Pokhara Revisted

The next stop on our roadtrip was Pokhara, my second visit since our first time back in November. It was much more interesting to arrive by road than by plane, especially since the last visit had been very foggy and there was nothing to see from the air. Mist still hung around the town and lake, but this time the Annapurnas weren’t so shy and we had great views each day of our three day stay.

Fewa Lake

Early morning mist on the Pokhara lake

We took a morning boat ride across Fewa lake, while the mist still hung around. It was beautiful and a bit eerie at the same time as we watch silhouettes of oarsmen gliding over of the sparkling water.

Fewa Lake

…with a tantalizing glimpse of the Annapurnas in the distance

Our destination was the trail head up to the Peace Pagoda, a pleasant 1 hour hike up to the top of a hill. Halfway up we stopped at a small cafe for a cold glass of water and took in the views.

Annapurna mountains

Views of the Annapurnas from the halfway point

Annapurna Mountains

…and the view from the Peace Pagoda at the top

Pokhara Peace Pagoda

The Peace Pagoda sort of has a Greek thing going on with the white dome against the bright blue sky…

When we’d had our fill of stunning Himalayan views, we drove back down the mountain by car, which took over half an hour on the dusty narrow road. (We’d walked up in an hour). When we arrived back in town the police wouldn’t let us drive our car back to the hotel, so we parked out of town and walked. Pretty soon it became clear why, as music start and a group of Nepali VIP’s lead the start of what turned out to be a very long parade.

Pokhara Street Festival

Horns blazing at the front of the parade during Pokhara Street Festival

Pokhara Street Festival

Pokhara Street Festival

The colourful parade went by for a good half an hour: an amazing array of clubs, societies, musical and dramatic displays. It heralded the start of the four day Pokhara Street Festival, now in its 15th year, aimed at the tourist celebration of New Year. Restaurants took their food out on to the streets at night, and competing vendors with tinny music systems blared out distorted music over one another. I could have done without that! From our street-side hotel the racket went on til late, but some how we managed to fall asleep anyway.

The next morning we had originally planned to take Latham paragliding and, although I wasn’t eager to pay good money for my son to jump off a cliff, I knew how badly he wanted to do it and are several reputable companies in Pokhara….so I agreed.  Unfortunately (or fortunately for me) they were fully booked.  So instead Latham and Jess launched themselves down from one hillside to another on the Zip Flyer, the world’s longest zipline.  Pokhara is rapidly becoming the Nepalese center for extreme sports, with a giant bungee jump in construction too…

After the thrill seeking duo returned, we headed out to lunch at Krishna’s Kitchen, a popular Thai restaurant on the North side of the lake. The food was good, but the best part of the experience was watching the paragliders land on the beach in front of us, some so low we could see the expressions on their faces.  The location was perfect too…a beautiful sunny day, peaceful sparkling waters and no noise or crowds.  Staying at Lakeside has been fun, but if we return for a few days, I think I’d like to say on the quiet North shore next time… it was a beautiful spot!

Pokhara Zip Line

Coming in for a landing!

Zip Flyer Nepal

At 1.8kms long with a vertical drop of about 2000 ft, riders catapult as fast as 100 miles per hour down to the magnetic brakes at the end of the ride. Latham arrived much faster than Jess just because of the difference in weight


Watching the paragliders land. This one was some distance away. Many practically came in over our heads.


The serene view from Krishna’s Kitchen

Sarangkot: First Glimpses of the Himalayas

I was warned before I arrived here. Seeing the mountains in Kathmandu isn’t a daily occurrence. The monsoons, mist, fog and pollution all play their part in keeping the giants hidden from us valley dwellers.  But I was also told that the early part of Winter (now), after the monsoons, is the best viewing season– before the pollution levels rise with the increased emissions that the cold weather brings. That was the rhetoric.  The reality has been quite a bit different:  Nothing.  Nada.  Zip. Not a snowy peak.  Not even a suggestion of one.  Certainly nothing like a majestic Himalayan view to frame the backdrop to my day. I was starting to joke that the whole Himalayan experience was an elaborate hoax.  How could something be so big and yet so elusive?

Even our journey to Pokhara was unable to deliver on the promise, even though it is the is the gateway to the Annapurnas and the Pokhara guidebooks are full of tantalizing photographs of crisp blues skies and rugged perfect peaks just sitting as an indisputable, omnipresent backdrop to the town.  For us, the Annapurnas remained stubbornly absent during our entire stay.  We would never have seen one glimpse if we hadn’t made the decision to take an early morning side trip to Sarangkot.

Sarangkot is a popular viewing destination as it is an a higher elevation than Pokhara. Above the bowl of the town and lake, the odds improve that you can grab a view of Machapuchare (or Fishtail) and the row of Annapurna mountains that are unimaginatively named Annapurna 1, Annapurna 2….3 and 4.

Everyone wants to take you up to Sarangkot at dawn to see the sun rise over the mountains, and the early morning offers the best odds of a clear view.  Dawn required something like a 5.15am departure and Robert didn’t want to do it.  He also didn’t want to do it with a crowd of bus tours, so we decided that we didn’t need to see the sunrise but would go just a bit later in hopes the crowds had left.

We arrived just as the last of the bus tours departed.  Their giant buses were parked along the roadside and our taxi had to squeeze past them as we drove up; the narrow mountain roads certainly weren’t made for tourist buses.  We walked up the dirt track to a viewing platform and climbed the stairs to the flat, empty rooftop.  It was covered with plastic chairs and we were the only ones there.  I sat and drank hot ginger tea and looked out at the mist.  No mountains, only mist.  It didn’t look very promising. The waiter told us that there had be no visible mountain sunrise that morning and everyone had gone home empty-handed.


Sarangkot viewing platform


Only birds and the occasional small plane broke the monotony of the mist…

And then it happened….very slowly.  The barest outline of a corner, of a peak, started to appear.  Then a little more, and a little more, until a whole peak was revealed.  Very, very slowly over the next 30 minutes, like a giant curtain being pulled back, the range came into view. There they were…not a hoax after all!


Not the best picture ever taken of the Annapurnas…but one patiently waited for. I hope to have a clearer view one day. But, for now, I take this one!