Pokara is a major tourist destination only rivaled by the Thamel district in Kathmandu. The eastern side of a huge lake is devoted to surprisingly expensive restaurants, guesthouses and knickknack shops. It’s by far the most expensive destination we’ve been to in Nepal and also the noisiest. Traffic is less than Kathmandu but at night the bars and dance halls open and thump out loud techno rock until 11 pm. So after the serenity of Bandipur this was a bit of a comedown. On the other hand, we are now so close to these mighty peaks!
There was a group of young trekkers who for some reason or other we found irritating with their southern Californian accent, at the Organic Café where we were eating breakfast. In the midst of this mood, a young woman sat down beside us and Gerard in his usual fashion found a way to start a conversation with her. Just as we had decided that all trekking/paragliding/rafting “privileged” kids should be dismissed, this interesting girl from Scotland had a completely different effect on us. She chose to come to Nepal to do her PhD thesis on widows. With her limited Nepalese she interviews widows in remote villages; but oftentimes she still needs an interpreter because of all the different dialects. The women welcome her into their homes which are often just a tent with no electricity or running water. One of the hurdles is the food they offer and she must eat –and then invariably get sick.
She’s already realized that in spite of all the stigmas attached to being a widow, in some cases these women are better off – their husbands may have been drunks, abusive physically and sexually, molested the children etc. Surprisingly (or perhaps not) one responded that she now had more freedom. In some cases, they are able to go to work and feel empowered by their independence. In her thesis she wants to make the point that some of these women are not as bad off as she initially thought and has already run into resistance from NGOs who would rather treat all widows in one uniform way.
She’s not sure the impact her thesis will have or if she will even be able to publish it, but it was inspiring talking to someone who’s now been here three times (four months each) and is drawing her own conclusions. Being away from Scotland so much she admitted was a little hard on her social life. So much for developing an attitude towards the under-30 group traveling in the third world!
To find something of interest in Pokhara, other than taking a boat out on the lake, you had to leave town. So in the morning, before the clouds started forming over the mountains, we took a taxi to Sarangkot, a high ridge looking straight out over the valley to the mountain peaks beyond. Most go there for sunrise, and by 10 am we had the place to ourselves. During our stay in Nepal, this is the closest we’ve come to the peaks and we hope the pictures capture a small degree of the power of the Himalayas.
Later we rented a boat with oarsman to take us out on the lake for an hour. It was very peaceful in the afternoon light. Sitting at the foothills of the mountains, Pokhara is a pleasant place to while away a couple of days.
The next morning we caught our predawn bus to another small hill town called Tansen. We had paid the price for reserved seats on the tourist bus, but when we arrived at the bus station, we were motioned to a bus that was a far cry from what we were expecting. The seats were dilapidated and crowded together, and like any local bus it stopped continuously to pick up and leave off passengers. There were only three other tourists on the bus but a tourist bus this did not make! As we pulled out of the parking lot, Gerard caught the rising sun.