Rest and Recovery
After arriving back in Kathmandu it didn’t take long to know that I had to leave the city. The smog still lingering in the air; unchanged from before my trek. I have seen the blue skies again and needed to get out of the city. I spent a few days seeing some friends and exchanging photos. I changed hostels and went to Allobar 1000 in Thamel, there were many backpackers from all of the world staying there. As I was walking in Kathmandu I ran into Mingma on the street, my Sherpa friend I had hiked with from Namche to Lukla. We had a good chat and little reunion.
For comfort reasons most people recommend taking a tourist bus from Kathmandu to Pokhara. All of the tourist buses leave at 0700 am, early mornings are uncomfortable for me so I took a mini-bus similar to that of the local mini-bus in the city. It was a local bus and after we had filled up, luggage was strapped to the roof and we were on the road.
It didn’t take long to see that the driver had some serious ambition about making it to Pokhara in good time. We spent most of the drive either in the middle of the road or in the opposing lane of the road. The driver was passing trucks, cars, cows, larger buses and pretty well anything that stood in the way. I had flashbacks to a few similar traumatic buses I had taken in Vietnam in 2013.
The landscape in Nepal is vast, most of the road is built on cliff edges with minimal barriers. It is common to see news reports of buses going off cliffs ever few weeks in the local papers. The driver was passing blind around corners going speeds of 80-90 kilometres per hour, a couple honks of the horn and we would be passing. If anyone was driving the same coming the other way the whole bus load of people would be dead. The route typically takes seven hours, we made it in five and a half with multiple stops for breaks and picking up additional passengers.
Right of way on these roads is determined by the size of the vehicle you drive rather than any particular road rules. Road lines are a suggestion not mandatory in Nepal.
I met a couple Canadian guys from the East coast on the bus ride. One has been living in Pokhara for over a year with plans to stay for three more. He has been developing a music and arts program in the area, he was telling me of many current projects. Being a developing country there is minimal emphasis on the arts and creativity in Nepal. The plan was for four of us to share a taxi but after only three people and baggage fit in a little taxi, I figured I would just take a bus instead of having the friends split up. The local bus was packed; me along with my 45 litre bag and day pack did not fit in well. A local person pushed my bag and my shoe accidentally hit a young girl. That was the first time I have gotten so many bad looks from local people.
Pokhara was not a city that I intended to do many things in, mostly relax and hang out after my trekking. I spent a night in a cheap hotel but was bored so I checked out and found a new place. I ended up in Lake Side, a place named Hotel Breeze. It was $7 a night for a little cabin area with an attached bathroom and a hammock hanging outside the front. It was the perfect spot for me. The locals working were friendly. I brought my Mikasa volleyball with me on the trip and decided this seemed like a good spot to inflate it for the first time. The locals working loved to volley and hit the ball around in the afternoon.
There was a local gentleman man named Perna he rents out a little corner shop in a shack just outside the entrance to Lake Breeze. He was hilarious and possibly the most friendly local I met in Nepal. The little things can be the most memorable travelling, not one time did I walk by without laughing. His wife was with him and she too would get in on the jokes. I would offer a ridiculously low price for a beer and he’d counter back with a large number of dollars. In the end he always gave the best price. He was charging 190 rupees a beer while a lady with the same shack one road over was charging 230 rupees. Nothing beats a good local connection. Any time I needed anything Perna insisted that he would be there and instructed me to bang on the tin door if it was after midnight and he was closed. This was ideal for late night snacks or beers and I did take him up on it a few times.
I made a friend from England named Charlie at Lake Breeze. He has been in Pokhara for 5 weeks at the time I arrived. We went out to the Friendship Cafe where anyone is welcome to go up and play the instruments. There was a great jam session the first night we went. I played a few songs and jammed along. The live music was phenomenal in some bars, usually covering western rock and acoustic music. I was wandering around Pokhara and found a denim tailor shop, I bought some tailored shorts and denim jacket for $30.
Mahjikuna & Begnas Lake
It was quite late at night when we got word of a trance party in Begnas. Occasionally these parties pop up throughout that area of Nepal. We were all in so Charlie, Dominique (my friend from Belgium) and I hopped in a taxi and took the 20 kilometer ride out at 1030 pm. No plans of where to stay or any fine details we brought some rum and hoped for the best. Turns out the road conditions were the worst I’ve been on in Nepal. The road is built on dirt with some pavement and has areas that have you wondering how the driver is possibly going to drive through without destroying their vehicle.
After passing through Begnas we carried on to another spot on Begnas Lake named Mahjikuna. The guy was right there was a huge speaker and light set up. As it turned out the party cost was 300 rupees to get in, not ongoing until 0300 am. There were about 20 people still partying so we joined in. Charlie had mentioned to me his plan was to sleep in the field, there was no way I was going to sleep in the field and get eaten alive by mosquito’s and bugs all night.
In the morning we awoke in a beautiful place. Annapurna mountain in sight from the rooftop with a view of the lake, it was a perfect. This was another level of peace and tranquility that couldn’t even be found in Pokhara.
After picking up our things in Pokhara we got another taxi and went back out to Mahjikuna. The water was crystal clear, nothing beat a refreshing dip in to get some relief from the staggering hot humidity. The sun was shining through with blue skies everywhere above us.
I was leaving Mahjikuna and took a taxi to the bus stop in a close by town. The driver was having some significant car issues. As most cars in Nepal it was standard shifting but we were unable to move forward in first gear. It took five separate attempts of going forward and backing down the hill before we were able to get enough momentum to get us up the hill. He said it had not happened before. Despite the troubles I wasn’t nervous, Mahjikuna had me mellowed out and the brakes were working. He dropped me off on a street corner in a town I wasn’t familiar with. He told me the bus would stop for me if I wave it down (it was better than breaking down in the middle of nowhere with no buses). The driver was headed to Pokhara to get his car checked out, I am unsure whether or not he made it.
I flagged down a local bus from the left side of the road. This was a regular sized, very old bus. We stopped excessively picking up and dropping off local people. It was hot, I was sweating in the back of the bus, attempting to put whatever part of my head would fit out the window. This driver was also crazy, he pulled a passing maneuver of another bus with a huge oncoming truck a couple hundred meters away. We swerved back into our lane and the whole weight of the bus shifted.
The journey back to Kathmandu was halted when we hit standstill traffic up a mountain towards an area outside of the city. It was a one lane road that was barely crawling, we took about an hour and a half to get through. We made it to Kathmandu in eight hours, it was 0930 pm and I was totally exhausted. I was barely able to keep conversation with the locals who insisted on speaking with me on the bus.
Back to Allobar 1000 in Kathmandu. I am flying into Kuala Lampur, Malaysia in a few days and my eyes are looking ahead to the sun and sand in Indonesia next week.