Pokhara’s Dasain Sheep Market

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Day 51 – Location: Pokhara, Nepal.

20/10/12

My night was rudely disturbed by the sound of cracking plastic in my room. I looked around in the dark wondering if there was an intruder. After turning my torch on I couldn’t see anything, so I went back to bed. Soon after I heard the noise again, it had to be coming from in here! My bin had plastic bottles inside but there was nothing else. I assumed it had to be out the window and again tried to get to sleep. The third time I was disturbed I scoured around and then saw the bin moving. A thin rat was trying to scrabble up out of the bin, he was trapped inside! He must have been playing dead when I was hunting around. I felt a bit sorry for him but also a bit revolted to have had a rat running around in my bedroom. I wrapped my hand in some clothes in case he bit, and put the bin outside my room door. Either he’d eventually escape or the staff would get him in the morning. I didn’t find out which, the bin was emptied when I got up.

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I spent the day researching my next plans and working on the diary, sitting in Lakeside’s restaurants. I fell asleep in my hotel room around 5pm and woke up in the late evening for dinner. I was still knackered after the trekking and my legs were aching. I’d been waiting to hear from Anja, who had invited me to stay at her host family’s place in Besisahar tomorrow, but she got in touch to say that over the next few days they couldn’t because of the Dasain festivities, but I could come after that. I was left wondering what to do, I’d already done most of the Pokhara sights and my visa was going to run out soon. I decided to sleep on it.

Day 52

21/10/12

After a morning organizing I called Anja with questions about visiting her, and looked into buses back to Kathmandu. Because of the festival there were hardly any going. During Dasain, about 80% of Nepal’s population swarm back to their families and home towns to celebrate, meaning the transport is all fully booked and completely rammed. I decided to extend my visa and see what happened. Unfortunately the office closes by 1pm so I was too late today. Shiba called to say he was coming to Pokhara today if I wanted to meet up. After lunch I took a taxi to the north of Pokhara to meet him.

As we approached we hit a traffic jam. There were lots of people by the road too, and then we started seeing the sheep. It seemed the sheep (though they could be sheep, it’s hard to tell) had now been moved from the mountains down to the city and were herded by the roadside. Many people were tugging along sheep with rope tied around their horns, but the sheep didn’t want to go. Many were tugging, running ad generally it was chaos with people running out of the way of bucking sheep and traffic weaving between it all.

A very reluctant sheep is dragged along. In the morning he'll be dead!

A very reluctant sheep is dragged along. In the morning he’ll be dead!

We eventually reached a main junction and luckily I spotted Shiba at the side of the road, or finding him would have been nigh impossible. His family was with him. I greeted them and we went through throngs of people to an outdoor market area filled with temporary sheep pens and packed with people. People were buying sheep here and around the pens were vendors selling everything from kitchenware to clothes.

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We browsed around the area, with Shiba and his wife buying or haggling for goods from time to time. It was very colourful. At the end of the area was a small funfair with very unsafe looking rides, including a small Ferris wheel which rocked around at alarming speed with no protection, and a big bar at the top which adults had to duck under for fear of decapitation. Food trolleys were wheeled around and ice cream vendors with bicycles wandered the rows. People clustered around vendors haggling and examining wares.

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Choose your weapon. The big blades are kukuris, used for chopping the heads off the unfortunate sacrifices.

Choose your weapon. The big blades are kukuris, used for chopping the heads off the unfortunate sacrifices.

We walked around trying to find a restaurant but they were all packed. We eventually found a chow mein place and sat in the back, at a table clearly shoved into someone’s bedroom.

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A very unfortunate sheep which was loaded like this into the boot of a car. If that wasn't bad enough, another one trussed up in the same way was loaded on top of it! Really harsh!

A very unfortunate sheep which was unceremoniously loaded like this into the boot of a car. If that wasn’t bad enough, another one trussed up in the same way was loaded on top of it! Really harsh!

Next Shiba took me a short walk to show me a nearby temple, which is an old and famous one. A guy approached and started to tell me about it and pointed to blood on the floor in a building below, where earlier in the day they’d been sacrificing sheep.

The sacrifice area awash with blood.

The sacrifice area awash with blood.

He then offered me his services as a guide and then implied I should pay him for the tiny bits of information he’d already given me, which I hadn’t even asked for. I refused pointing this out and that I was already walking around with a local! The guilt trip tactics of these people annoy me. Down the temple steps Shiba gave a holy man (Baba) some money. I did the same and asked for a photo, which he agreed to. After saying how great the UK and the queen was he jokingly asked for more money, and we laughed back at him. Shiba pointed out how I seem to attract the sweet talkers who like to try and extract money from me with their friendly ways!

Cheeky baba. You can see his begging can on the left, it's normal to see them walking around carrying these.

Cheeky baba. You can see his begging can on the left, it’s normal to see them walking around carrying these.

Down the steps we found a closed basket rammed full of live pigeons. I asked Shiba if they were for sacrificing but he said no, they were just for the temple.

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We walked back through the side streets towards the market, passing some expensive looking (by Nepali standards) houses and a kid who seemed to think riding with a flat tyre was a good idea. In the distance the Fishtail was clear and looked magnificent poking up above the city. We passed a man who was holding a headless sheep body, shaving it in a bucket of hot water (which loosens the pelt). Presumably an early sacrifice.

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We returned to the market area and did some more browsing, and then I went to get a taxi back as it was dark, and said my goodbyes. It had been cool to see the markets and so many people.

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Tikka dyes

The Ferris wheel of death.

The Ferris wheel of death! Tall people have to duck to avoid the bar at the top!

Back in Lakeside the Swiss were away visiting a local family that Nick knew, so I went alone and found a restaurant called Once Upon a Time which turned out to have the fasted wi-fi connection I’d found in Nepal! I took the opportunity to do a photo blog update (which was now over 3 weeks behind thanks to the lack of internet speed), and saw bits of the film Everest, which looks quite good, I’ll have to catch it another time.

A typical Nepali barber shop

A typical Nepali barber shop

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