Showing posts with label Pokhara. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Pokhara. Show all posts

Sunday, 11 February 2018

A walk by the lake

Nepal, as you know, is home to the Himalaya. I can gaze at their snow-capped enormity from the rooftop in my apartment in Pokhara. It is also home to tigers, rhinos and leopards, to drongos and vultures and soaring golden eagles.

And it has beautiful lakes and rivers. It is an easy drive from Pokhara to visit Begnas or Rupa lakes, to sit by the still waters with a plate of mo-mos and watch men fishing from low-lying canoes. But, closer to home, Pokhara has a lake of its own - Fewa Lake - and I’ve spent many happy hours wandering beside it. 
I take the dusty path into the park, pause to watch an indeterminate number of young men playing cricket on the football pitch, and then turn to stroll beside the lake. The water is murky - and I know there are problems with weed and falling water levels, but from the path it looks unruffled and peaceful. I reach for my camera ... making sure that the picture doesn’t include the young woman who must wash her hair in this lake. 


I stroll on, with an detour round an army base, to rejoin the lakeside path beside the ghat where pilgrims gather to take boats across to the little temple on an island.    

Buses turn round here; hawkers sit beside white clothes filled with trinkets: necklaces, earrrings. Women sell oranges (it is the orange season here and they are wonderful); a man offered fresh-cut coconut. One man, his limbs grossly distorted, begs beneath a holy tree. There is even a public toilet, 5 rupees for a ‘short stay’ and 10 if you need longer, and a little whiffy, so I’ve not investigated.

I leave the general mayhem behind and wander on north. When I first visited Nepal this was nothing but a narrow path. Now it is paved, with plenty of garden cafes to sit with a lemon soda or mango juice (and maybe cake) and watch the world go by. Local families walk here, stopping to buy juice or nuts or water from the Tibetan women who trade beside the water. 

There is a fish farm - the water in the concrete pools is stagnant and surely unused, but there are nets in the lake and local restaurants offer ‘Fewa Lake’ fish. I shudder to think what else might be in this water. For, looking closely, there are still makeshift shacks here where people live. Women do their laundry in the lake, and drape shirts and trousers and blankets over fences and hedges to dry. What water must they use for washing themselves? And for cooking? I pass a couple of outflows but don’t investigate them.

It is a conundrum. I love this lake, and walk beside it almost  every day. I love its ripples and its green reflections and the crowds heading for the temple. But, although I will not photograph them, I cannot ignore those who eek out an existence on its shores.

But I do love its little boats. Shall I go boating? ... maybe not today.

Sunday, 4 February 2018

The Day I Jumped off a Mountain.

For young people who spend their holidays looking for adventures on white water or leaping off bridges attached to an elastic band, my jumping off a mountain will seem tame. But, in general, I prefer to keep my adrenalin under control. The most alarming thing I do deliberately, here in Nepal, is cross the road in Kathmandu. That is enough excitement for one day.

Do why did I jump off the mountain on a zip line?   It looked fun ... is that good enough?

Nerves began to breed as I filled in the disclaimer form. Who is my emergency contact? (Oh Emergency Contact people, do you need to know I’m doing this?) Provide the details of your travel insurance. (Does my ‘no dangerous sports’ exclude a zip line?). 

Then, please, sit, the jeep will come for you soon. Watch the video ... of people launching into nothingness ... But still I didn’t say, I’m sorry, I’ve changed my mind. Even though my stomach was so full of butterflies by then it had clearly decided that this was a Bad Idea.

The jeep to the top of Sarangkot takes about 45 minutes. The driver knew every bend and pothole, and paid only fleeting attention to anything coming the other way. With every metre we climbed, I knew I was going to come down it much, much faster.  

We stopped,, eventually, and I had a five minute climb up sandy steps, stopping twice along the way to ‘look at the view’ (catch my breath). Everything was getting a bit surreal. The cloud was thin up here; the valley looked slightly muffled. Paragliders circled the mountaintop. Kites flew high on the thermals. An eagle flew across the hillside just below me.  

I was led to a metal platform and strapped into a canvas seat, my feet pressed against a metal gate. I was beyond thinking by then. A man with a huge smile gave me the same instructions five times, presumably in the hope that they would, at some point, go in. Pull this rope if you see a yellow flag and that rope if you get stuck. Neither of which was reassuring.

And then, the gate had gone and I was on my way down the mountain. 


For two minutes I dropped 600m over 1.8km. But the statistics don’t tell you how it feels. There is little sensation of speed - rather the sense of rushing through a resistant wind (the wind did make me sway a bit). My eyes watered but I didn’t care. The forest drifted by beneath me, thick and green. Beyond the forest, the river - with its sandy shoreline and women washing in the glacial water - and on I flew till, oh no, I could see the landing site. I wanted this to go on forever. 

But there was a man waving a yellow flag and, miraculously, I yanked the right rope and my hurtling journey eased to a stop and I was pulled in to a small concrete platform where I was unbuckled and bounced off to greet the friend who had taken pictures. 

So here I am, swinging high across the valley. I know it’s not elegant, but believe me - this was magic.

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Nepal - you asked for photos!

And photos you shall have. (The post I'd planned, with ideas for those who are more adventurous than I, can wait till next week.)

