I have mentioned before that we had met up with members of New Town Rotary Club and we had been asked to provide a Leadership Training session for them and we arrived at 0700 Saturday 27th to start the morning and yes believe it or not there were at least 10 people waiting to start and another 20 come along not long after.
I decided that we would fill in time while everyone came by naming the 20 leader’s faces that I spread around the room.
The rest of the morning was taken up with various activities, eating and having fun. The whole morning was in English in fact everything involved with the club is in English including the formal function that I attended later.
Everyone really enjoyed the morning in fact a couple of them had planned only to stay a short while stayed until after 1400.
I think it was the first time some of these lovely gentlemen had been required to hop around on one leg whilst holding a full glass of water. I have been asked to run an event for their younger members.
Mayte and I certainly enjoyed ourselves and I enjoyed working with her.
Early next morning saw me meeting the girls at our arch way at 0545 to catch the bus to Pokhara which was leaving from the other side of the city at 0700.
Pokhara is 206 km from Kathmandu and in the custom of most third world countries it takes hours of travel to cover this short distance.
We opted to take the Tourist Bus which was a bit more expensive than the local bus and certainly a lot less crowded and was $12 US but not to go the total tourist bus which is airconditioned and has a toilet but was $25.
The roads are dirt, pot holed and very, very narrow. The drop down the edge is daunting and it is often wiser just to go to sleep than to watch the oncoming traffic.
We stopped for breakfast around 0900 and then for lunch at 1230 and finally reached our destination 1530 and of course then had to handle the crush of taxi drivers who have the ‘best and cheapest’ hotel and taxis at horrific cost.
It is funny the trip from the bus depot to the hotel took 45 minutes to get there and 10 minutes on the return trip. It doesn’t matter if you are in Hanoi, Sydney, Pokhara it seems that taxi drivers are all the same.
Pokhara is a breath of fresh air such a difference from Kathmandu Valley. The town is on a huge green lake, nestling among forested hill with a picture postcard backdrop of gleaming Himalayan peaks.
I had chosen our hotel and when the taxi driver dropped us off I thought that I had made a terrible choice as the lake was nowhere to be seen although the hotel appeared to be nice and the staff made us feel very welcome indeed.
The room rate was $11 cut from $36 and the rooms were big and quite cool.
It turned out that the lake was about 5 minutes away and we were away from the tourist area.
The temperature is perhaps even hotter that in Kathmandu Valley but the lake and the open area makes it feel cooler.
We wandered down to the lake on the first evening and sat around just looking at the lake and the boats and the fantastic mountains surrounding it. There was a slight breeze and a few drops of rain and we sat there enjoying the atmosphere.
Pokhara is a stepping off point for some of the treks so there are heaps of tourist there this time of the year.
Over 40 years ago a large number of Tibetan refugees settled on the outskirts of Pokhara and they still live in the camp although now most of them were born in Nepal. The camp is right inside the city now and the Tibetans make their own traditional jewellery and walk around selling them.
I love their work and bought a ring for $5 although the starting price was $70.
We eventually decided to find somewhere to eat and then we stopped off at travel agents to book activities for the next two days.
Horse riding. Yes, I try very hard to ride if possible where ever I am and it is very reasonable here. $20 for a whole day, Mayte didn’t want to ride and Jessica was OK with it, compromise time. I will go paragliding with you (gulp) if you come on a horse with me. Done.
The next morning found us outside the travel agents waiting for the horses to come, eventually 3 horses and 2 young men came pounding down the main road. Horses, well I would have said ponies going by the size but they were typical Asian horses, short, sturdy and fortunately strong.
We set of meandering down the main road, horns tooting, people staring and Mayte looking as if she just didn’t want to be there.
We were accompanied by a young boy who normally rides with the clients but all the horses were out so he had to walk which most of the time was easy as the horses never went faster that a slow walk with an occasional bust of energy every so often.
We were out for the day so we wandered around the lake and then made our way up to the World Peace Pagoda which is high up on a narrow ridge and takes about 2 hours to walk up the steep and winding road.
