Friday, May 18, 2007

Tonight will actually be our last night in Pokhara for just about a week, we'll be trekking in the Annapurna mountain range, from Naya Pul To Ghorapani and Poon Hill, then over to Ghandruk before returning to Pokhara via Phedi. We may change our exact path along the way, but it is essentially the first part of the Annapurna Base Camp trek, turned into a loop to include Poon Hill, a well known viewpoint. Our friends Iain & Claire arrived yesterday from Kathmandu, and we are all excited to start some more dedicated trekking.
We actually ended up not doing the Royal Trek, we were doubly postponed by diarrhea and then rain, but plan on doing it (since we already bought the map :-) after we get back from this next trek. Instead we went on two day treks, one for only about 2 hours in the nearby hillsides, and then the next day we urban trekked it over to Devi's Falls, some nearby waterfalls of the bottomless pit variety. The water level is rather low, being pre-monsoon, but mist still rose up from the depths in several locations. The falls are supposedly named after a Swiss tourist who died (David's Falls ~ Devi's Falls) and it was easy to see why, as the earth simply cuts away at the edge, long ago eroded by water.
Tonight we went on walk down to Damside, to go the Annapurna Conservation office and get our 2000 Rs. park passes... so much for walking being free. We also went to the weekly street festival, called the Good Friday Food Festival, which was pretty lively, and with very few Western tourists. Music was playing from typically amazing stereo systems, there were carnival games like ring toss and blindfolded pottery-breaking (a la "pin the tale on the donkey"), all with mostly alcohol prizes. Meat was also everywhere, we had a whole tandoori chicken with nan bread, plus some buffalo momos. Very tasty, particularly with a cold Nepali Ice beer. Total bill for 4 of us: around $10. Water buffalo meat is available at most Pokhara restaurants, and is very tasty (and inexpensive), like beef just chewier, with a less pronounced flavor. They also have chicken, pork, and beef - definitely a dramatic improvement in the variety versus India. We certainly love all the cute cows in the street (plus the goats/mutton, etc.), and while we definitely have a new found appreciation of vegetarian cuisine, we are enjoying all of the previously unavailable "taboo" foods that are in Pokhara in abundance. The fresh lake fish is also delicious, we've had it fried and in a spicy black bean sauce, and both were delicious - not to mention affordable at 160 Rs. and 200 Rs. respectively.
So today we also did some shopping for snack foods for the next couple days, while we will be staying in reasonably comfortable mountain hotels, at the same time we will be walking for hours through the mountains between villages, and be primarily eating the cheap and wholesome daal bhaat (rice and lentil beans - usually served with a veg curry and a spicy chutney). Prime snacks were yogurt granola bars, granola, M&Ms, peanuts, and Tang for mixing with potentially bad tasting iodine-treated water. Its far cheaper than buying bottled water from remote mountain villages, never mind all the permanent plastic waste that is littering the entire subcontinent. In India we felt that we didn't have quite so easy an alternative, because the water there is simply so dirty and unhealthy, but here in Nepal we have drank mostly boiled water in Thakurdwara, and now filtered water from KEEP in Pokhara, so we will continue to try and simultaneously keep our costs and Mother Nature's down as much as we can!
That's about all that is going on, Pokhara is really a pretty quiet place, overrun by tourist-oriented business - hotels, restaurants, internet cafes, German bakeries, jewelry stores, pashmina shawl shops, tailors, handicraft stores, Tibetan painting stores, fabric stores, music shops (with bootleg CDs and DVDs), purse and bag shops, wall hanging/tapestry/bed spread stores, etc. etc. Lakeside stretches for probably 3 km, though most of it is only on one side due to the lake Phewa Tal. But the shops are just endless, crowded, and repetitive. Forgot a few major store types though: money changers, travel agents, corner stores (with every thing you could really want)... plus a few clubs with cover bands, and some places with traditional Nepali folk performances (that aren't that exciting). It is still a nice place, because it is surrounded by such natural beauty, but it is a very propped-up town, in the fact that it exists solely to cater to the needs of (primarily) Western tourists, and to facilitate our perceived expectations of comfort and extravagance. In a way then, being here is rather weird, since our existence is very detached from the locals, though many of the depend, no matter how directly, from tourism and our Western whims. Every spot on the tourist trail creates such a dichotomy, it just seems more profound given that Pokhara was an inaccessible village not more than 50 years ago. Now there are urban cattle in the streets...
Anyways, it has been very cool to meet up with our fellow globetrotters from South Africa, we are having fun simultaneously catching up on our various adventures while experiencing new equally amazing things. Iain & Claire have a well-written travelogue website, of their overland journey from London to Shanghai. Check it out at - Iain has done a lot of work to make the site look really sweet!
Our plans are ever-evolving, and we're currently contemplating some options on what to do with our remaining time before South Korea, so things are actually quite up in the air concerning our next few months. We are leaning more and more towards staying another month here in Nepal, for more trekking and some dedicated time doing yoga, and we are debating locations in SE Asia versus alternatives varying from Malaysia and Indonesia, to Tibet and China. Maybe a few days out in nature will help us decide our destiny!
Peace, and much love,
Anderson & Liz

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