Dadu Aur MadakPokhara
evening before leaving Bandipur, the young guy who ran the Inn had
mentioned to us that the Maoists had announced that they would be
"collecting donations" from tourists on the road into Bandipur. We
asked if they would be collecting on the way in or on the way out, but
his suspicion was that it would be both ways. The number that he had
heard mentioned was 80 Nepal Rupees per person, a sum equal to about a
dollar and a half. When we did actually encounter them on the way out,
they were holding a rope across the road with a red banner. Again they
had a van stopped and there were some negotiations going on. They
handed me a notice in English which I folded up and put in my pocket.
This seemed to anger them because apparently I was supposed to read it
but not keep it. I handed it back to them and offered them 70 Rupees
for both of us which they refused. Theyinformed us in english that they
wanted at least five dollars per person. I pointed out that their
literature said it was a donation, but if I had no choice it wasn't a
donation it was robbery. I asked them if they were robbing me and they
said no. I again ofered the 70 Rupees, but nobody was willing to take
it. I held up the money and said "yes or no" but nobody would respond.
I kicked the bike in gear and told Karen "let's go." When they had
finished with the van they had to lower the rope. They tried to do
lower it just enough that just the van could get through but we just
bulled through along side of it. I really don't mind the donation
concept, but this really is more like extortion.
Our last stop in Nepal was Pokhara. While it is Nepal's second largest city next to Kathmandu, it has none of the polution and bustle that you find there. The tourist area is pretty much confined to the area along the lake, Phewa Tal, at the western edge of town. The main drag that parrallels the lake about 200 meters from the shore has all the shops and outfitters that you would expect, but it doesn't seem to have the pressure you find in Kathmandu. The fact is that if this is the second largest city in the country it almost makes you wonder if there is a third. One of the nicest features of the town is that when the weather is clear there are spectacular views of the distant Annapurna range. Pokhara is the best place to gear up for the trek of the Annapurna circuit.
found a nice little place with a pool for under $40 a night with
breakfast, and on the day we arrived Machhupuchhare, the areas most
recognizable peak also known as Fishtail, was just visible below the
is a great vantage point near an old hilltop fort about 15 kilometers
north of town to view most of the Annapurna range. It is crowded with
tourists with cameras each day at sunrise, but unfortunately the
weather had been cloudy for most of the morning each day. We waited
patiently, but the mountains were only willing to reveal themselves in
bits and pieces. The photo above shows Fishtail just peaking out of the
clouds (yellow arrow). On the left are actually two peaks, the one at
Annapurna I (red arrow). Annapurna I is actually the highest of these
peaks at around 26,300 feet and Fishtail is the lower at around
22,800 feet. The appearance is due to the
fact that Fishtail is the closest to the camera and Annapurna is much
is a closeup of Annapurna I with clouds both above and below.
We had just about given up on being able to get a glimpse of Fishtail
so we started down the road to town when suddenly the clouds seemed to
dissolve enough to get this shot of Fishtail and the valley (below).
had a leisurely row around Phewa Tal with a visit to this island in the
center. The Island has a small temple and the water is amazingly clear.
Locals come to the island to make offerings and to enjoy a casual
|A few miles
southwest of town you can visit Devi Falls. The waterfall (above) just
disappears below the earth, and then emerges again about three
kilometers away (below).
really can't begin to say enough about the hospitality of the Nepalese
people, but our last evening there was a good example. We were worried
because there had been no gas in town, but locals seemed unconcerned
most of them saying there should be gas today. It seemed like everyone
was tuned in to the delivery schedules. Around noon we went to the
petrol pump and we were told there would be gas around 5:00 or 6:00--
the same time as some of the locals had been mentioning. We returned to
the station at 5:00, and were told that gas would be there at "6:00, I
hope". We asked if we could wait, and they ushered us to a spot between
the office and the pumps. What we hadn't noticed when we pulled in, was
that in the opposite direction was a line of more than 100 motorcycles
parked on the sidewalk, and nearly an equal number of cars along the
curb lane. There were only a handful of drivers present, most of the
group having only left their vehicles to reserve their spot. We
questioned whether people would be angry about us going to the front of
the line, but they told us it should be that way because we were
guests. About 5:45 they started to run ropes to seperate the cars from
the motorcycles to corral them each onto their own side of the pump,
but drivers didn't star arriving for another ten minutes. Fianally at
about one minute to six the tanker arrived and was backed into the
unloading area behind a locked gate. A bit later they came out with a
five gallon pail of gas to prime the pump, and in a few minutes they
were in business, with us at the head of the line.
the time the gas arrived this line extended for nearly two blocks, but
once they started things proceeded as orderly as is possible in this
of the world.