Pokhara and the end of the first trip

Trip Start Oct 29, 2011
Trip End Jun 01, 2012

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Flag of Nepal  , Central Region,
Sunday, April 22, 2012

So after 18 days we were finally heading into Pokhara. The Lonely Planet describes it thus, 'Imagine a perfect triangular mountain (assume they are talking about Machhapuchhare), capped by snow and buffeted by icy the winds of the Himalaya. Imagine a millpond calm lake, perfectly reflecting the snowy peaks. Now imagine a village (wouldn't exactly say village on the lakeshore, thronged by travellers and reverberating to the sound of ‘om mani padme hum’ (the Buddhist Mantra) from a hundred shops selling prayer flags, carpets, singing bowls and CD’s of Buddhist mantras. That’s Pokhara’. It also has cows and water buffalo.

Pokhara the second largest city of Nepal with approximately 250,000 inhabitants and is situated about 200 km west of the capital Kathmandu. Three out of the ten highest mountains in the world: Dhaulagiri, Annapurna I and Manasalu are all situated within 30 miles of the city. It is the end point of the Annapurna Circuit and the starting point of Annapurna Sanctuary trek. It is famed as the city by the lake, Pokhara sprawls along the eastern shore of the gorgeous Phewa Tal (lake). The lake is stream-fed but a dam regulates the water reserve, therefore, the lake is classified as semi-natural freshwater lake. It is the second largest lake in Nepal.  

So when we arrived we had the first decent shower for many days and then headed out for lunch. For the past 18 days, although we’d been eating in lots of different restaurants, we’d always had pretty much the same menu so it was lovely to see some variety and different items. We also had a stunning view across the lake and to the mountains. In the afternoon we headed out for a bit of retail therapy. We had been advised that Pokhara had very similar shops to Thamel in Kathamandu but it was all a lot hectic and scary. The others came back with quite a selection of yak wool products and the compulsory prayer flags (no idea where I’m going to hang them when I get back home). Pohkara really is an incredible town as it’s where the mountains meet the urban areas of the Kathmandu valley and development meets traditional subsistence living of Nepal (see the photos of the cattle in the streets !!).

In the evening we had the last supper with R.B. and our porters. Even though we’d eaten three times our own body weight in the stuff over the last 18 days we still had the infamous dal bhat. Whilst we’d been with the boys for the last 18 days we hadn’t had much chance to spend time with them, so it was really lovely to actually spend a bit of time with them and get to know about them and their families. They all had wives and children in villages in the Kathmandu valley and all were excited about heading off home the next day to see them. Unfairly they were going to have to go on the bus for a 7 hour drive (not impressed with Exodus for that one), whilst we were flying (20 minutes) to Kathmandu.

The following morning we first of all headed down to the Lake where there were hundreds of Hindu worshippers heading for the Bahari Temple. Built in the middle of Phewa Lake is dedicated to the goddess Ajima – the grand mother. The universal protector is the boar manifestation of goddess Shakti. She is often worshipped with the sacrifice of animals. 
Legend goes that on one fateful night. God came to a villages in Pokhara disguised as a traveller looking for a shelter. Only a poor couple offered him shelter and the only meal they had . Next morning ,it was found that the entire village was submerged in water expect the old couple’s Therefore,in honor of the compassionate old couple the temple of Tal Barahi was built in the middle of the lake. It was incredible all of the vibrant colours of both the people and the boats.

After our stroll down by the lake we headed off to the airport. In Nepal they all have very small cars (due to the small roads) and we were quite taken aback when it seemed that three of us and much of the luggage were to get into one of these little Suzuki’s. Still they managed to squash us in and get the bags strapped to the roof rack. So we were off to Pokhara airport. When we arrived we entered a melee of chaos. Let’s just say it makes Luton look good. So we found the Agni Air Desk and went to check in. The guy at the desk looked pretty shocked when we appeared – I’m sure that we weren’t the first people who had tried to check in for a flight but it felt that way. He didn’t seem to sure as whether our flight actually existed or not. We were told to come back an hour later and to leave our bags. So we headed off to the Departure Lounge – well sort of café really. An hour later Nabin (closely followed by Morag to monitor 0 we didn’t have too much confidence in the whole process or Nabin) headed back down and apparently checked us into the flight. There was a weight limit on bags and I know my bag was way over it – but when they weighed it – well just lifted it up – they seemed to find it ok. So two hours later than we were supposed to leave (turns out that is when the flight was actually going – Nabin had the wrong time) we all headed out on a little Agni Air plane – it had about 24 seats and propellers. Even though it was such a small plane we still had an air stewardess (I think you are meant to call them flight attendants) who was looked completely immaculate with the nails and the make-up. The pilots were looking very cool in their Ray-Bans (like Tom Cruise in Top Gun). Then off we headed. I am normally alright with flying, even in little planes but I must say even on this one I was a little bit wary. After 20 minutes though we see beneath us the delights (well not so many of them) of Kathmandu. As per usual we had a bumpy landing on the runway. We then had to collect our bags from baggage reclaim – which was basically a shed with tens of people hustling to grab bags.

Friday night was to be our final night with all of us together as Morag and Ruth were heading back to the UK the following evening (Sue and Amanda were on the early morning flight on Sunday). So we were off to the only restaurant that you can visit following a trek in Nepal – the famous Rum Doodle (known as one of the world’s best bars). Sadly Amanda was not well so she could not join us.

The restaurant is named after the mountain in the book, The Ascent of Rum Doodle. It is a short novel by W. E. Bowman (1911–1985), written in 1956 and is a parody of the non-fictional chronicles of mountaineering expeditions (notably H. W. Tilman's account of the ascent of Nanda Devi and Maurice Herzog's book Annapurna chronicling the first ascent of Annapurna in Nepal) that were popular during the 1950s, as many of the world's highest peaks were climbed for the first time. A summary of the book states ‘Rum Doodle at 40, 000 ˝ feet, is the highest mountain in the world. Conquered through the courage, bravery and skill of a handful of eccentric mountaineers, with equally eccentric names – Ridley, Prone, Constant, Jungle, Shute and Wish. Rum Doodle stands as a heroic monument of mountaineering – despite the seditious efforts of the expedition’s Yogistani cook called Pong’.

Rum Doodle is an institution, and the clientele are mountain high-fliers, post-trek trekking parties, guides, Everest climbers (and us). The walls of the bar/restaurant are adorned with hundreds upon hundreds of yeti footprints. Each footprint has been created by travellers with tales of their adventures. The footprints have been collected over a period of 23 years and speak volumes about Nepal. So we obviously has to create out own footprint as well. Due to my colouring-in and bubble lettering skills (I knew I’d find a use for my two geography degrees in the end), I was nominated to produce most of the yeti footprint (and what a work of art it turned out to be). 

As well as the travellers like us, it has long been a favourite meeting place for mountaineering expeditions – Edmund Hillary, Reinhold Messner, Ang Rita Sherpa and Rob Hall have left their mark on the walls. Rum Doodle also has a policy that you can eat free for life (well only if you’ve summited Everest).

So the following evening and morning the other four all headed off back to the UK. It has been an incredible 24 days and even though we had been a very small group we had all got on really well and been incredibly supportive of each other. The other way I need to mention them all is respect to the photo’s in the blog. Whilst I did take the majority there are some in there that Ruth, Sue, Morag and Amanda took so thank you for letting me share them (I don’t actually remember actually asking if I could use them – sorry, but they are great).

So it back to just me again for a couple of days. And this was it  - I was about to begin the very final chapter of my Big Adventure. But what a way to end it – I was off to see the Big One – Everest !!
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