But there will be no photos of the earthquake. No photos of fallen-down temples nor fallen down houses nor the temporary shelters that have contained families during the monsoon. I've seen them, and yes, I have photos. But I refuse to join in the catastrophising of Nepal and insist on celebrating all things wonderful.

To prove that most of Kathmandu is still standing: here is a view from the rooftop of the hotel I stayed in during my first couple of days in the city:

I went to markets. I love markets, the noise and the smell and the general mayhem of them. Buying a packet of beans in our sterile supermarkets can't compare with scooping them out of sacks like these:

Away from the pandemonium of Kathmandu, I spent some time in Bandipur. It's a quiet hill station, beautifully restored. The intrepid can go paragliding from here (jumping off a mountains strapped to a parachute). Those who have a fit of the heeby-jeebies at the mere thought of it can sit in one of the lovely cafes here and watch the world go by.

Back in Pokhara, I did a lot of sitting by the lake and watching the world go by. These boats, of course, should have been full of tourists. I did my bit - not that I rowed. I let someone else to the rowing, and simply relished the quiet of the water and looming green of the hills.

I know I gave you Annapurna South in my last post - and here is it again. This picture was taken soon after six in the morning. I sat on my balcony, watching the mountains wake up, with the snow sparkling and the birds singing. (I know there are many who see the dawn every day. For me, it is an event.)

In contrast, a sunset, over the river in Chitwan.

Rhinos - again at Chitwan. And yes, they are roaming free, and I was on an elephant. (They have been known to rampage through the village - or so I was told. But maybe that's just a tale to excite the tourists. I've certainly had one-too-many close encounters with animals in the wild to risk a jungle walk.)

And finally - prayer flags, flying high over rooftops in Kathmandu. Nepal needs her gods to look kindly on her now.

Sunday, 6 September 2015

In four days ...

I'm heading back to Nepal.

No, I've not packed. But I have done a lot of thinking.

As you know, I have friends there and have been asked to help promote Nepal's tourism industry. It has been floundering since the earthquake. Bookings are down. Too many hotels are empty; too many restaurants quiet. Mountain guides stand around and look at maps. Yet these are hardworking people, trying to rebuild a country. For that they need money - the sort of money that tourists can bring.

I've had several people ask what they can do to help. I've had a generous donation (Tika will help find a home for that) but not everyone has money to spare. I've been given goodies to squash in my suitcase to take up to villages in the mountains (Tika will help carry them).

But the thing I really need help with is the promoting-tourism bit. I've no training in marketing. Efforts to sell my own books are a bit hit and miss. But this time the marketing matters - and I haven't the faintest idea how to do it.

At the moment, I don't even know exactly where I'll be going (Tika will ...). All I know is that I shall write about what I find - and that the writing will be slanted towards encouraging other people to visit. No doubt I'll spend time with friends, but that will not be the story. No doubt I'll sit by the lake in Pokhara and ponder, but that will not be the story. I hope I climb to the tiny coffee plantation, on the path towards Begnas Lake, to drink some of the best coffee in the world - that will only be part of the story if the lack of tourists is affecting the family.

And so please, my loyal blog-followers, can you help with the promoting-thing. If you think I'm missing something, or should emphasise something else, tell me. Ask questions (I'll have internet connections, at least some of the time). Bang on about it on Twitter and Facebook. If people get irritated that's fine - as long as they get the message.

Nepal is open for business. And it's still beautiful.

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Post from Pokhara

I’ve made it to Pokhara – after a brief stopover in Kathmandu (I’ll spend a few days there on the way home). The lake is as peaceful, and the mountains as huge as I remember. I still can’t work out why a town that is buzzing with restaurant, hotels, and small shops selling everything from trekking kit to tiny Buddhas can feel quite so calm.

It has changed since I was last here. There are more hotels, more massage invitations (not the seedy kind – and often necessary for anyone spending nine days walking in the mountains). And there are still more opportunities to kill oneself. Walking at altitude can be risky, although it ought to include nothing more demanding than placing one foot in front of another. Bungee jumping is, apparently, now on offer near Kathmandu. I could go white water rafting – though I have heard tales of small boats with nothing to hold on to.

But – worse this – I could go paragliding.

I can understand paragliding in Wiltshire. I doubt if the most enthusiastic glider could make it to more than 300 feet from the ground there, and I can see that would be exhilarating. Plus it should be possible to steer the parachute and land somewhere grassy.

There the comparison ends. The Himalayas are seriously huge. Jump off one of those and you are competing with eagles. You could float for miles from the mountain-top, land in a rocky valley somewhere, with nothing but a passing yeti for company. Or – you might land in the lake. (No crocodiles.)

Not exciting enough? Then you must try ‘parahawking’ – following a raptor that has been trained to lead you and your parachute up to the highest thermals. Just as you reach the height where the air is thinnest, and lack of oxygen deprives you of all sense of reality, you can hold out a piece of meat for the hawk – all beak and talons – to help himself to, hopefully leaving behind the requisite number of fingers and thumb. After that – you still have to find somewhere safe to land.

I think I’ll stick to putting one foot in front of another. I’m off into the mountains at the weekend.