I headed up to Nagarkot, luckily by car with a driver who knew the roads. I had considered getting a scooter and going up however in retrospect there is absolutely no way! The roads are very narrow, very windy, incredibly rough and very very steep! Considering my episode in the hotel garage in Kathmandu, it was a good idea to get a driver. The hotel I had booked was not what I expected however it grew on me as it had a timber mountain quaintness about it. It did have the most amazing views however on both days it was foggy and a little cloudy so I didn’t get to see it’s famous sunrise, but it was beautiful anyway. It was also pretty relaxing as other than walking, there wasn’t anything else to do as it was pretty isolated and a fair distance from any town.
I was meeting my friends the next day but was unable to get a room in their swanky hotel so I had booked the closest one (and like a quarter of the price!) I could find on the map. It was close as the crow flies, however, to get there one either had to walk 2.4 kms along the road or climb down the side of a forested mountain on a fairly narrow rough path! So the first day I decided to see how the mountain climb would go. I made it to the posh hotel and made my way up to the sky bar however was stopped and asked if I was part of the Indian embassy conference (in my singlet top, fisherman pants and sneakers!). I said that of course I was, couldn’t they tell? Nevertheless they didn’t let me in but we had a good laugh. I enjoyed a beer on the terrace and chatted to the Nepalese people who worked there who were very accommodating regardless of me looking homeless.
I decided that I’d try the road back as the next night I would be having dinner with my friends and would need to walk back to my hotel in the dark. It was a moderately to incredibly steep road and took over 45 minutes. After I arrived back at my hotel, I met an English couple who I ended up having dinner with in an interesting very rough little cafe up the hill from the hotel. They told me that they had sold up everything and had been travelling the world for 5 years! She is 59 and he is 63. They return home every now and then and stay with her mother which has become their home base. They intend to continue travelling until they are unable to any longer. The whole concept definitely appeals to me however I don’t have a ‘home base’ so would have to keep my home so I could return to Australia down the track. Not saying that I’m doing it but it definitely appeals to me!
I climbed down the mountainside again the next afternoon with a pack pack containing a decent skirt, thongs (flip flops for the non Australians! Not undies!) and a wrap. I changed in the posh hotel’s toilets so I could look the part and had a beer on the terrace again while waiting for my friends who had not yet arrived. They eventually arrived and we had a rather huge dinner in the posh hotel’s dining room. I headed off up the mountainside at around 8pm with a torch after changing into my fisherman pants and sneakers. I was rather impressed with myself as I managed the steep climb in the dark and didn’t get lost or fall over and break anything! Anyway, it was great to catch up wth my friends. I arranged for my guide friend from Bhaktapur to come and get us and take us back to Kathmandu in the morning where we would say our goodbyes.
The next day I headed to Pokhara by bus. It was a luxury tourist bus which was $27 USD and basically falling apart in places however it had the most comfortable bus seats I have ever been in with loads of leg room! It was a 7 hour trip of listening to my music and watching the beautiful countryside which I thoroughly enjoyed as I really did need a bit of a rest. One thing that I have taken more notice of is the ‘naturally’ occurring phenomenon which is growing on the roadside in Kathmandu, on the road to Nagarkot, and on the way to Pokhara…. pot! It is everywhere! I’m not sure if anyone ‘owns’ it as such and how and who harvests it. Marijuana has been illegal in Nepal since 1973 when the government was hassled by the American government, however, it is renowned as being easy to access and it appears that there are crops growing wild all over Nepal (although I have since been told it is mostly male so isn’t much good). Anyways I arrive in Pokhara and it is not what I was expecting. It’s very big and pretty touristy (I expected that) and the fog is thick so it’s not possible to see the snow capped mountains.
I decided to take a walk and discovered bars all along the lakeside across from where I’m staying. In one of the bars I met this amazing English woman who told me that she previously had a house and a well paying job but she was miserable so she chucked it all in, sold the house, and decided to travel. She has been to India and now Nepal and is basically just going wherever the road takes her. I think she’s amazingly brave! Through circumstances out of her control she ended up in a village in the mountains in India with no other tourists and no English speaking locals. Although freaking her out initially, she had the most amazing time there. I have village envy! As we were talking a man at the table next to us was listening and joined in a little in our conversation. He was from Kashmir and lived in Pokhara. The next morning I was walking along the lake feeling like I didn’t particularly want to be there however I was determined that I would enjoy myself anyway as I’m not willing to waste my time being regretful or miserable. I ran into Kashmir guy and we ended up spending the day together walking, talking and chilling at this cool cafe by the lake away from the tourist section which was lovely.
