Up in Smoke

Trip Start Sep 15, 2008
Trip End Jan 01, 2009

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Flag of Nepal  ,
Thursday, March 19, 2009

Traveling between Kathmandu and Pokhara we noticed a strong similarity to somewhere we had been.  The country side of Nepal, know for it's snow capped peaks, actually reminded us of Ecuador.  Save for the Nepali faces, it would be hard to tell the difference between the two places.  Strange.
We arrived safely in Pokhara to a cloud of smoke, literally.  The entire town was covered in a dense haze due to local wildfires.  The fires had been set by poachers to chase game from the woods.  The poachers forgot to consider that it hasn't rained here in 6 months so the fires are now completely out of control, 5 people have died, and the near by mountain range is completely hidden behind the smoke.
We made it through the usual tricky taxi drivers and persistent hotel hustlers to arrive at our chosen hotel.  It was full, but we found a nice one right down the street.  We walked into town for lunch at one of the many lake view cafe's, where the best views were of the smoke.  
We talked about doing another trek for all of 5 seconds before agreeing to hang out, relax, and walk as little as possible...  We read some of the dozen books we acquired in India and Kathmandu.  Then we checked our e-mail.  Then we ate some more food.  Then we repeated the entire process.  One of the great things about Nepal is the price, which has slowed the bleeding of our travel account.  Our hotel is $7 a night.  Pizza and 650ml beer at happy hour is $2.  Breakfast of eggs, hash browns, tea, and toast is $1.50.  Indian printed english best selling books average $5.  In fact, if a person really wanted to pinch rupees it would be easy to live on $5 a day here - it's great!  
That evening it rained and rained hard.  We went to sleep dreaming of clear skies, washed clean by the storm.  We woke up to another smoky day.  So we ate some food. We read our books.  We checked our e-mail.  And the we did it all over again.  We found several nice restaurants and Arik tried some water buffalo soup (our first new meat attempt since the awful experience with beaver in Patagonia), not too bad, sort of like beef jerky in Mr. Noodles.
We saved our last day in Pokhara hoping to see the Himalaya's and if views were possible we planned to hike up a near-by mountain...but the morning was smokey again.  Instead of the hike we rented a motorbike (sorry moms).  We paid the $8 rental fee and hit the road.  First we headed south up a windy mountain road, looking for some waterfalls.  We never found the falls, but the freedom of the open road was all we needed. Once we felt we had gone far enough, we headed back towards town.  
Our next stop was the Mountaineering Museum, dedicated to Nepali's highest peaks and the men who have climbed them.  One section showed off old gear used in Sir Edmond Hillary's days.  Another debunks the yeti myth, but probably the most interesting was an area all about high altitude littering.
Now there are lots of cultural differences that we can completely understand.  Eating with your hands, arranged marriage, not flushing toilet paper, negotiating for everything, but trash problems around the world seem to be one of the most annoying.  The number of beautiful beaches, rivers, and parks ruined by piles of garbage is astonishing.  It seems that even above 8000m our world has a littering problem...  The museum display showed some examples of trash forgotten on the mountain.  The majority of trash was climber related: empty oxygen bottles, used camping gas containers, ripped tents, etc.  Between 2000 and 2003 a group of nice Japanese folk climbed the mountain three times just to clean it.  Between 2000 and 2003 the cleaning expeditions removed 4.5 tonnes of garbage from Mt. Everest!
After the museum we grabbed some Japanese food and then were off on the highway again, this time north towards a mountain top famous for it's views of the Himalayas at the off chance we could glean a silhouette of the mighty mountains.  The ride up the hill was great, but at the top all amazing peaks were hidden behind a curtain of smoke...  We ripped around for another hour or so, dodging buses and Ferrel cows, before returning the bike.
Without ever seeing the mountains that make Pokhara famous we are leaving to visit Chitwan National Park.  Rhinos, elephants, and possibly tigers are on the agenda, and we are excited.

UPDATE:  There is a strike in the park so we're still in Pohkara for another day of R&R.
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