It is a beautiful brilliant white building constructed by Buddhist monks from Japan.
We rode the horses to about 50 metres from the base of the ridge and walked the rest of the way. Boy, much easier that walking or at least for the humans.
We slowly meandered our way back down the mountain and stopped off at the Tibetan refugee camp and had a cold drink and then we went into an underground cave which has a huge stalagmite worshiped as a Shiva lingam and after much crawling (just loved it, not) we ended up under a huge waterfall still under ground.
I was glad to leave as you all know I just love dark, cold confined spaces.
Unfortunately for me at least all good things must end and we had to hand back our ponies and go to the local shop to buy an ice cream and listen to why Mayte would never go on a horse again.
It was good fun although the saddle did leave a lot to desire in the way of comfort.
We wandered back to the hotel for a late lunch and to wait until the temperature dropped again and this time we hired a boat and a man to row the boat and spent the last hour of daylight floating around the lake.
Very nice and the young lad with us was well educated and a lot of fun. The young boy try to convince us to buy more time and go for a swim but maybe tomorrow.
Well the girls not me, none of the water is getting near my body!!
Paragliding was on the agenda for the next day and once again we were found sitting outside of the travel agents waiting to be picked up and taken to the paragliding office to wait for all the customers and then to be taken up to the top of the mountain range to commence our glide back down to the lake.
Was I scared, not really?
We didn’t get any safety talk, we were just told to run for the edge of the cliff when we were told.
We were just strapped into a harness and then hooked onto the guy at the back and I had just enough time to ask the guy at my back how long had he been jumping tandem and was told that it was his second day.
When it was my turn we stood about 3 metres from the edge of the cliff and we had to wait until the wind caught the parachute and we were off running towards the edge and suddenly we were airborne and after a couple of seconds I was brave enough to look around.
Fantastic. It is nothing like jumping out of an aeroplane, it was gentle and smooth except for the occasional jolt as the guy adjusted the ropes.
We could carry out a conversation and my tandem guy was very experience and had paraglided all over the world except Australia.
We moved around the mountain with the various thermals and slowly descended to ground level and made a good landing on the edge of the water.
Did I enjoy it, yes I did? Would I do it again, of course? I think that the 30 minutes was enough time as you were looking at the same sight all the time.
Jessica and enjoyed it immensely but poor Mayte came down and was green in colour and immediately went to the bathroom and vomited.
Mayte went back to the hotel and Jessica and spent some time wandering the lake area and in the evening we went back to the lake and Jessica and Mayte went for a swim amongst the weeds and rubbish, there was no way I was going to go it. Urk.
The next morning I caught the bus back to Kathmandu and Jessica and Mayte met up with Kamhal who we had met and become quite friendly with in Basandara and he was going to be their guide to take them to Poon Hill on a 5 day hike.
I had thought about going but decided then remembered how much I hated hiking. I am glad I didn’t as the trek was mainly made up of millions of stairs.
I am so glad that we went and managed to see more of Nepal other than the capital.
I had been invited to join the New Town Rotary club for an evening out to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of their charter and it was great night with heaps of members and their partners and lots of ceremonies and a review of what they had done over the 10 years.
The whole evening is spoken in English as is all of their meetings, it is strange as I was the only one who was not Nepalese. It is good for me and I think as most of the members are business people it is their second language.
I was made to feel very welcome and after the speeches, the food and alcohol was freely available and the President has a band and they started playing a mixture of Nepal and 70’s music and before I knew it, it was after 11pm and I had a great night.
I had decided to stay in town for the night so only had to wander through a few streets to get back to the hotel, it is funny I have walked through streets at night in a number of countries and Palmerston is the only place I don’t feel safe.
Mother’s Day in Australia is next Sunday, I told my students and when I arrived to teach on Sunday I was greeted with gifts of chocolate, fruit drink and a number of small gifts.
Everyone had brought in food, rice, bread, plates of curry, just so much food and drink. Amazing, they told me that for today I had 30 Nepalese daughters and that they wanted to make sure I didn't miss my sons.
They are lovely open hearted ladies and it has been a pleasure spending time with them.