Sunday, 4 October 2015

Walking, Tibetan refugees and boating!

So Saturday we decided to have a mini adventure, and walk into old Pokhara.

We started with a small morning hike to get some more views of the lake and of Old pokhara before heading down to the villages. It was me, Maren, Lutie, Ana (a spanish girl who Lutie met through volunteering) and Alana (Australian) also a volunteer.

Once we got back down to the villages it was so nice to see the 'real nepal' it was Saturday so its a day off school and work for the Nepalese but even on a day off they are working away tending to vegetable gardens, doing housework, washing, children playing in the streets etc. Ana took us to her homestay family as we were in the area and then we headed onto the highway yowards Old Pokhara. Once there we were embraced with beautiful old Newari buildimgs (like the buildings in Bhaktapur) and narrow streets with slightly less traffic. It took us a good 2 hours to get there and we stopped off at a temple along the way. We did want to go to a village called Bhalam but it was a further 2 hours walk and by the time we had lunch it was 2pm and we still had to walk back and checl out the Tibetan refugee camp. So we decided to skip it and start the walk back. We headed a different way and saw more of old pokhara which was lovely, stopped off to buy cheap cosmetics and clothes which are half the proce as the ones sold in touristy lakeside!

We reached the Tibetan Monestry by about 4pm. It was debated that we were in the wrong place as it was where Lutie and Aland's orphaned children went to school. But then we realised they were Tibetan orphans and that there was a monestry as well as the school, so surely it was the regugee camp? So me and Ana went to check it out and aure enough it was one of the camps. Though now they are more like housing complexes/communities. There was indeed a Tibetan school, a Tibetan Monestry and the housing was behind them. On the basetball pitch there were some young monks playing ball and there were goats and sheep munching on grass. It seemed everyone was pretty happy to see us, waving us in, saying hello. So we didn't feel too much like intruders. One old woman in particular was so kind and took it upon herslef to give us a tour around the complex. She tool us to all her neighboura houses, told us about the school and showed us that, then took us into the monestry where we met some monks and Ana found out that we were welcome to join them for meditation one day. Then she invited us back to her house for tea. Her husband was in the house too and they both made us feel so welcome! Their house was the most simplest house but all you needed. One room with two beds, a table and 5 chairs, some cupboards and on the other side was a small stove/gas set for cooking. That was it and they were happy enough. At one point we had a sheep come bleeting at the door wanting some tea with us! We asked alot of questions and their english was relatively good. We found out that their families had climbed over the himalayas into india and then up into Nepal in 1949. Both their families settled in Mustang and thats where they met. They had no children. The woman was 7 when she came over so she doesn't remember much but she and her husband had never been able to return to Tibet. Though they had been to India various times to see the Dalai Lama who they had a shrine to in their room. They still speak Tibetan and also Nepali plus a little English. We then asked what their jobs were and the woman said she used to sell jewellery but not so much anymore as she had to have an operation on her knee and so cannot walk to Lakeside anymore to sell. So she mainly sold outside on the main road, or within the complex. So we asked her if she still had any jewellery and she lovingly got some out for us to look at. After some of us bought some we then decided to head back. Said our goodbyes to the girls at their Orphanage and then me and Maren headed back to the hostel to shower, skype and eat.

The next day our legs were achy after a solid 8 hours walking so me and Maren went to Yoga and meditation which i found quite hard with my stiff legs. Then we chilled, went for Vietnamese coffee, and met Ana at 3.30pm after she finished teaching to hire a boat on the lake for the afternoon. It was the perfect time, not too hot and the sun was beginning to go down so hopefully we would catch sunset. So we hired a boat after negotiating the price down to 200 each for 2 hours. Then we began our paddle out, which was way harder than it looked! Especially as the current was pulling us the wrong way and most of the time we were zig-zagging rather than going in a straight line but we managed to eventually get far enough into the middle for us to just sit there for an hour or so and take it all in, read, chat and Ana had a swim. Getting back in the boat was the hard part and we almost capsized! Lol but Ana managed to get in without too much hassle. Then came the long paddle back to shore and we moored up way further down than we should have! On the walk back we were accosted by a man 'claiming' to be our boatman that we hired from but me and Maren didn't recognise him and chose not to trust him. He kept insisting it was him and why we didn't recognise him and not to worry. But we weren't convinces. Ana eventually came back after changing into her clothes and as it turns out...he was our boat man! Haha. She luckily recognised him and we apologised for being rude but we didn't want to give his boat away to someone else and wanted to be sure. But he laughed it off and found it pretty hilarious which was good! We then went back to the hostel and ate and chilled - the evenings aren't much as we are always too tired to go out and everything shuts at 11pm anyways. Especially when most days the sun, cockrills and dogs wake you up at 6am!

