Pokhara. The lake, the mountains, the Annapurna ranges. Every time you think you’ve seen the most beautiful thing this place has to offer something else happens that makes you change your mind. Check out what we got up to, and what we missed out on below.
Wild card (times 2)
Choosing to come to Pokhara in May was a bit of a wild card on two fronts:
One, the weather can be hit and miss. As the monsoon season approaches there is an increase in cloud cover, rain, and thunderstorms. We’ve experienced all of these, but we’ve also enjoyed the sunshine, good views, and cool breezes. We never did get the chance to take photos of the mountains reflecting in the lake.
Two, Pokhara is the starting point for many treks. This in itself doesn’t make it a wildcard, but the fact that we did not train to trek and have not brought along any of the required gear, means we are not here to trek even though we have been sorely tempted by the amazing experiences of people we speak to.
Despite both of those reasons, we had a really peaceful and relaxing time here. We spent hours watching the clouds swirl around the Annapurna range, and days walking beside the lake. We enjoyed good hospitality at our guest house and have even started planning what we could do when we make our next trip to Nepal. We’ll be back, and we’ll be ready to get climbing.
With trekking off the table, we had to find other ways to keep ourselves busy in Pokhara and the options didn’t disappoint.
Andrew had let the facial fuzz get out of control, so we finally agreed to let a local barber shave him with a razor! The barber was pretty cheeky, giving Andrew a long face massage after the shave and almost putting him to sleep. It cost a little more than a similar service in India might have, but it was clean and hygienic and Andrew ended up with a baby smooth face.
Climbing steps to get a view
We made our way up Sarangkot for a dawn view of the mountains. Despite some cloud, it was worth the early morning, especially as we and about a dozen other people sat there in silence and watched the dawn play out. We had such a ‘pinch yourself’ moment, sitting there under these huge snowcapped peaks watching glacial rivers in the valley below. Due to the haze and the clouds, photos don’t really do it justice, but we tried.
We also clambered up the final steps (after a pleasant taxi ride up the majority of the hill) to the world peace pagoda, a Buddhist stupa that has delightful views over the Phewa lake, the Annapurnas and Pokhara city. Like many of the large stupas we have visited, a different buddha faces out in each direction. In this case, each statue has been donated by a different Buddhist community.
Going below ground
Lower to the ground, we visited a local waterfall which gained fame after a tourist fell in and died. Now closely gated, the area surrounding the falls is a good example of the similarity in flora found in Nepal and New Zealand. Ferns and mosses that you would see in many a garden at home can be found here too.
Our most skeptical trip was made to the Gupteswar cave, just across the road from the falls. We knew nothing about it but saw the sign and decided to visit. To our surprise, the caves sink well underground and contain a Hindu temple dedicated to lord Shiva. Beyond the temple, and further underground the cave opens up into a small lake, fed by the waterfall below the Devis falls. A nice surprise but we were keen to get back above ground fairly quickly.
Another place, another museum
Another unexpected highlight was a trip to the Mountain museum where we learnt about local mountain tribes before getting an in-depth look at the +8000 foot mountains of Nepal. On a good day you can see three of them from the grounds, however, we were there during a thunderstorm, so saw nothing but big fat rain drops!
We had aspirations of getting some adventure travel under our belts. Sadly, even with the relative cost effectiveness of traveling in places like Nepal, micro gliding, paragliding and river rafting were all out of our daily budget. Its ok though, we’ll get some practice in with another trip to Queenstown in New Zealand, before we come back to Nepal, ready to trek and be adventurous.
Practicing our mantras, having a good stretch, and stuffing our faces
At the opposite end of the adventure spectrum, we did agree to splash some cash on a yoga retreat. We spent a day enjoying a local yoga ashram for my birthday. Walking meditation, Hasha yoga and a traditional Nepali meal of Dhal Bat cooked by the family.
As the only participants in our class, we had the benefit of private practice, just us and our guru. Starting my 30s with a good stretch is my version of starting with good intentions. Here’s to a future of limber muscles and meditative peace.
Our Guru and his wife laughed at me when I joined them in eating our meal with my hands. After weeks in India doing the same I was feeling pretty confident, however, without the addition of chapati, it’s much harder! He finally told me to stop and showed me the proper Nepali technique, where you push the food from your finger using your thumb. Even then, I still had to give in and finish my meal with a spoon.
Walking, stepping and getting in the km’s
Pokhara is so easy to walk around, and given waking is such a budget friendly option, we did a lot of it. We even walked on a newly built road that has been cut crudely from the side of a hill above a bunch of farmland. We stood a while and watched the farmers use their water buffalo to harvest and tend to crops.
‘Buff’ is a commonly eaten source of protein around here. We weren’t brave enough to have a hoon, as we have stuck to a strict veg diet to avoid upset tummies, but we did indulge in some locally made yak cheese.
Enjoying a little bit on New Zealand
While out and about on one of our many walks we spotted a sign for the outdoor movie theater and would you believe they were showing a Kiwi film, ‘What we do in the shadows’?! We just had to go watch it, so after a climb up a randomly lit and slightly ‘goat-track-esque’ path, we arrived at the movie garden. We enjoyed pizza, coke and a good laugh in the cool evening breeze, with lake fewa as our backdrop.
Making our way back to Kathmandu
After a week lakeside, we had to come back to the city to ensure we could move on from Nepal. There are a couple options for the discerning traveler; there are multiple flights per day and plenty of tourist buses to choose from. Depending on your budget and tastes you can get a seat on a range of buses ranging from cheap and basic to really quite luxurious (and not so cheap). After arriving in Pokhara in a fairy basic bus we made the call to ride back to the city in a bit of style. It was the best choice we could have made.
Our ticket on the expensive bus got us each:
- One large leather, adjustable lazy boy seat,
- coffee and tea,
- a breakfast snack and a buffet lunch,
- air con,
- some Nepalese music videos on a tv and blasted at about 100 decibels
- power for our laptop and a few good laughs.
Due to roadworks, ur 200 km trip up and down the windy highway took us 13 hours! Lucky for us we had nowhere to be in a hurry.