Kashmir guy picked me up on his scooter the next day and we headed over to a secluded area on Begnas Lake which took almost an hour. I haven’t been a pillion for at least 10 years and also the first time without a helmet on a bike (in India and Nepal only the rider has to wear a helmet… not really sure that this makes any sense but there you go) so was feeling a little exposed. It’s funny that although logically I knew he was a much better rider than me and also much more experienced in this kind of riding, I still felt less safe than when I was riding myself. I suppose that’s the control freak in me. The area we went to in Begnas Lake is a lot quieter and has just a few guesthouses and local restaurants dotted over the mountainside overlooking the lake. It was a very beautiful place which is basically untouched. I would definitely come back if I am in Nepal again and spend more time there. We were sitting near the lake in a cafe of sorts and met some great people from Israel. It was wonderful being with a Muslim from Kashmir talking to Jews from Israel. It was pretty relaxing especially after indulging in some local beer etc. so we ended up staying the night and headed back to Pokhara the next morning with me riding and him being the pillion until he couldn’t take it anymore and told me to pull over! Ha! I’m sure I was doing a good job but I think it’s been even longer since he was a pillion and he is even a bigger control freak!
It is an interesting exercise putting yourself in a situation (once again) which may have gone terribly wrong. I obviously took a risk. Weighing up having an experience I wouldn’t have had otherwise and the possibility that I may be putting myself at risk is difficult to balance so I think one needs to listen to their gut. The day before, I had met a young Indian guy who lives in Nepal and he offered to take me places on his scooter however my gut was screaming NO! so I thanked him and moved on. When Kashmir guy suggested it I did consider the risks however my gut said it’s fine as long as I’m clear about my boundaries. Boundaries don’t always work for the other person however as long as you are honest about your agenda, they can consider if it fits in with theirs…doesn’t always pay off however thankfully (once again), with some negotiation, it worked out and I was fine. I also left his details with my English friend just in case!
After Kashmir guy dropped me back in Pokhara I ran into my English friend and we decided to go to the cool cafe I’d been to with Kashmir guy and stayed there most of the day relaxing, swimming and possibly drinking (the Sex By The Lake cocktails were definitely low alcohol so I don’t think you can legitimately call it drinking!). We ended up going out that night where a local band was playing and having a few local beers so it was a pretty chilled nice day. The next day we took a boat across the lake so that we could walk up the mountain to the stupa. The walk up the mountain was not easy especially for someone who is currently not that fit! However to give us credit, we did get an offer of a lift by some workmen driving up the very rough dirt road when we were about two-thirds of the way up but we said we’d be right. May have been regretful of that decision however we made it and it felt good.
It was beautiful and well worth the walk, but then I was mucking around showing a little girl how to pose for a photo, model style, and didn’t see a step which I went down landing heavily on my hand. I actually thought that I had broken something but, although It was very painful, it appears I only sprained my wrist…thankfully! We wandered down the road on the other side of the mountain and ended up going down a path the locals use to get to the main part of Pokhara and then caught 2 local buses back to the lake. That night was my last night in Pokhara so I had dinner with my English friend and Kashmir guy to say goodbye. The next morning I was off again in a tourist bus back to Kathmandu. The touristy part of Pokhara is not really my thing, however, being able to explore other places away from that area was great. I also enjoyed the company of Kashmir guy and my English friend, who is such an amazing person! I probably could have explored more, however, I was happy to be back on the road again.
My time is almost finished in Nepal and I have had such a wonderful time. The people are so beautiful and generous and friendly. I loved the Indian people, however, you have to be aware of how you communicate with them as generally when they say ‘hello, where are you from’ they have an agenda to get you to to buy their service or their goods or part with your money in some other way. When the Nepalese started saying ‘namaste, where are you from’ I was very cautious however realised that generally they just wanted to say hello and to know where I was from! I feel that this is another country that I would come back to and explore the less touristy side.