty.  While we couldn’t see the TV screen properly from our table, we were able to keep tabs on the score easily by the cheers that came from the group of locals; it appeared that most of them were supporting France!  Anyway, the final result was 4-3 to France, so Argentina were out of the cup!  🙂

Because there were a lot of people drinking in the bar tonight, the proprietor prudently kept the bar open beyond 10.00pm, so I was able to enjoy some chilled gins and tonics while Trevor stuck to Everest beer.  It was about 11.00pm before we made our way back through the sultry darkness to lodge #3 and, after packing most of our stuff up ready to leave in the morning, we enjoyed a good night’s sleep.  We had really loved our stay at the Fishtail Lodge and in Pokhara, and we’d seen and done some interesting things.

 

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