glimpses of the top of the world

Yesterday morning at 7am we saw our first glimpse of some of the highest mountain peaks in the world. Finally I can understand what all the fuss is about, you see all the postcards showing the perfect panoramic view of course, but it doesn’t quite compare to gazing sleepily out from your balcony to see the huge snow covered peaks looming above the hills, partially covered in clouds. Half an hour later they had disappeared again like a fleeting memory.

Pokara

Yesterday morning, after a decidedly decadent breakfast of porridge organic coffee and French toast in a little riverside cafe called Bistro Carolina, Kristy and I decided to get the legs moving again and hike the two hour scenic route up to the famous World Peace Pagoda overlooking Pokara and the lake. Despite a few red herring pathways we managed to climb our way through the woods, over the slippery rocks, under the noisy cicadas and emerge finally on the top of the ridge under a blue sky and hot sun. The pagoda itself is currently undergoing building work so was a little bit of a concrete jungle but the views were beautiful, we watched a local man supervising four bathing buffaloes and ended up having drinks and crisps on the little cafe perched jauntily on the cusp of the ridge. We got chatting to two lovely French men about their travels in India and they must be the first of their countrymen I have ever met who waxed lyrical not only about the British people but about the food as well!

Hilltop cafe, Pokara

It took us an hour to climb down the short route from the pagoda but during this short time a buzz had gone out on the leech network and although I was totally unaffected, at one point Kristy pulled up her trouser leg to find five of the little suckers, having a heavy lunch courtesy of her ankle! She remained admirably calm I thought as I helped flick them off and wipe up the blood streaming into her shoes! At the bottom we caught a leisurely boat ride back across the lake, went back to mop up Kristy’s injuries and then went for a late lunch by the lake.

About half way through dinner last night it started to rain, monsoon rain, sheets of water punctuated by lightening and roaring thunder. About fifteen minutes walk from the hotel we had no chance but to make a run for it…I spotted a stripy big golfing umbrella en route back and we did a quick detour to purchase it. It helped, sort of. The road up to our place was dark, I’d forgotten the torch again (!) and we must have stepped ankle deep into every water filled pothole along the road that was already mimicking a grade II white water river. We were laughing and soaked when we eventually stumbled in through the door to the undisguised amusement of the guys working there. It continued to rain all night, but by morning had eased off and the clouds were starting to lift. We went to visit Devi’s falls which in the photos looked like a river cutting through a shallow gorge then following majestically over the rocks below. After the night’s enthusiastic downpour we arrived to see an impressive churning mass of water careering around over the tops of the gorge, swamping half the viewing platform as the waves fought desperately to make it down the gap below.

After the falls we went to visit the International Mountaineering museum, a vast building devoted partly to the different casts and ethnic groups in Nepal and partly to the climbers and expeditions to the vast number of 8000m+ peaks in the Himalayas. It must have come as some what of a surprise to the locals, after generations of them had been happily traversing the Himalayas through valleys and mountain passes, to encounter (after they reopened their borders in 1948), a generation of European mountaineers obsessed with climbing to the tops of all the peaks, only to photograph themselves, and then walk all the way back down. Reading the stories some of the ascents must have been a real labour of love. As our guide Krishna yesterday said offhandedly, “Climbing Everest these days is easy, they even leave the ladders up the ice walls for you!” None-the-less I think a valley trek between tea houses maybe slightly more in the realms of my comfort zone!

Local Game This afternoon we’ve been strolling lazily around Old Pokara, a world away from the tourist cafe lined streets of Lakeside. Traditional Newari houses line the roads, tiny Hindu temples, basket weaving shops, tailors mending clothes on ancient Singer sewing machines on the pavements, the odd cow sleeping in the centre of the road being avoided carefully by the otherwise gun-ho buses and mopeds! A group of four local boys were playing the popular game in the photo, it’s a little like pool but with flat round disks that are flicked into holes on the corner, ingenious, simple and far harder to play than it looks!

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