Blue yonder

We’ve been enjoying the color and chaos of Kathmandu. Sometimes as we’re dodging motorbikes or pushcarts, waving off shopkeepers hawking their wares, peeking down a dark alley that invites exploration, we look at each other in awe and laugh that we’re in this crazy place.

We’d been advised by nearly everyone who’s been to Nepal that Kathmandu should only be considered a waypoint, and it’s true that after nearly a week of dense pollution and crowded streets we are ready to find cleaner air and some mountain views. Pokhara sounds like just the ticket.

Pokhara is the center of trekking and other outdoor activities in Nepal. It’s located on a lake at the base of the Annapurna range and a bone-rattling ten-hour bus ride away. It’s also possible to fly there, and while the flight is slightly beyond our budget, we splurged to save a day of travel time and our kidneys. The taxi ride back to the airport, however, was not for the faint of heart. I shared with Jack my method for remaining calm during harrowing rides, a technique that’s served me well from a dizzying cliff-edge Jeep tour of Hiva Oa to a rush-hour tuktuk tear through Ho Chi Minh City with nonstop horns pounding a tattoo through my brain: Look away, enjoy the scenery and trust the driver. I know Jack tried, but I could see him sneaking glances out the front, and heard the occasional gasp. The driver, a carhorn virtuoso, was undaunted.

As usual in this part of the world, there are no jetways so we were driven out to the tarmac in a bus.

Our randomly chosen hotel was perfect, in a quiet part of town, with wonderful staff and a great view from the rooftop deck. This meant a lot, as by the time we reached Pokhara we both had full blown travelers colds. That put the kibosh on any thoughts we may have had of trekking and our normally sedate travel tempo slipped even further down to a snail’s pace.

While our new friend Peter took off on a 4-day trek, we set about exploring the town on daily walks. We were hoping for dazzling views of the Himalayas but apparently the sky is clearer in October and November. Still, our hotel people told us that when it rains the sky clears, so we hoped for rain.

From our balcony we watched the neighbor harvest mustard.

Down at the lake there are lots of boats, and of course boat work.

We made it a point to try a different restaurant every day. The food is basic, filling, delicious and inexpensive, similar to Indian food but with a decided Chinese influence.

One day we got caught in a sudden hailstorm that turned into rain. We took refuge in the nearest restaurant, and as the wind kicked up and the temperature dropped they built a fire to warm us.

Eventually the rain let up and we scurried back along the lake to our hotel before the next shower. I hope the rain means we’ll see the mountains tomorrow.

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