October 29, 2009: Pokhara

The drive to Pokhara was an experience in itself. I’d heard that riding the public busses around Nepal is among the most dangerous things you can do– and is, in fact, responsible for the vast majority of deaths that occur here. That reality hit home shortly after departing Kathmandu and we passed by a smoking bus laying on its side. Several passengers and villagers were gathered around the fallen bus appearing shaken up and assisting in putting the bus back on its’ right side, but I didn’t see any blood nor injured people.

They call the road to Pokhara a “highway”, and in Nepal I suppose if it’s paved it earns that distinction. With one lane of traffic in each direction, this crazy windy road leads up and down extremely steep mountainsides for seven hours. It strikes me most ironic that in this country where few ever seem to be moving faster than a snail’s pace, it’s quite normal for bus drivers to be cranking down these roads at top speed, making high-speed passes around blind corners, and defying gravity and speed limits for no good reason.

Sitting beside me on the bus were Dave and Kate, a really fun cute couple from Canada. They were both Phishheads, loved music, and had a gentle warmth that made them great companionship along this crazy journey. Somewhere along the tumultuous ride, however, my head got so dizzy, my stomach didn’t feel right and I felt like I just needed to close my eyes and retreat.

I awoke just as we were pulling into Pohkara. Leaving Kathmandu felt like I was escaping prison on a furious flight to survive. I was looking forward to Pokhara, but I had my concerns about what lay ahead since Pohkara is the third largest city in Nepal. To my pleasant surprise, however, as my eyes opened I saw a surprisingly peaceful town.

Set beside a large lake surrounded by steep hills and snow-capped Himalayans, Pokhara’s natural beauty and close proximity to the major trekking routes and white-water rafting adventures makes it Nepal’s tourism capital. The way of life here is much more chill than in Kathmandu. It’s a different world and is definitely more my style.

I am both intimidated by and anxious to begin my journey through the Himalayas. Hiking here in Nepal is called “trekking”, and the route that I’m doing is called the Annapurna Circuit. It’s a 160 mile-long journey and most people do it generally over the span 17-21 days. Many days will be 10 miles up and down extreme elevation gains. I’m remembering the pain and duress of hiking Mt. Katahdin in Maine– the most demanding hike I’ve ever done– and now I’m wondering what it’ll be like to do that for 20 days straight!

Whitewater rafting is also very intriguing to me, especially considering the full moon is on Monday night. So, the plan is to first do a three day rafting journey on the wild Kali Gandaki river before heading out to the mountains. The trip sounds amazing. We will be spending our days along class 4 rapids, camping on beautiful white sandy beaches, and then howling ‘neath the full moon beside a bonfire. Can’t wait!

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