Return to Kathmandu, plus Pokhara

Kathmandu II: Monday 21/5 – Friday 25/5

Almost as soon I arrived in Kathmandu, checked back into a hotel and had a shower, I checked the Internet. To my surprise, there was a Facebook message from Tristan, who I worked with back in Perth, saying that he was in Kathmandu and wondering if I was too. So we arranged to go for drinks at an Irish pub, where I ordered a Guinness. It turned out to be the very last Guinness they had left, thanks to the strikes. The Irish pub was a bit noisy and smokey, so we ended up moving on to Sam’s Bar – definitely my favourite pub in Kathmandu. Shortly after we arrived, there was a voice calling out my name from behind. It was Soffia, who I’d met in Malaysia back in January. The world is indeed very small. Soffia was there with a number of friends she knew through volunteer work she was doing at an orphanage. This pretty much set the theme for my return to Kathmandu, which ended up being quite social and more than a little bit alcoholic.

Tuesday morning, crawled out of bed, went to get breakfast and discovered that all of Kathmandu appeared to be shut. Of course: strikes were still going on, and it wasn’t just transport that was affected. Fortunately, a few places were still open. It was easy enough to find somewhere to eat, even easier to find a dodgy chap wanting to sell you hash, but the travel agent where I’d booked my Tibet tour had its shutters down. I did manage to re-book my bungy jumping trip for Thursday – the one which would have been doing the day before I left for trekking if I hadn’t I’d slept through it.

Fortunately, by Wednesday the strikes had stopped. But when I went to check on the status of my Tibet tour, the news was not so great: the Chinese had made it yet more difficult again to get Tibet permits, and unless the rules changed again in my favour, it was incredibly unlikely that I’d get one. I decided to cancel the trip and get a refund rather than keep waiting.

Bungy jumping was a fantastic experience. I opted to do both the canyon swing and the bungy jump, and I’m glad I did. The canyon swing was first. It was pretty unnerving to just walk off a small platform and into thin air, 160 metres above a river. Sure, you’ve got a harness around you and you’re holding onto a rope, but there’s an instinctive part of the brain that is very, very certain that this is still a rather bad idea and the supposedly-rational side of my brain had a hard time taking back control of my legs.

And then I was falling. This lasted for what seemed like forever, though according to the people running it, you’re only in freefall for 6.5 seconds. Once my brain had adjusted to this, there were amazing views along the gorge. The actual bungy jumping was even more exhilarating, if less scenic, because the forces acting on you are even stronger. You jump off the platform, then you’re upside, then you’re the right way up again, and with each bounce you’re very briefly in a period of “anti-gravity” where all the forces acting on you cancel each other out. But it’s over very quickly, and then you’re grabbing onto the bamboo poles on the ground and returning to a more normal experience of gravity.

On Friday night, I was once again at Sam’s Bar and got a bit of a surprise when Tristan and his partner Kim wandered in. Perthed in Kathmandu, twice! Never mind that I had an early morning bus to Pokhara booked, I didn’t get to bed until around 1am.

Pokhara: Saturday 26/5 – Thursday 31/5

After a few hours of uneasy sleep, I woke up at 5am to pack for Pokhara and at 6:15am I was out of the hotel and on my way to the bus stop. The bus was relatively nice by Nepali standards but there was no way I could sleep on way with the bumpy tarmac meaning that I occasionally discovered myself airborne. We arrived a little after 2pm and abandoning my usual refusal to go to places recommended by taxi drivers, I followed the dude’s recommended “your taxi is free if you go to my friend’s hotel” place. It turned out to be quite decent, just south of central Lakeside, free wi-fi and only $5 per night. I checked in and collapsed in exhaustion for a few hours.

Pokhara wasn’t the best time I’ve ever had. It was approaching monsoon season, so it was humid and most afternoons and early evening there would be heavy rain, often thunderstorms. This is wonderful when you’re inside a bar drinking cheap cocktails or at a restaurant chowing down tasty food, but not really conducive to doing very much outdoors. The usual touristy things to do in Pokhara are horse riding and paragliding, neither of which really appealed to me. There was a four-day trek to Poon Hill which, in retrospect, would have been a more enjoyable way to spend my time in the area, but I would have had to have started planning it back when my feet were still blistered and my knees and legs resistant to any form of movement.

On Thursday I caught the bus back to Kathmandu for one last day there before flying to Thailand, the final country in my adventure.

Kathmandu III: Friday 1/6

Back when I first arrived in Nepal and was trying to make plans to go trekking, I looked on trekkingpartners.com to see if there was anyone else interested in doing the Langtang/Gosainkund treks at the same time I was. I exchanged a few emails with an American named Joanna who wanted to the same trek, but our schedules didn’t quite work out. We get along quite well via email, though, and had each done quite a bit of travel in places the other wanted to go, so arranged to have dinner instead.

So I stayed an extra night in Kathmandu rather than flying straight to Bangkok so that I could have dinner with a woman I met on the Internet. As it turned out, we actually got along even better than either of us expected, and it was sad to have to say goodbye after spending just a few hours together. I feel that there should be some kind of moral to this story, but have no idea what it is. Oh well. Yay for new Internet friends, anyway.

Updated Map!

I’ve just updated my map of where I’ve been to show my travels through Nepal, including a rough approximation of the trekking route.

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