We depart Sarangkot around 7:30 a.m. and head down the mountain – more stone steps (Don’t get me started!) It is only about a two-hour trek until we reach the lake on the outskirts of Pokhara. We walk along the lakefront where there are many restaurants and bars – it’s the off-season, so things are fairly quiet. We walk to our hotel. It has been overcast all morning, which is great for trekking, but not so good for picture-taking.
I amused myself on the way down the mountain by listening to ‘The Question Man’ – Patrick. He is a very bright guy and I’m guessing part of the reason he’s so bright is that he asks a lot of questions. Over the course of the week I’m sure he asked Dom 500 questions. I can’t remember them all, but some of the more interesting ones were:
Does Nepal have earthquakes? When was the last one? What magnitude was it?
What’s the average age of people in Nepal? Tibet?
When were all these rice patties built?
Any idea what the tensile strength is of these suspension bridges?
Is this hydro plant water pipe a class 150 flange with grade 3 bolts? (Seriously?!)
Who carries those refrigerators up to those teahouses?
How come you and Kirin don’t sweat?
He would constantly ask Dom how far to the next village; the conversation would go something like this:
Patrick: How long will it take us to get to the next village?
Dom: Maybe 2 hours and 15 minutes or 2 hours and 30 minutes.
Patrick: (always the engineer) Which is it, 15 or 30?
If you need to know the answers to any of the above questions, Patrick has them.
We checked into our hotel in Pokhara; yes an actual hotel, two nice beds, carpet on the floor, enclosed shower, tv and air conditioning, which was needed as it was very humid. Aside from the clouds covering most of our views, we have been fairly lucky with the weather, never been rained on while we were trekking, but it always rained after we arrived at our destination. Today was no exception, as soon as we checked in, the monsoons started.
We rested a few hours and decided we’d try to find the ‘airplane restaurant’. We did and had a rather surreal dinner there. A two-engine prop airplane that could carry about 8 passengers in its day, was sitting on top of the restaurant roof where you could actually sit in it and eat – because food on an airplane is always so good! So that’s what we did. There were three other people having dinner in there and while it was a little claustrophobic it was a meal I won’t soon forget.
Pokhara is the largest tourist city in Nepal due to its proximity to Himalayan trekking trails; it has a population of about 300,000 and the main street, which is filled with trekking equipment stores, looks like any other tourist town with restaurants, bars and tee shirt shops. I found it interesting to watch the traffic patterns (actually there were no patterns) There is not one stop light or stop sign in town, there are no lines on the road and there is a constant stream of cars and motor bikes looking like they are driving headlong into each other, but somehow it works.
The highlight of our time in Pokhara was a visit to the International Mountain Museum. It is the Cooperstown of Nepal. Sir Edmond Hillary and Tenzing Norgay are the Babe Ruth and Willie Mays of this place – they are deities. The museum is filled with great photos, old trekking gear and biographies of some of the greatest mountain climbers of all time. One Sherpa had ascended Everest 12 times, another had remained on top of Everest for a record 21 hours! The country with the most impressive climbers was South Korea; many climbers had multiple ascents of Everest as well as all the other 8,000-meter mountains in the world. One Korean lady had summited the tallest mountains (including Everest) on all seven continents without the aid of supplemental oxygen! The place was really awe-inspiring . . . oh to be young.
The museum also featured an exhibit on the Yeti, the mystical ‘Big Foot’ of the Himalayas. Shown here is a picture of Patrick standing next to the Yeti, can you tell which one is which?
We have dinner (our first meal without Dom) at a Thai restaurant and get ready to start the ‘tourist’ part of our trip as we sweep out our shorts and head to the jungle region of Chitwan.
I miss the mountains already.