Nepal: Pokhara

Pokhara as I've mentioned has two purposes on the typical traveller's itinerary: it is the gateway town to the Annapurna region (as well as trekking, there were plenty of ads for white-water rafting and paragliding, and I believe the world's highest bungy jump is nearby too), and it is where you go to unwind after trekking.

Accordingly we spent a few days there, and it most certainly is a lot more chilled out after the chaos of Kathmandu! It is also fully prepared for its reputation as the post-trek destination; it felt like every second shop on the main tourist strip was a barber trying to draw in the hairy foreigner.

The Northern skyline of Pokhara is beautiful, with several of the Annapurna mountains visible (three peaks over 8000m are visible; Dhaulagiri and Manaslu in addition to Annapurna I), but really dominated by Machapuchare, the "fishtail" mountain, and one of the few in the Himalaya that is illegal to climb (there are a few others with spiritual significance whose climbing is expressly not encouraged). We got two improved views of the range; by rowing a boat across the lake there's a walk up to the "World Peace Pagoda" where we saw the sunset (then had to row back in the dark!), and even closer to the range on the other side of town you can climb Sarankot hill and watch the sunrise.

There were a few sites on offer, but really the only other time we ventured out much was to the International Mountaineering Museum. This is not, it has to be said, the most professionally-presented museum (exhibits included printed power-point slides and screenshots from Google Earth!), but it does include a lot of information on the various mountain peoples in Nepal and of course on mountaineering exploits. In addition, it had some massive and stunning aerial mountain photographs by a Japanese guy called Koichiro Ohmori; his book "Over The Himalaya" I have just managed to track down second-hand. Highly recommended if, you know, you like pictures of mountains.

(Note: the error message on the ATM was actually incredibly common, it's just coincidence that I grabbed a photo this time. It really could have been just about any I visited in Kathmandu or Pokhara. Variants included endless reboot cycles, generic application errors, and of course a blue screen).

Mark Hepburn 28 December 2010
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