Namaste from Pokhara in Nepal,
I’m not sure I can articulate what my expectations of Nepal were prior to coming here, but there’s absolutely not a skerrick of doubt they were different from the reality. I think I had images of dry, steep, rocky, sparsely populated mountains; wrong on every count.
Our friendly Bangladeshi travel agent, Mehedi promised, “You won’t see many brown people like me there”. (Add mellifluous Indian accent and intonation here.) Mehedi was wrong, too.
On Mehedi’s recommendation, we stayed only briefly in Kathmandu (heading back for one night later in the week) before heading to Pokhara. We stayed one night in Nagarkhot, overlooking a steep verdant valley. Perhaps this is where Led Zeppelin penned “Misty Mountain Hop” as we couldn’t spot the fabled Himalayas, even by arising at the sunrise hour. Linda is a mountain lover and the landscape was already sending her into raptures, even when she couldn’t see them.
We spent a few hours strolling around Bhaktapur, the former capital of Nepal. This is a supremely impressive well-preserved 12th-century city with many stone statues and wooden buildings. Bhaktapur is justifiably a World Heritage site. Some of the masonry and architecture are arrestingly impressive in their intricate detail as well as their grandeur (not to mention their longevity).
To reach Pokhara we flew Buddha Air from Kathmandu (it was either that or Yeti Airways). A monkey caused a minor stir among the tourists in the departure lounge but nonchalance from the locals. It turns out there’s a troop living in and around the domestic airport, using electrical wires to climb over the multi-storey buildings.
We set off from Pokhara on a three-day trek with Karma, our Sherpa guide. Karma had sufficient English to engage us in limited conversations (answering “yes” to most of Linda’s questions) but a good knowledge of the track. We were both pleasantly surprised by the thick verdure either side of a well-made, well-trodden path up the mountain. There are many people living there, farming the terraced hillsides, growing a wide variety of crops including rice, corn, vegetables and flower gardens. (Linda in raptures again.)
There are sufficient people to form villages on most ridges and the latest form of income for many of them is offering accommodation to trekkers like us. In many places, we were trekking through jungle with clear streams tumbling across the track here and there. All the way we had a magnificent backdrop of the Annapurna Range. Linda lost control of herself at this stage. I knew her list of superlatives was almost exhausted when she said, “even the clouds are beautiful!”.
At Dhampus village we confronted this sign:
NOTICE FOR TREKKERS
It is better to walk with a friend because you will have to walk through the jungle. No think will be available during sometime. Have a nice trek.
At Australian Camp (we haven’t yet learned the origin of the name yet) we met a quietly-spoken Tibetan man called Sonam. Tibetans are fairly numerous in Nepal, being refugees. In Pokhara they live in an enclave known as a Eugene camp. Sonam told me that he was born in Nepal after his parents fled Tibet 52 years ago. Despite being born there he is denied citizenship and prohibited from working in a job (and from obtaining a passport). This means he and his compatriots are reduced to selling things on the street. He had climbed the mountain to sell his wares from a bag after his wife had made them at their home. Needless to say, we purchased some of Sonam’s jewellery.
Last night and today, we are exploring Pokhara and surrounds. It’s an eminently pleasant little town on a beautiful deep lake with massive snow-clad mountains in the background of every view. Sipping on an Everest beer, we resolved to come back. Nepal has that allure about it. I didn’t quite know what to expect but the gorgeously green hills and valleys, the open faces of the friendly locals and the fresh air are enough to say, we’ll come back. Interestingly, there is no word for ‘goodbye’ in Nepalese language. It’s easy to see why.
Pheri bhetavla from Nepal (means see you again)