Pokhara, page 3 of 3
After our expedition to the lake we retired to the garden of our pension, surrounded by our wash, which we had given to our pension housekeeper this morning. A sign in our room gave all kind of instructions, among them that it was prohibited to do your laundry yourself in your bathroom! We dont mind to do some washing once or twice during our holidays, but now we couldnt take very much in our backpack and after only one day walking around -let alone traveling - your clothes are totally dirty, because of the heat and the dust and all the filth in general. So let our pension care about our wash and earn a little bit of money with it! How nice to feel philanthropic when it costs you almost nothing!
Now we had all the time of the world to see how much work this washing meant for our pension housekeeper. She had no washing machine and had to do the washing outside, so her back ached because of all the bending and her hands because of the wringing of water out of the cloths. When you are also always, like me, complaining about the work that the laundry gives you, you really have no idea at all how much work the laundry can be when you dont have a washing machine Which doesn't mean, by the way, that it isn't a lot of work also with a machine! But for our housekeeper washing was a daytime activity, including the drying, which had to be ready in one day and so the clothes hanging on the lines and laying on the bushes were moved regularly to stay in the sun - a 'nice' task for the little girl you see on this picture.
Our pension housekeeper was a very friendly woman, rather beautiful and a bit shy. We liked to talk a bit with her so with my famous tact I asked her while relaxing in her garden and looking at her washing activities - about the money it takes in Nepal to buy a washing machine. This was so enormously much money that she didnt even dared to go and ask how much (I checked some shops later on and concluded you can better buy a machine in Holland than in Nepal!). Then I asked about the pension, also not a lucky question, because, as our pension keeper answered, the six rooms were not enough to make the business pay. I asked her about possibilities to increase the rentability and we discussed opportunities for improvement, including working more and more together with some neighbors that were family and maybe starting some restaurant activities together. Here I discovered that Im always trying to look for ways to improve, or in fact to increase efficiency, which neednt be the first objective of this people. Maybe the biggest difference is that I find it possible and necessary to improve things, even if it is a long way and very difficult, while many people living here dont have the feeling they have the power to change things, not even for a tiny bit. I think this was what I liked about our guide Raj Gurung in Chitwan, he still had the feeling he could make a change and he did!
The next day it was more than time for some action, so we awoke at sunrise and started to walk towards Sarangkot, the nearby mountain from where you are supposed to have a superb view on the mountains behind. When we left we didnt see to much of this mountains, but to be sure I took some pictures of a misty Machhapuchhare (6997 meter, just 3 meters short of the 7000 meter tops, a bit lower than the Annapurnas but seemingly much bigger when viewed from Pokhara) seen from the roof of our pension. A beautiful moment, when the pink light just touches the mountain top a moment before the sun rises above the horizon.
The walk was heavy, more like walking stairs than like taking a stroll in our own flat Holland! Maybe thats why I always underestimate walks or maybe its just because I like a bit of a challenge? It was a pity it was so cloudy, we couldnt look very far but the clouds gave the views something very mysterious, a bit surrealistic (this is my idea, dont start to worry about Jacques!).
An advantage of this weather was that it wasnt too hot, but anyway we got very thirsty. Luckily some people lived on the mountain and sold refreshing drinks to all the tourists walking totally unprepared to the top of Sarangkot (surprisingly there werent a lot of tourists on the moment ). We took a little rest on the small terrace of a friendly family. The man talked some English and explained that life was very basic over here, but he loved it. In the winter they were a bit lonelier than now, but he seemed not to mind too much when he couldnt reach Pokhara some weeks because of the snow. Anyway when I could choose between Delhi or here I would choose this mountain, because I feel much more free over here and the air is for sure much cleaner!
We hoped the cloudy, surrealistic effect would abate a little when we reached the top (1750-meter). But alas, the inverse happened as you see on this picture, taken from the roof terrace in Sarangkot where we took a long breakfast. It was even a bit chilly over here when the sun didnt shine through the clouds. We watched the clouds intently; the fog in combination with the wind and some sun displayed an intriguing, constantly changing sight full of dark and white clouds and sudden look-throughs full of light. This gave us some hope the clouds would disappear later on the day. So we walked on to the other side of Sarangkot, the side where the long stairways are on top of a hill with on both sides big valleys, on one side in the direction of the Himalayas, on the other side in the direction of Pokhara and the lakes. Here we stopped again to drink something and to discuss life with another Nepali family, this time a teacher and his wife, full of teaching ideals. Again very friendly people. A nice place to sit and watch the world, because you can look both left and right and at last feel yourself really atop of things!
We took the long way home by accident of course in fact I had some problems walking the last part of the route! We werent disappointed by this walk far from it, but we didnt see what we intended to in the first place so we decided to take one more try and leave with a taxi tomorrow morning before dawn to watch the sunrise from Sarangkot. It took some negotiating of course till we got a taxi; our pension didnt exactly offer the lowest prices (of course with a lot of explanations), so we organized it ourselves (so much for our philanthropic feelings). It rained when we looked for a taxi, but according our taxi driver this was a good sign, because the sunrise would be extremely beautiful the morning after rain
We woke up at a quarter to six in the morning. I didnt have so many problems any more with waking up early because we were used to it and went to sleep at 9 or latest 10 o'clock each evening: no television and no PC, so what can you do It was very cloudy again, so as we feared already we again didnt see the mountains, only sometimes we could watch a faraway top through a sudden hole in the clouds as you can see on this picture. Once more I found the place very impressive, when you are standing on the mountain ridge of Sarangkot you feel totally free. Nothing to be seen, except some fog, mysteriously hiding and displaying the world around you. It is as if you can fly away easily, just take some steps to the left or to the right!
It took some time to find our taxi again, we didnt pay any attention how the taxi or the driver looked (it was the brother of the man we made the deal with) and the same was true for him! We only identified him with the help of other taxi drivers, who used the amount of money we agreed on for the ride as a unique discriminator! But it worked and the poor man got a lot of laughing comments of his fellow taxi drivers, who found it very funny that somebody forgot the faces of people who earned him money! Back again we took a very big breakfast, normally I never take much breakfast but when I wake before six o'clock it is no problem at all for me to eat a cheese omelet and a pancake at 10 o'clock. So now we have the standard Nepal rhythm: wake at six (only for the lazy Nepalese), an early big lunch at 10 or 11, some dinner at 6 and very early to bed.
We organized our bus for tomorrow to Kathmandu without trouble, but the next morning it didnt show up. Or in fact it did show up, but our names were not on the list of passengers! The name of the travel agency was Peace and Heaven and any reference to heavenly things should have made us suspicious after our experiences with Hotel Paradise Our travel agency ensured us we could take the next bus, which was bound to leave after two hours (which means three, always add an extra hour, they dont want to frighten you thats why they subtract one hour waiting time). We didnt find this acceptable, because after arrival in Kathmandu we wanted to travel to Bhaktapur, which would take at least another hour. And we wanted to arrive in Bhaktapur during daylight; it's better to avoid looking for hotels in the dark. After a lot of discussion they found us a taxi for not much money, only we were so happy about this that we forgot to ask our bus-fare back Anyway, we had a very relaxed travel directly to Bhaktapur and arrived well in time to find a nice hotel with a beautiful view on Taumadhi Tole, one of the central squares.