Peaks of Pokhara

14 Jun

The road to Pokhara is one of the best traveled highways in Nepal – but a sleek expressway it’s not.  The pavement is worn, the bus bounces as it careens around mountain passes.  The sun glares in the window.  The black exhaust and dust of the traffic billow in.  After just the few hours’ journey from Kathmandu you arrive in Pokhara sweat-soggied and soot-covered.  Nothing in world could be more inviting than the lake that shines in the bottom of the Pokhara valley!  Brightly colored row boats welcome you  to town and beckon you into the water.

Wooden row boats line the lake shore – invitingly colorful, deceptively innocent!
Photo credit – NOT ME – thanks E.P.

But beware – in a land without liability law, tourist dollar speaks louder than tourist safety!  Go ahead, rent a row boat in the late afternoon during monsoon season.  Sure, why not save money and refuse the local rowing guide.  But no one is likely to warn you that you’re shoving off just moments before the afternoon storm is due to descent from the hills.  For my boating buddy and I, a slow placid row in a heavy wooden boat quickly turned into painful struggle against crashing white-caps with the pelting of sideways driving rain.  Soaked to the bone, refreshed by out shivering, relieved by our landing, all we had to do was  tie up the boat and scale a spiked fence to find our way back to town.  Lesson learned – next time a Nepali fisherman waves and screams from across the lake – it’s time to get out of the water!

The last light to shine through these monsoon clouds
Photo credit – NOT ME – thanks E.P.

Not to worry – most other Pokhara weekend activities involve much less daring do.  A jumping-off point for most mountain treks in Nepal, this town is a tourist haven – everything from yoga classes, to massage, to trinkets, to restaurants – even plenty  “arganic” fare is available.  If not leaving for several days on a Himalyan trail, one can while away time eating and drinking well and hiking to the nearby temples that seem to adorn every peak.  A rather impressive stupa is the World Peace Pagoda.

Top of the World Peace Pagoda in Pokhara
Photo credit – NOT ME – thanks E.P.

Aside from the tenacity and physical fitness of Buddhists (who seem to enjoy the most challenging locations for their holy places), the art of this ancient religion is one of its truly remarkable attributes.

The Buddha overlooks the valley with wisdom and compassion
Photo credit – NOT ME – thanks E.P.

Perhaps my own spirit is awakened more by the mountains themselves, than the temples atop them.  One morning my spirit (and my body with it) was awakened particularly early!  You have to roll out of bed around 4am to make it up the hill to Sarankot in time or the summer sunrise.  Nearly to the temple-top of the hill we were waylayed by the owner of a tea shop who insisted that we would miss the morning spectacle if we continued up and around the hill – obviously we should stop and watch the view from his maize field.  While we might have made it, the view from the field was compelling, and out host friendly.  As we sat at the edge of the field the sun began to peak over the hilltops.

Worth getting up at 4am to hike toward the sunrise!
Photo credit – NOT ME – thanks E.P.

The first light of day broke through the rainy-season haze to shine on the snow covered peaks of Fishtail Mountain and the Annapurna peaks.

The days first light shines on the peaks of the Annapurna range
Photo credit – NOT ME – thanks E.P.

After hike to the top for the hell of it, and a breakfast of ginger tea and chipatis with local honey – it was time to wind our way back down the mountain.

What goes up the mountain, must go down
Photo credit – NOT ME – thanks E.P.

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