Lying west of Kathmandu, Pokhara is a truly beautiful town. Waking up to views of the Annapurna region, beautiful lakes and hazy horizons, I really believe Pokhara had it all. A complete contradiction to my Everest basecamp trek and none of the craziness found in Kathmandu, Pokhara is slow, peaceful and, although it is directly formed around and dependent on tourism, hassle free. Exactly the remedy for an intense two weeks travelling around the Himalayas. At first glance, I will admit that I was fearful of things to do. My trekking had left me on edge – very energetic and unable to relax. Unable to sleep due to restlessness, I would be up and about early eager to fit everything in, but the pace in Pokhara really doesn’t work like that.
The main street down Pokhara is perfect for daytime shopping, with a much wider range of things to purchase than found in Kathmandu, however, the prices are a little more elevated than in the capital. You have a plethora of book shops, coffee shops, clothing for trekking or everyday wear. And yet by night it transforms into animated bars and restaurants with live bands playing out into the streets.
Descending down onto the lake side, the mood mellows even more. The edge of the lake is lined with little restaurants with outdoor seating, hammocks, and the cool breeze coming off the lake. In retrospect I have no idea why, but there seemed to be one place, ‘Planet Purple’, which we would return to on a regular basis. The food wasn’t exceptional or even good value, but the atmosphere worked for me and our little group. There were many lovely days where myself and Will would sit and read and when our group expanded the routine didn’t seem to change. Even if we were out of contact for a few hours, we would just seem to all navigate back to the cafe.
There’s something really positive about meeting people along the way when you travel. Maybe something that people with a sedentary life could take note of. So many people that otherwise wouldn’t look twice at each other are united by a common factor; travelling. A beautiful bond created over common ground regardless of background, gender or personalities. The three beautiful people I got to spend my final weeks in Nepal with, for me, made Nepal something more than it already was and I really believe I’ve made friends for life. Especially in Angelica, the crazy French girl from Marseille.
“Happiness is only real when shared” is a poignant quote from one of two books that have been a big part of my journey so far. ‘Into the Wild’ spoke to me as if I was speaking to myself. “So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservation, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality nothing is more damaging to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future. The very basic core of a man’s living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun.”
As a group we spent much of the time away on boats, paddle boarding, and drinking on the lake. One particular afternoon we hired a boat for the entire day for a total of 1000NR. In this time we drifted down to the the furthest corners of the lake and surpassed any other people rowing, eventually becoming isolated and in a different pocket on Pokhara. Paddling along, relaxing with a guitar and a bottle of rum whilst we basked in the sun, it almost felt removed from travelling and Nepal and started to feel a little like home.
Luckily for us it was the Diwali and Tihar festival and at this time the community came together like no other. The streets were lined with groups of children dancing, singing and chanting. Beautiful markings in powdered paint were created at the foot of shopfronts and restaurants, with flowers and candles. I think it’s really endearing to see so many people come together and unite for a festive time, having never experienced such festivity before. The hotel we stayed at invited us to join them for Tihar, the final day of the 5 day festival. In this time we were given colour tika, flower necklaces and an amazing meal. We were even encouraged to finish a huge bottle of scotch whisky all before 12 noon! It’s so warming receiving such beautiful treatment from strangers, I think our culture could benefit and learn a lot from others.
By night Diwali transformed the streets into a dance paradise. The main strip was divided every 50 metres or so by groups of young children dancing in turn to all variety of music. A small pot would be placed on the floor to collect money from all kinds of people supporting all the hard work that these children had gone to, to perform on this evening. I’ve never seen a community unite quite like they do in Nepal. There was no competing between dance groups just pure elation and dancing. I can’t say I’ve witnessed a public holiday quite like it. It really puts our holidays a little to shame!
The rest of the time was divided into little visits and walks. Making the sunrise to Sarankot unfortunately didn’t happen, the one morning we planned to rise at 4am to make the climb, we slept through all of our alarms. After that, the concept of rising so early didn’t seem remotely feasible. I did mange to make an incredible sunset on my final day though. Taking a lift on the back of a motorbike, we hurried to reach the top before dark, where the peaks of the Annapurna bled red with the sun’s rays and the horizon was burnt with orange.
I hold Nepal very close to my heart and will miss everything it held. I know that this isn’t my last visit to the Himalayas and Nepal itself, so I look forward to the future and what my journey will bring me next.