Monday 13th November
At 5.45 a.m. I got washed and dressed. All that was needed for my excursion to Pokhara was packed in my Lowe daypack. At reception I put my rucksack in storage and paid for my room.
It was cool and overcast as I made my way to Kantipath to catch the bus. Many other backpackers were doing the same at this early hour. Kantipath was just one long thoroughfare lined with tourist buses. There must have been about forty to fifty in all, and the pungent exhaust fumes filled the morning air. It didn’t take long to find my minibus but it wasn’t leaving for a while. I bought some fruit for breakfast from one of the street vendors who was hawking his trade on the street.
Our bus was among the last to leave at 7:15 a.m. I was pleased that my seat was at the front because there was more leg room. One hour into the journey I started to feel rather queasy. There was a possibility that I might have giardia because I seemed to have the symptoms associated with it. Common in Nepal, it is caught from infected water and takes 7-10 days to develop. It was hard to pinpoint what had caused my ailment because I had used my water filter at all times. Until now I had had no trouble and this would have to happen just a few days before flying home. Bugger! Maybe I had a dodgy pizza last night.
Due to feeling feverish, the views of the surrounding countryside could not be appreciated. Our first stop was at 10.30 a.m. I bought some Frooti orange juice to drink because it was essential for me to drink plenty of fluids and not get dehydrated. The road from then on was rather bumpy and made for an uncomfortable ride. Our bus driver drove sensibly and carefully. He didn’t try and overtake everyone in sight, unlike some others. On the way to Pokhara we saw a coach being pulled from the edge of a ravine. There was also evidence of a recent accident where a local bus had crashed into a truck. They served as reminders of the hazards of driving on these roads. The Swiss bus we were on is supposed to allow for a more comfortable ride. It didn’t feel like it!
The 206km Kathmandu-Pokhara highway gives you the first taste of Nepal’s Middle Hills. For most of the way the road follows rivers at the bottom of deep valleys. There are some magical views of rock gorges, river rapids, precipitous hills, tiered rice terraces and the Himalaya.
We stopped for lunch at around halfway. I was burping so limited myself to some biscuits and a bottle of water. Soon it was time to make a move – our bus seemed to be the last one to leave again. At Dumre, the starting point for the Annapurna Circuit trek, some trekkers were dropped off. I dozed for about 30 to 45 minutes, and on awakening saw the Annapurna ranges loom into sight. This meant Pokhara was not far away. We arrived safely at our destination at 3.30 p.m.
The expanse of land that served as a ‘bus station’ was teeming with vultures touting for business: taxi drivers, hotel owners and the like. I just wanted to escape so got in a taxi with two other guys. We were driven to the Holy Lodge on Lakeside but I wasn’t too enamoured with the place. The room was OK but I had expected better. Pokhara has a good reputation for accommodation according to the Lonely Planet guide. The lodge was well set back from the lake, and there were no views whatsoever. I made my excuses, paid the taxi driver, and went to look for alternative accommodation.
I headed towards Lakeside, checking out potential places to stay the night. At this point, I lost my temporary sponge lens cap so will have to buy a replacement. As I walked to the Mountain Top Hotel numerous hotel touts tried to get my attention. Being a veteran traveller I was having none of it and waved them away dismissively. It became clear to them that I would much rather check out places for myself and not be pressurised by them.
Mountain Top Hotel was too dear at 500 rupees a night, but a little further up the road was the Hotel Mohal. It looked rather nice and the price was more reasonable at 200 rupees a night. The room was excellent, well furnished and had an en suite bathroom. After a long journey it was the perfect tonic.
It was time for some refreshments so I went into the Restaurant Zorba next door. A pot of black tea, some toast and jam were ordered from the menu. When it was brought to the table I had lost my appetite but somehow managed to clear my plate. Pokhara is noticeably warmer than Kathmandu, and I was feeling very hot and sweating profusely. I wasn’t sure whether it was the heat outside or me.
When I came to pay the bill I knew I was going to be sick. I beckoned to the German lady at the counter, the manager, that I needed the toilet. She took me outside and pointed me in the direction of the WC. I hurried along and was within spitting distance when I could not hold back any longer and promptly threw up onto the path. It came as a welcome relief and I went in to the toilet to clean myself up. One of the staff came out with a bucket of water to clean up my mess. I went back in the restaurant and was very apologetic about what had happened. The staff were very good about it.
Several bottles of mineral water were purchased from the small supermarket across the road. I took a couple of paracetemol before going to bed at 6 p.m.