Day 112 – Location: Kathmandu > Pokhara; Nepal
Me and Sophie took a tourist bus from Kathmandu to Pokhara. The journey was fast and uneventful compared to last time, we passed the time sleeping and reading. It was Sophie’s first time to Pokhara. We arrived at 2pm and took a taxi to Noble Inn in Lakeside, where I had stayed the last time I was in the city. The friendly woman there eagerly welcomed us and we got a good twin room for a cheap price. I took Sophie on a tour by the lakeside and we chilled out. In the evening Sophie wasn’t feeling too good.
Today Sophie was feeling really ill and stayed in bed whilst I went to sort out my visa. On the taxi to the visa office I saw a familiar girl walking along the street – Anja, the Swiss girl I’d travelled with a few months ago! It made sense, as she was a volunteer at her school she was also on school holidays and Pokhara is her closest city. I sent her a text message, sorted out the visa (the Pokhara staff were not impressed with Kathmandu passing the buck to them), and went back into town.
Sophie was still in bed so I went to meet Anja at a café where we caught up. She was enjoying her time in Besi Sahar. Although her daily routine is always the same she loves the children at the school, and her host family are great to be with. She’d been involved in all the local festivals too. Another volunteer had joined her in the house recently, but he was struggling to fit in to the rather chaotic school conditions, being an orderly sort. His overly protective girlfriend had been angry with him for going to Nepal and had insisted on flying over to Nepal to see her, so they wouldn’t be joining us!
I spent the rest of the day chilling out. Sophie dragged herself out of bed for dinner. Pokhara was really quiet compared to the last time I was here, now we were in the low season, and freezing at night. Most of the restaurants were open to the outdoors so for the next few days we picked restaurants with open fires to stay warm!
Sophie discovered she had tonsillitis! No wonder she was knocked out! We spent the day chilling out, sitting by the lakeside restaurants in the sunshine and watching the world go by. Paragliders were doing awesome stunts, somersaulting around with the whitecapped Fishtail mountain looming behind them. The weather had been very clear every day so far and so we could see the Himalayas clearly. We looked up tonsillitis on the internet and went to buy Sophie the right kind of antibiotics. Although we’d been planning and researching trekking in the north of Nepal from Pokhara, for now it would have to wait until Sophie was better. In the evening we met Anja for dinner, she and Sophie got on well and they were both happy to be able to chat in German to each other.
It was Christmas Eve, although with the scorching sun it didn’t feel like it! Pokhara was a bit more Christmassy than Kathmandu though – a lot of tourist places had decorations and some even played Christmas music. Sophie was starting to feel a bit better with the antibiotics. We spent the morning in a Rasta bar relaxing by the lakeside, amazed by how different Christmas was here to back home. We met Anja in the afternoon to take a boat ride on the lake, rowing around for a few hours and soaking up the views and the peace and quiet. There were a lot of Indian tourists around and some of them were taking photos of us on the boat.
Afterwards we got coffee and exchanged stories about Christmas rituals in our own countries, and we entered the Christmas spirit by singing along to the piped chirstmas tunes in the café. We met Anja again in the evening for dinner. As the 24th is Switzerland’s first Christmas day (they have it over two days) we hade a Christmas meal early with tasty apple crumble for dessert. Amazingly it was Sophie’s first time trying it and she was instantly a crumble convertee!
Christmas day! The sun was shining brightly. Me and Anja hired some bicycles (Sophie wasn’t feeling well enough) and we rode around the lakeside, following a tarmac road which passed through villages and farmland. Kids shouted hello at us and we dodged buffalo and motorbikes.
This side of the lake was popular with the locals for picnicking. It was really nice and great to ride a bike again (the first time since I broke my shoulder biking!). We reached the far end of the lake after an hour. Here there were a lot of flat rice paddies and a paragliding landing strip sticking out into the lake.
We turned around at a simple water ferry – just a raft with a rope hanging over the river which the people used to pull the raft along. Anja loves kids and used her charms on the locals to get some kid pictures. Of course I didn’t miss the photo opportunity! Back in town we still had some bike time left so I took Anja to the dam with the rope bridge.
In the evening it was “my” Christmas day so I chose a place that was doing a real Christmas dinner. The turkey was boney but hey, it’s the first time I ever saw turkey on the menu in Nepal so I can’t complain! I bought us a load of chocolate and crisps to emulate Christmas at home, and drank plenty of beer. Good times!
Days 117 > 119
26/12/12 > 29/12/12
We spent the next few days chilling out by the lake with Sophie’s health gradually improving. Anja left to go back to Besi Sahar to start school. She had introduced us to a Swiss bakery in one of the guest houses where she can get her favourite bread from home. She invited a Nepali friend with us to dinner, a guy who she’d met through Swiss friends. He’d got the wrong impression though and tried to kiss her up in her hotel room – although she’d done nothing to provoke it. Western girls can get a lot of unwanted attention from Nepali guys. The society is so stringent when it comes to relationships, and the western TV they’re exposed to (such as music videos) portrays western women as being almost slutty in their eyes, so they assume all western girls are like that. Anja now tells men in her town that she’s married as she gets so much unwanted attention – that quickly gets rid of them!
With Sophie feeling better we looked into the trekking. With the time available to us (Sophie had to meet her mother soon), we decided to go up to the remote town of Jomsom at the top part of the Annapurna circuit, which lies in the north of Nepal close to the Tibetan border. We bought our trekking permits and one day hired kayaks and paddled around the lake.