Exploring Nepal (Part 3): Pokhara

by Ashraf

In June 2013 I was living in Nepal for a few months (yes, this post is almost 2 years late). After spending a week in Kathmandu and 2 months in Ashrang Village, I was now on route to Pokhara.

Nepal Village

One of the first things you learn whilst staying in the Himalayan country is that travel arrangements never go according to plan. This was one of those occasions.  My trip came to an abrupt stop when a giant hill of mud decided to fall from the mountain and on to the road.  Like clockwork, the passengers started to unload their belongings from the shelves and roof of the bus immediately. It was a 10km walk to Gorkha Bazaar, the city centre where I plan to change buses to Pokhara, and within an hour most of the locals decided that they would walk it. I on the other hand would not be “walking it”. Myself, my backpack and 5 others waited for the road to be cleared.

Nepal

In Ashrang Village Nepal, our bus came to a stop because of a mud slide. We were on route to Gorkha Bazaar.

There was an old woman onboard. She was fragile looking and slept through most of the bus ride (pictured below).  I spoke to the man accompanying her, who was wearing a leather jacket. Like my Nepalese, his English was terrible. I learned that the woman was his grandmother and she was terminally ill. She really needed to see a doctor. The closest hospital is a 2 hour bus ride away,  in the city centre. And here we are waiting…for an extra 4 hours. We separated in Gorkha. I never saw them again.

Nepal Pokhara

A sick lady sleeps on the bus while we wait for a mud slide to be cleared. She was ill and the closest hospital requires a 2 hour bus ride.

 

If Kathmandu is Johannesburg,  then Pokhara is Cape Town. Except, I can now afford to eat at all the fancy restaurants.

Nepal Pokhara Phewa Lake

Phewa Lake, Pokhara Nepal.

After staying in a village that had water shortages. Had me walking several kilometres daily to get to work. Electricity blackouts so terrible they make Eskoms load shedding acceptable (mind you, I say that whilst writing in the dark). Pokhara felt different. My hotel was called “Hotel Lake Breeze”. It had hammocks and English speaking stoners. There was free wi-fi. I was in walking distance from the beautiful Phewa Lake. There were white people riding bicycles & meditating. And I realise that for the first time since arriving in Nepal, I was on holiday. The hotel even had “western” styled toilets with working lights. Thats right! No more using my cellphone screen light to search for giant spiders whilst pooping in the dark.

Phewa Lake Pokhara Nepal

A woman walks along a path next to Phewa Lake in Pokhara, Nepal.

Pokhara is wonderful and fascinating. Along the lake, every restaurant is either playing psychedelic rock or psychedelic trance. This falls perfectly in line with the numerous pedlars trying to sell you mushrooms and hash. Loads of people paragliding, meditating and doing yoga. I’m guessing these are all foreigners.

On my first day exploring, things got weird fast. I met a librarian that apparently could speak to animals. “Do they speak back though?”, I now regret not asking. He was a Hindu Brahman that occasionally lives in the forest, foraging with his animal friends (I am not making this up). He also met the Dalai Lama. Unfortunately I cannot prove or disapprove any of this.

I met a man by the name of Thaneswor (think dinosaur). I was going for a walk along the Phewa lake, and this long haired, long bearded scruffy looking guy calls me over. His name is Thaneswor Ghimire. We sat down and had three cups of tea (Himalayan inside jokes). Thaneswors English was pretty good and he spoke a lot about politics and daily life. There was one story that stuck with me. In Nepal, you can’t slaughter cows for food as they are sacred. In fact slaughtering one could leave you imprisoned for up to 12 years. But, if you’re not a devout Hindu or from a different faith and want to consume beef anyway, you can do so if the cow happens to die naturally. With that in mind, I was told that certain individuals would push cows down hills to their doom. And just like that, beef for dinner. After about an hour he realises that he needs to pick up his daughter. I decide to join him.

Nepal Pokhara

Thaneswor Ghimire, a Hindu living in Pokhara, Nepal.

Accompanied by 3 dogs, we picked up his daughter from school. The walk to their home took about an hour and was completely uphill. “Visiting friends must be exhausting here” I thought.

Their house is made up of a single room. This one room has 2 beds and a kitchen in it. There is no electricity or running water. Outside is a little garden consisting of chillies and other plants I didn’t quite recognise. Around the side of the house is a giant marijuana bush. At the time I really didn’t want to, but Thaneswor persuades me stay for lunch. As he starts to cook, I got a chance to meet his daughter.

Nepal Pokhara

Sima Ghimire shows me her doll named Obama. She is 6 years old.

Sima Ghimire is 6 years old. Her dolls name is Obama. A name inspired by the current American president. She can’t speak much English & I can’t speak much Nepalese so we don’t converse much. But we laugh and enjoy each others company.

Nepal Pokhara

Nepal Pokhara

Sima fetches water for her father (Thaneswor), to help him cook with. Their home doesn’t have any running water or electricity.

Nepal Pokhara

A Marijuana bush found on the side of their home.

Nepal Pokhara

Thaneswor Ghimire and his daughter Sima pose for a photograph.

Eventually it started to get dark and it was time to leave. The rest of my time in Pokhara was pretty mild. Did all the touristy things like hang out on the lake, sleep and eat food. I did a lot of reading. The Bhagavad Gita, The Quran, On the Road (Jack Kerouac), Into Thin Air (Jon Krakauer) and some Echart Tolle and Alan Watts for good measure. My last day was spent planning for my Annapurna Trek, which is coming next.

Phewa Lake Pokhara Nepal

A woman meditates early in the morning across Phewa Lake in Pokhara, Nepal.

Phewa Lake Pokhara Nepal

Phewa Lake, Pokhara, Nepal.

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This is a 4 part series about my 3 month trip through Nepal.

Part 1: Kathmandu
Part 2: A Nepalese Village
Part 3: Pokhara
Part 4: The Annapurna Region