Saturday, 3 October 2015

Soaring above Pokhara and chill days

Tuesday was Paragliding day. So I was picked up and met my pilot at 9.30am. His name was Raul and he was awesome, a lovely guy who was married to an Italian woman he had met as a tour guide and they had a baby and were trying to secure visas to live and work in the UK/Europe.

So we had a 40 minute drive up to Sarangot for the takeoff area and luckily my tour agency used the point higher up and further away than other companies, so it was less crowded and a better flight.

So I had to hop in another jeep once we got to a certain point as the road was awful, and our car couldn't go any further so Raul made me catch a lift so I didn't have to walk up bless him, and he walked. Once we reached the takeoff point we kitted up into our gear and Raul took me through the instructions. When he said so I had to walk forwards (while they got the parachute off the ground) and when he said to start running I had to run and don't stop, keep running even in the air and don't sit back in the seat until he said so. This seems simple enough right, but it really is harder when put into practise, as it goes so fast you don't even have time to run!

I literally was just pushed off, with a couple of half runs and in the air, well, it just didn't happen my legs just came up and I was just forced back into my seat. But we still flew! Jumping off a cliff however is a surreal thing, a bit like jumping out a plane, your mind is screaming 'this shouldn't happen!'

Once up in the air we went through some clouds and the views were amazing. It's weird because u get turbulence a bit like a plane when you hit winddrafts so it can be bumpy but mostly smooth. We managed to see a few of the mountain peaks before they hid behind the clouds which was pretty awesome and because we hit a good wind draft Raul spiraled us up higher for better views and a longer flight - the spiraling made me feel a little sick as it gets dizzying so once we made it high enough we stopped. We flew out over the lake and did some acrobatics - but because i literally just saw sky lake sky lake mountain sky lake with all the movement again it made me feel a bit ill so had to stop after a while. He flips you up and down and over and under its so weird but so cool! It was like sky diving but it was much more tame and could appreciate the view much better, sky diving is very short and you're so focused on the freefall and getting over the adrenaline to really appreciate your view. With paragliding we had a whole 30-45mins to just chill in the air like a bird, flying up with the eagles over mountains and the lake.

So the landing was much like sky diving, legs up and he lands first before I put my feet down. Through the whole thing I had a gopro so I have two videos and lots of pictures to keep. We then drove back to the agency shop in lakeside pokhara and i sat there while they sorted my pictures and video to take with me. I got talking to Raul more and also was talking to a nepalese guy who had just returned here after 7 years in the UK, it was so strange as he sounded like a Londoner when he said certain words!

The rest of the day was then just a chill day, and most of the days since have been quite chilled. We've been doing lots of yoga and meditation. The Aussie guys all left wednesday so we all went for a meal at Godfathers pizzeria which is like the best pizza in the whole of Nepal!

We spent a day poolside at a fancy resort, as for 500 rupees (£3.50) you can use their pool all day, towel and wifi included. So it was a great day but I got quite sunburnt - the altitude and all! ;-)

We (Maren and Natalie) tried out meditation at Osho Divine which was awesome - we did active meditation which was some silent meditation mixed in with dance, breathing exercises etc. Then we went back later for a Chakra healing which felt really good and relaxing.

We (most of the hostel goers) have established our regular yoga man 'Borat' as his classes are cheap and pretty good, yesterdays one was intense for example! I woke up feeling broken haha.

We have two regular local restaurants that we love, Nirvana and Laughing Buddha, both cheap and good food. Taking walks along the lake, relaxing in the hostel, meeting new people, as so many come and go everyday, and Lutie came back to the hostel to visit as her orphanage is just down the road so we are going to do things with her and some of the other volunteers during their free time. Its been a pretty fab first week and its one more week to go before heading back to Kathmandu so we are going to make the most of it!

