Kathmandu to Pokhara
There are three ways to get from Kathmandu to Pokhara. Bus, car or fly.
At eight hours, the bus is the slowest option as it stops to pick people up and let them off and stops for breaks. However at a very low $20, it is the cheapest option but not very comfortable.
At six hours, renting a driver and car is the most comfortable, but still affordable option costing around $100. Unfortunately we didn’t think to ask what kind of car we would be driven in and spent a very cramped six hours in a tiny Toyota Corolla. Which broke down. Twice.
For the return trip back to Kathmandu, we went with option three. Fly. Not as eco-friendly and more expensive, costing around $150 per person. But, it only takes an hour and if you’re short on time or suffering from any trekking ailments, this is an amazing option.
Pokhara is a really pretty town set beside Phewa Lake. It’s more subdued than neighbouring Kathmandu and the streets are lined with wide footpaths so you can meander down the sidewalk browsing the shops and cafes.
Located in the Annapurna region, Pokhara is the base for hundreds of treks ranging from overnight to several weeks with very easy to more difficult trails. Many of the treks start only a short drive from the town and the trails are dotted with well equipped teahouses.
The first hotel we stayed in was in the centre of town and close to some of the most popular restaurants. It was a little too noisy so after two days, we checked out and found a quieter place a few hundred meters down the road. This lakeside hotel had a small balcony where we happily relaxed with books and a pot of milky, warm chai tea.
One of my favourite things about Nepal is the freedom you have to come and go on your own schedule. You pay by the night for hotels and can just walk into one off the street and book a room on the spot. Even the most upmarket hotels in Pokhara will only set you back $60 a night including breakfast.
Pokhara has some great shopping opportunities. If you’re in the market for a cashmere shawl, this is the place to shop for it. Many of the stores are aligned with women’s cooperatives providing employment for mothers and disabled women who otherwise could not work. The prices are higher than in Kathmandu but the quality is better and your money goes directly into the pockets of the people who make them. Stop by the Women’s Skills and Development shop. They have gorgeous bags, scarves and the cutest handmade soft toys. I picked a few up for my nephew who loved them.
Vendor selling packets of coloured powder in preparation for Holi.
We spent two days exploring Pokhara and stuck around because we really wanted to experience Holi, the festival of colours or the festival of love. We parked ourselves in an outdoor cafe and watched people in the streets bomb each other with coloured powder.
You could feel the energy and excitement in the air as the crowd grew larger in front of us, culminating in a giant rainbow mosh-pit, with everyone bouncing in time to dance music blasting from speakers in the town centre. It was incredible. After we had our fill of people watching and taking photos, Dave and I dared to venture down the streets (sans cameras) and made it back to our hotel relatively unscathed.
Also known as the Ghorepani Poon Hill Trek, this is a four to five day circuit in the Annapurna ranges. The maximum elevation is 3,210 meters and takes a moderate amount of fitness. You drive an hour and half from Pokhara to Nayapul to begin your trek and finish up in Gandruk.
This time, we opted to trek solo without a guide or porter, carrying our own packs. This was because the trek was relatively easy and well populated, the elevation was low, we were familiar with the local customs and we were fit and confident in our trekking abilities. We got our bags down to the bare minimum, mine weighed 26kg and Dave’s 34kg. Most of the weight came from our water, camera gear and sleeping bags, which were all necessary.
The start of the trail. We stopped for a cup of coffee, chedked our gear and then began the hike.
Watching the organised tour groups arrive. You can see the contrast between the small packs the trekkers carry and the large loads managed by the porters. My reactions was, it’s only four days, you do not need a giant suitcase.
We made it through day one with some huffing and puffing. The packs were heavy but not unmanageable and we made sure to stop and rest whenever we felt we needed it. The first day was only 4-5 hours so we took our time. Arriving in Tikhedunga, we settled into our teahouse for the night. Wifi was down so we opted for an early dinner and reading by the fire in the teahouses dining room. At dinner, I had no appetite and only managed a few sips of soup and a handful of dry pringles.
We went to bed around 7pm and within the hour I was suffering from bad stomach cramps and was feeling nauseous.
Warning, graphic details ahead!
The moment came when I felt like I needed to vomit and teahouse bedrooms are very basic. Two single beds and no bathroom. So I reached for the only receptacle I could find, an empty pringles box and vomited into that and all over the floor. The rest of the night passed in a haze of nausea, cramps and freezing bathroom trips outside.
Dave was incredible through it all. He cleaned up my sick, fetched me water and woke up at the crack of dawn to try and get us back down the mountain. Because we were only a day up the mountain, Nayapul was accessible by 4WD, Dave called our travel insurance company World Nomads, who arranged for us to be driven back to Pokhara where I spent the day in a small hospital being pumped full of fluids and vitamins.
It was just shit luck that I happened to get sick, it could have been the teahouse where we ate lunch or one of the bathrooms I stopped in on the drive to Nayapul. It’s a risk you take when you travel anywhere and I was fine after a short hospital stay. I can look back and laugh now.