I was looking forward to a lie-in after the madness of Kathmandu. But Pokhara had other ideas. After 6pm the locals were already up and talking loudly, vehicles were driving around, and by 8pm the building sites opened up and the air reverberated with loud hammering and the rasping of buzz saws. Great. My hotel was conveniently right next to a construction site. I wondered if this was why it was so cheap here!
I met Christine for breakfast and we decided to visit the Peace Pagoda up the hill on the other side of the lake. At the lakeside were moored a lot of rowing boats and pedal boats. We hired a rowing boat and a boatman to take us across. He paddled us for about 20 minutes to the forested bank on the other side, passing other rowing boats and a little wooded island housing a little temple. We watched the paragliders swirling around, landing on a strip near the lake. Big pedal boats which could seat 10 people were moored around, but there were only two sets of pedals. Don’t want to draw the short straw on that baby! Motor boats are banned here so it’s quite peaceful, although you could still hear the beeps and building sites of Lakeside floating over the water.
We moored at a hotel on the wooded bank and followed a small path led behind it into the forest, heading steeply uphill. We continued for about half an hour up stone steps and dirt path. We spotted long-tailed macaque monkeys in the trees by the path and Christine with her fear of all animals legged it!
The forest was filled with twisting vines and occasionally a break in the trees gave us a glimpse of the lake and Lakeside beyond. The midday sun beat down upon on us. Near the top we suddenly heard movement. Out of the bushes, a big buffalo came charging down the hill towards us! It slowed when it saw us and and I saw it had a calf. I told Christine move quickly away – getting in the way of a mother in the animal world is a really bad idea. Thankfully the mother didn’t pursue us. More buffalo were running down the hill, crashing through the undergrowth through the trees and we heard men above them shouting. We saw them coming down the slope, herding the buffalo with sticks and shouts. One guy picked up a big football-sized rock and hurled it at one of the unfortunate beasts! No wonder they were mad!
We passed an old local woman carrying a traditional basket of grass on her back, wielding a sickle. She asked us “photo?” and we stopped to take pictures, giving her a small tip which is expected in these situations.
Up some steps past a hilltop restaurant, we were rewarded with a great view all around as we were now on the ridge. We walked up to the big white Peace Pagoda, a small garden sitting in front of it. From here you could see out over the Pokhara valley into the haze, the hills in all directions and the lake stretching out for miles. The Himalayas were unfortunately completely covered in cloud. Other tourists milled around. We walked up the pagoda steps and around the circumference, taking in the big golden Buddah statues inlaid into its white dome.
Further down the ridge we stopped for a cold drink at one of the restaurants, whilst Christine had a wee freak-out about the resident dog, who was very friendly. We got directions to a different the path down through the forest, which would bring us out south of Lakeside. It entered into some nice open forest, with a mossy floor. All you could hear were loud cicadas. We encountered more buffalo being herded along and the farmer helpfully pointed the right way, as the paths had petered out. Further down we followed three ladies carrying big bundles of firewood on their back.
We eventually emerged from the forest by some rice paddies and walked to a river gorge crossed by a suspension footbridge. Some locals were washing on a stony beach and women scrubbed clothes. A local guy approached us, asking me where I was from, which led to him offering his services as a guide. I took his number, noting it was a clever place to snare customers descending from the pagoda. We crossed the bridge and entered Pokhara’s streets, walking back to Lakeside in the strong sun for 45 minutes. Hungry, we dived into a nice Mediterranean themed restaurant called Byan Jan and I tucked into a BLT. Yum. The restaurant had a gravel garden with a nice view of the lake and would have been perfect if it wasn’t for the building site noise. Lakeside’s vaunted peace and quiet is completely shattered by the unchecked development, which locals tell me has been going on for years. It’s a shame the tourism industry doesn’t acknowledge the problems it causes to the atmosphere of the area and Lakeside is already almost a clone of characterless grey European beach strips.
It was so hot that we chilled out under the umbrella, eventually deciding to go out on the lake again before the sun set. We hired a boat and paddled out to the temple island (well, Christine did most of the work due to my shoulder, haha!). It was really busy here with hordes of Indian tourists and boats swarming the shores. The temple was being jet-washed by the police and there were pigeons everywhere. We boarded our mighty vessel again and went further out into the lake.
As the sun went down light rays radiated from behind the clouds, and the hills became layered in shades of dark. Very nice. It was peaceful this far out and we only passed a few more rowers. A man on a boat of Indians shouted to ask to take our photo – weird for us to be the tourist attraction for once!
As it got dark, we paddled back. Later that evening I went to Moon dance to meet a girl called Stephanie, a French traveler I’d contacted online in my hunt to find some trekking companions. We talked over dinner. She wasn’t sure whether to do the Annapurna Base Camp trek I planned to do, or the big Annapurna circuit, which can take 2-4 weeks. Christine joined us later for drinks. Stephanie said she’d decide soon about the trek and I arranged to meet her the following day. Once again we stayed up drinking till the town shut down around us.