Well, the last 2 days in Pokhara have certainly been exciting to say the least. On the first day without rain, and with sunshine and 25 degrees or so. We all decided to walk to the top of the peace pagoda. This was constructed by Buddhist monks to promote world peace. Something that is still lacking despite the numerous lessons of history that leaders seem to fail to learn, understand and act upon. Only 1195M high. Tiny by comparison to the Annapurna range hidden in the clouds. It still counts though as there is a good few hours walk straight up from the lake side.
We got a rowing boat across the lake, with life vests mandatory. Strange, when you notice the other slightly less than safe working/driving/living practices and conditions you witness all the time. Safely across the water we started the slow walk to the top following the clear but slightly slippery path and the steps up through the forest. We had a number of stops as we climbed, even bumping into one of the pupils that Jeanette and Simon teach in Kathmandu along with fellow teachers. The climb to the top was well worth it. The peace pagoda has 4 faces each with a different aspect to promote peace. In addition there were excellent views across the Phewa Tal lake and the town of Pokhara and into the surrounding valleys with their rice fields, small farmhouses and ribbon like roads that wind up the valley sides.
The interesting part of the day started on the decent. We decided to take the longer route back via the forest track. The initial section of the walk was accomplished without a problem, even passing a buffalo wallowing in a small pond. With the recent rain, as we got further into the woods the path became more slippery. Needless to say 1 or 2 falls were inevitable. We then got further into the woods and the path got more and more indistinct. With no map, just instructions form the guidebook we stopped on a number of occasions to all agree on a direction. It was at this point we realised that the forest floor was carpeted in leaches. That, whenever you stopped for a second attached them selves to your shoes and began the ascent to your feet and legs. With this unforeseen element adding to the “getting lost on the forest” element the incentive was there to make our way out as soon as we could. it gets dark here at 5:30 PM so the light was not on our side either. However, with a few missed turns here and there and flicking of the leaches whenever you got the chance we eventually stumbled across the main path and made our way out safely. Unfortunately, despite our best endeavours 4 of the creatures had made it to Alie’s foot. Once removed we headed out for the evening and had an excellent meal and one of the many local restaurants.
It was an early 6 o’clock start the following morning for both of us so we could catch a glimpse of the Himalayan mountains which up until now have been hidden in cloud. Though not fully free from cloud, early in the morning was the best time to catch them, snow capped and reflecting the early morning sun. After breakfast it was more relaxation by the lake before the main event of the day. Simon and I had decided to go paragliding. Yes paragliding. What better place in the world to try this for the first time and in Nepal.
The launch site was high up on the Sarangkot hill next to the lake. It took about 25 minutes to navigate the single track twisting mountain tarmac and dirt road to the top. Once there it was less than 5 minutes before you were helmeted up, strapped in to the harness and attached to your pilot for the 30 minute flight. With the parachute up jin the wind it was only a matter of running a few paces before you were up in the air. What a fantastic feeling. Despite not being at my best at height it felt the most relaxing, tranquil thing to do. Just gliding through the air and twisting and spiralling trying to find the updrafts to take you up. On occasions it felt like you could brush the tops of the hill side trees. Fantastic views across to the peace pagoda and Pokhara as well as the lake below. A really really magical experience.
Alie and Jeanette were both waiting for us down at the landing site. A very smooth landing and a big smile on our faces. We walked back along the lakeside in the afternoon sun fondly reselling the story. A glass of something was the order of the day at the bamboo bar, looking out across the lake. What a fabulous couple of days.