Off-Peak in Pokhara

I’ve heard great things about Pokhara over the last few years and when planning my return trip to Nepal there was no way I was going without a trip to Pokhara. It had it’s ups and downs, that’s for sure, but Pokhara has definitely lived up to its reputation.

The eight hour bus ride from Kathmandu wasn’t a highlight, but it was a great way to see the countryside, and with multiple tea and toilet stops along the way it was quite manageable. I’m really enjoying having the masala tea again.

In Pokhara the roads are much better than in Kathmandu and there is significantly less pollution, making it a very different experience. The first thing we did was walk along the lakeside. The lake is huge. The city comes up to one side of the lake and surrounding the rest of it are mountains, mountains, and more mountains. It feels so peaceful, so removed from the chaos of city life.

There are many cafes and little restaurants that front onto the lake, we went into one called Natural Mystic which had a selection of board games provided and an upstairs open view over the lake. Mum and I played Gin Rummy, had dinner, and watched the sun set in spectacular fashion over the mountains.

Sunset over Lake Fewa from Natural Mystic

The city is full of dogs and cows. Everywhere there are dogs sleeping or roaming around, and when a cow walks onto the road the cars just wait until it passes by. There’s no such thing as road rage here. While walking back to the hostel we passed a small family gathered around a fire with a big bowl of corn cobs, and their cow looking on from beside them. In the morning we woke to the sound of cows and roosters. It was like being on a farm in the middle of a major city.

From the balcony of our hostel we could see the sun rise over the Annapurna mountain peaks. You can see these ice-capped peaks poking out from behind the immediately surrounding mountains from anywhere in Pokhara. Their presence is like friendly giant guardians, quietly keeping watch in the distance, unobtrusive but ever present.

After a breakfast of eggs and fruit, provided by our wonderful hosts at the hostel, we set off to catch a boat across Lake Fewa to visit the Peace Pagoda. The boat was like a canoe and a young man paddled us across the lake. It took about half an hour to cross, surrounded by lake and mountains and sky, and then we landed and started our climb up the mountain to the Peace Pagoda.

View of Peace Pagoda from Lake Fewa

From the Peace Pagoda you can see the entire lake, the ever-present snow-capped mountains, the sprawling city of Pokhara, and the neighbouring valley complete with farming terraces. It was interesting to note that the side of the mountain with the lake view was mostly covered in trees with only a few lodges, while the opposite side was obviously where all the people live. In Australia, the lake-facing side would be prime real estate and everyone would want a piece of it.

Peace Pagoda

View of Pokhara, Lake Fewa and mountains from Peace Pagoda

Heading down the other side of the mountain in the vague direction of Devi’s Falls, we trudged along super dusty roads and down steep steps. Mum’s bright white runners are no longer so blinding. Eventually we reached a main street back in Pokhara and figured we must have missed the falls but after catching a local taxi bus we were dropped off only a few hundred metres up the road at the entrance to the falls. They’re not out on the mountain, they’re in the city. I imagine the waterfall might be quite impressive during the monsoon season, but as it was it provided us with a nice excuse to stop and have something to eat.

Devi’s Falls

That night for dinner I had noodles and Mum had a chicken curry, against my recommendation. A few hours later was when the food poisoning kicked in for Mum, and mine waited until the next morning to make its presence known. The issue is, not only is Pokhara usually used as a base for trekking and not necessarily as a holiday destination itself, it is also the middle of winter now in January and therefore off-peak. There are hardly any tourists around, and every restaurant is devoid of customers.

When I went to ask our landlady for more toilet paper, she told me that many places cook the food and then will keep serving it after a week, just heating it and putting it on a plate. She herself has had food poisoning from a simple noodle dish when eating out. I don’t think Mum will be ordering chicken again any time soon.

So that put a stop to our adventures for the next 48 hours, and our lovely landlady brought us up some lemongrass tea. The people in Nepal are so caring and generous, and our time in Pokhara wouldn’t have been so smooth (relatively) if it wasn’t for the local couple who run The Mountain House. On the last morning they ordered us a taxi for 5.50am so we could go up to Sarangkot and see the sunrise. Neither of us were feeling 100% better but we couldn’t go to Pokhara and not see that view. And it was definitely worth it.

Sunrise from Sarangkot

Sunrise view of Fishtail (Machapuchare) from Sarangkot

Overall I really enjoyed my time in Pokhara. It would have been nice to not have food poisoning and spend two days in bed as a result, but shit happens, and when you’re travelling you have to take the good with the bad, it’s all part of the experience.


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