Monday, 28 September 2015

Don't go chasing least not in Pokhara

Today at breakfast, Suman the hostel owner planned a day trip for everyone up to the World Peace Pagoda and over to Devi's Fall and a more local unknown waterfall nicknamed Powerhouse Falls as it was near the dam apparently, further away.

So we went to yoga first which was way more active than yesterdays and then we got ready for the trip which we were setting out for about midday.

Our guide was the local nepalese guy who had travelled with the Australians to Pokhara. They had met him at their hostel in Kathmandu and took him under their wing. They had come out with money from their DJing and record company and doing lots of goodwill things like helpong build schoola, provide equipment for the schools, clothes for street children etc and Sunil had never left Nepal, it was his dream to see the ocean. So they decided, as they were headed back to India for some more goodwill trips they would buy his ticket and take him with them, stopping at some important religious areas for him along the way as they were riding motorbikes down to Kerala. And there they would introduce him to the ocean! Such cool guys and doing it out of their own money which was awesome!

So Sunil knew Pokhara semi-well and we went to go hire out boats as the most popular way is to cross the river and hike up from the other side. It was a calm and quiet boat ride, with the occasional tip of the boat but luckily we never fell in. We hired 3 boats for 1500 rupees one way so it worked out around 160 each so like a pound!

Once we got to the other side we started our climb - and I had to keep up my Asia tradition of climbing in flip flops - which probably wasn't the wisest idea as they broke after about 10mins of climbing! And so did most of the way up barefoot! They were steep rocky stairs with the occasional dirt path so it wasn't ideal but I did it with no injuries or leeches which is good. We also took a slight wrong turn so went about 15mins out of our way and ended up in a very local cluster of hilltop houses so after asking for directions got back on track again. It was a very hard hike, it was the heat of the day, stupidly humid and even though trees offered some shade it didn't make much difference! The view from halfway up was pretty awesome though so we stopped to appreciate the view, rest a little and grabbed drinks/snacks to fuel our final leg up. It took us around an hour and a half in the end with the slight detour.

Upon reaching the Peace Pagoda we were all out of breath, sweaty betties! I think you could call it a sweat shower. The views were pretty stunning though, you could see 360 degrees off the mountain, into Pokhara, the Lake, Sarangot, the mountains behind. The Peacw Pagoda itself was lovely but nothing special, I think its mainly to take in the stunning views.

We then headed up to a restaurant on the mountain and most people ordered the same food as we didn't want a repeat of last night haha. I just had porridge as the breakfast today had been savoury so I needed some sugar and carbs for the rest of our hike.

Then we started down the mountain to find the waterfalls. Now usually you would expect the waterfalls to be on the mountain right? Well we went down and down and down, steep stairs again, with broken flip flops again, losing the boys and having to navigate the right direction. But we came across no waterfalls. So onto the street in Pokhara we went. And me Bart and Maren had a guess as to whether that was it or if we were going somewhere else. Well we caught up to the guys eventually and turns out we were going to some cave first. So off we went, got our tickets and on the outside it looks prettt impressive, down lots of steps again and towards...a tiny little shrine inside, that was it! We all felt a bit bummed as we then had to hike up the steps again to get out and by now most people were over it. But wait! Thats not it, we then crossed the street further down and continued to Devi's falls which was a waterfall but not one you could swim in, again it was very touristy but it was kinda cool as it went through a gorge and canyon. After this we all thought that was it and we were headed back on a long walk to lakeside, and that we would just have to give up on a swim at that amazing waterfall we had been promised! It was a looong walk, like an hour, and we were headed somewhere but we weren't sure where. The closer we got the more tired everyone was and the more local it got. We went through little villages, rice paddies etc it was pretty cool, the kids were running out to get a look of these crazy white people walking past. But then we realised....heaven forbid we had made it to our amazing waterfalls...and there were only a few steps.

Until you took those steps and got to the next part and you saw a huge, fuckass vertical drop of hundreds of steps down, by which point me and Juliette literally stopped and were like, holy shit...really?! It was scary, big steps with a sheer drop. Locals were running up and down them...we were clinging on for dear life and getting laughed at in the process!

We then had a little walk round some grassy area and hallelujah - we had made it, only took us 5 hours though didn't it?!

