After a very bumpy eight hour bus ride from the Nepal-India border we had no idea what to expect when we stepped off the bus in Pokhara. Our excitement had mounted considerably as we marveled at whitecaps in the distance for the last section of the ride. We spent the next hour wandering around and asking multiple people for directions towards an area called “Lakeside” where we hoped to somehow find a hostel called Butterfly something that had been recommended to us by a very friendly Irish couple leaving Nepal that we met at the border.
In general, this gateway to the mountains is a dusty and busy city filled with smiling faces that wake up every morning to incredible white mountains on several sides. Once located, we found the stark contrast of the Lakeside area (aka tourist area) to be sad, comforting and strange all at the same time. As soon as you turn onto the main strip of Lakeside you’re surrounded by the following succession of establishments that repeat at nauseam: hip restaurant, hotel, trekking equipment store, souvenir shop, tourist office, export food store. Literally, this pattern repeats for more than a mile. The entire area has been completely developed for the sole purpose of catering to the wants and needs of the thousands of westerners visiting this gateway to the Annapurna region each year. Suddenly being thrown back into a fabricated western culture was calming after a week of being on our toes feeling somewhat lost. However, I couldn’t help but notice how much of the local culture was overrun with rock bands singing John Denver, coffee shops offering free wifi and restaurants cooking up pizza and burgers.
Naturally, our hostel was at the very end of the strip, but as soon as we found it a large cool garden, a mixing pot of international trekkers and a clean 500 NPR (5 USD) a night room told us that Butterfly Lodge was the place to be. The manager was very knowledgeable and we used him constantly as a source of local know-how.
We spent much of the first days running errands for our trek. We scurried around renting trekking poles, buying diamox, finding a good map, stocking up on Snickers bars and obtaining our trekking permits from the local authorities.
When we returned to the same lodge for a few days after our amazing trek to Annapurna Base Camp, we had some more time to enjoy some of the activities of the city, although truthfully if we had planned it better, we would have liked another week at least. Erik was especially admiring several of the offered class IV and V week-long white water trips as well as the huge white water festival which began the week after we planned to leave. Who knew that there is amazing kayaking in Nepal? On the other hand, I was eyeing several of the day hikes from the city like a popular one to the World Peace Pagoda which overlooks the city and mountains; next time.
We spent our last day lazily rowing around the lake and enjoying treats from an amazing German bakery we found. Erik was incredibly chivalrous and uncomplainingly paddled me around islands and in between other boats as we enjoyed the weather and the views.
That evening we caught a taxi for a 30 minute drive up to Sarangkot. After an additional 20 minute walk straight up stone steps we were able to catch sun set over the Himalayas for a sweet and sad end to our time in the mountains.
From the other side we could also look over Pokhara and the lake one last time. From that height we could clearly make out the main street in Lakeside as it was the only street full of light due to the obscene amount of generators running to keep the lights on during intermittent power, because you know we westerners expect to have our electricity.