Well after over two and a half days of very unseasonal rain it has finally stopped. The result of cyclone Phailin., which has apparently affected much of Asia. In spite of the rain we have carried on regardless, with our trusty new waterproofs ( which we luckily packed just in case). We all had a wander to Durbar square in Patan with all its intricately carved temples and museums. Plenty of excursions into small courtyards here and there just to see what lay beyond the main street. As we are in the middle of the festival of Daisai Kathmandu was very quiet. However, we did manage to find a restaurant open. So a vegetable curry was the order of the day. We sat almost cross legged on a raised wooden platform, in front of a traditional short legged table supping a gorgeous cup of hot honey and lemon. Durbar square will be on our list as a place to return to when we get back to Kathmandu, to see it at its best on the sunshine.
Monday was travel day (in the rain), expertly driven by Simon in Their trusty sherpa jeep to Royal Beach resort (about two and a half hours). It is about half way to Pokhara, our final destination. The highway we were on runs west from Kathmandu and is the main one that goes into India. If you were expecting a smooth, wide and uneventful road, then you are in for a disappointment. It is a narrow, twisting, bumpy stop start of a road. This was without the normal plethora of lorries and buses, and their breathtaking overtaking manoeuvres, that are normally seen on the race track. On arrival at Royal Beach resort, the intention was to sit on the banks of the river Trisuli with a glass of wine and relax in the sunshine. Instead we watched the river rise and rise again as more rain fell (it had risen over three metres by the time we left) the opposite bank was struggling under the weight of water, with rocks and earth occasionally crumbling into the swelling river below. In the evening after our meal as it was the most important day in the Dasai festival we were very kindly invited to take the Tikka (red spot on forehead) and the barley shoot behind the ear as a Hindu celebration of being touched by the devine.
As some of you may know Alie went on a spider phobia course a few months back, and how useful that proved to be. As we settled into a bamboo hut on stilts for the night near the raging river, what was sat there on the wall, but a smallish Huntsman spider. The very type of spider Alie found googling for “spiders in Nepal” which prompted going on the course. Because of this forethought we both got an excellent nights sleep, despite our room companion.
After a breakfast of spicy potatoes, toast and coffee, we were off again on the highway for three hours to Pokhara. As we travelled down the road the architecture of the houses gradually changed. Small farmhouses with a store room/barn/workshop on the ground floor, living space on the first floor with a very functional balcony for drying food, clothing etc… . Topped with a slate/stone roof overhanging enough to keep the balcony dry. These farmhouses were surrounded by vegetation, be it rice fields, bananas or fruit trees. The road got bumpier as we approached Pokhara despite the Tarmac. So it was a relief to reach our hotel. Pokhara is a tourist hot spot with both locals escaping the hassle and bustle of Kathmandu as well as foreigners here for the trekking in the Annapurna range. Despite being half way around the world, the town feels at ease and familiar. The activity of the shop keepers trying to sell their stock, and people just getting on with everyday life.
We awoke yesterday to the sound of no rain. Fabulous, at last it has stopped. We therefore had a walk around Phewa Tal lake that Pokhara is next to. just ambling around the lake and relaxing was very enjoyable. Taking in the flora and forna, colourful butterflies, black kites, terraced rice fields, the wooded hills surrounding the lake and the paragliders coming off the top of the nearby hill of Sarankot. More lemon, honey and ginger drinks before we joined Simon and Jeanette to celebrate one of their friends birthdays. It appears that as it is half term, many of their colleagues have come to Pokhara as well. What is apparent is the evidence of both the the Hindu and Buddhist faith. With cows and buffalo roaming the streets, wafts of incense from the odd shop and temple here and there as well as the temples and stupas where devotional offerings are made. This includes the world peace pagoda on one of the nearby hills where we intend to all go tomorrow.