So we had a nice hour of swimming (some getting caught in the downstream current and rapids) took some photos and chilled for a bit before we had to start heading back beforw it got dark.

One thing none of us were lookong forward to were those steps was virtually suicidal! So up we started, i thought they were big going down but going up was like giant strides. We had to keep stopping for a rest and again get laughed at by the locals watching these silly, unfit tourists try and climb them! Eventually we made it up and started the long walk back, with a pleasant view of Fishtail mountain which popped its head above the clouds for a breif moment.

By the time we made it to the main road it was getting dark and we were all exhausted, and not too thrilled about a further 30-45min walk back to the hostel so insteas we got 3 taxi's back at around 100 each (they had begun hiking the pricea up due to the India and Nepal border issues, which were creating fuel and food shortages. But it was still cheap and we didn't care so long as we weren't walking anymore.

We gor back and Suman our hostel owner had organised a MoMo making night, which we got back too late to make them but everyone else had got them ready so all we had to do was grab a plate and eat them! Suits us well as no one could be bothered to make and cook our own food that evening! So we ate them, chatted to the new arrivals, everyday there are new arrivals at the hostel its great, just a shame most only stay a couple of days.

Sudan had got back from his trek and was staying at the same place so I caught up with him and then had a shower and an early night as I was knackered!

Sunday, 27 September 2015

Yoga and new people!

Sunday was a chilled day again. We were supposed to go up Sarangot for sunrise but the weather wasn't supposed to be good so instead we went for yoga at 9am after a fried doughnut which looked like a bagel, with an egg in the middle and tons of syrup, for breakfast (apparently its a Tibetan thing!)

Yoga was pretty good, we did it with Yogasala which is down by the Busy Bee Cafe. It was supposed to be 500 rupees each (£3.50) but as there was 3 of us (a German girl Maren joined us) we got a discount - 3 for 2! The Nepalese yoga teacher is awesome he is like a slightly subdued Borat - with the tash and everything! His laugh is hilarious and so loud! He's quite eccentric but this just makes the lesson more fun!

The class was an hour and a half and we went through quite a few yoga poses plus a little meditation and breathing exercises. So because we had a good experience we decided to go back again every other day if we could. Alternating it with some free meditation down at Osho Divine which we would try out soon.

The rest of the day was chilling again, I went for a walk and on the way a nepalese guy fell off his motorcycle. So me and another guy stopped to make sure he was ok. Turns out this guy was English (Bart) and he was with two girls one from Australia (Natalie) and one from Finland (Hanne). Also turns out they were staying at the same place as me! So I tagged along with them on a shopping trip for a bit, bought some trousers and then headed back. We had a whole massive group of new arrivals today, as some people that Bart and the girls knew were hoping to get beds in Kiwi, which they did, a group of about 5 Australian guys - who I found out later were the group of Australians that the Scottish girl I met in Kathmandu was on tour with as they told the same story as her - and a German girl Juliette who was studying in Kathmandu and volunteering as she was studying disaster relief or something.

So that evening the entire hostel decided to go for a meal as it was Tim's (german guy) birthday - his american friend had got him a cake to share with us all, and the cake design was truely ironic! The 'nazi' symbol which is also a huge symbol in Hinduism and Buddhism - so it was also embracing the culture here as well as a slight dig lol. But the innocent nepalese who made it down at the German Bakery probably didn't have a clue that it was a bad thing too, just thought that maybe 'Tim' was a hindu/buddhist! Lol

We all decided to go to a local restaurant round the corner from us as it was so cheap compaired to all the tourist restauranta by the lake. However this was probably an error as by now we had all realised that food was brought out on Nepalese time - ie: they cook one dish at a time so you get your meals at different times. So knowing this we should have chosen wiser than for 15 of us to just stumble into a tiny restaurant expecting them to cook us food quickly haha. But they did so with big smiles on their face as we probably just kept their business alive for a whole week! It did'nt matter that from order to the last meal being served it took 2 and a half hours! But it made us all chat and get to know each other better.

We had intended to check out the world tourism day festival down on the main street but by the time we had finished eating it had all shut down as in Nepal most things shut around 10-11pm. So instead we all went back to the hotel and called it a night, although Australians being Australians had to keep it going til 3pm with copious amounts of beer!