Friday, December 4, 2009

thanksgiving trip to nepal

We got to Nepal late on Thursday, maybe the delay was meant to be as we saw gorgeous mountain peaks as the sun was setting and we were landing. If we'd gotten there during the afternoon, we might not have had that spectacular view. As I said earlier, were met by someone from our hotel at the airport, but our room was actually at a different hotel. So the first night was pretty minimal. On the other hand, we went out for steak and enjoyed that very much.

Huge steaks. Warm blankets at the hotel. And a wonderful host (from the hotel we eventually stayed at on Sunday night) who went and got our tickets to Pokhara for the next morning, 6:30am.

In the morning, we got a taxi to the pickup point (200 rupees was twice what it cost us to take a taxi back upon return, so that hotel manager seemed less reliable... he also asked for 300, but when I didn't have enough small change, went back to 200. hmmm).

Bus trip -- took a long time to get out of Kathmandu. So we saw quite a bit of the city in the early morning light. On the way we stopped for breakfast and lunch.

Lunch with Podhar (if I'm not mauling the name). He was returning to Pokhara from working in England. Has brothers and sisters in Pokhara (not a big city) and his parents live "up in the hills". Their farm was washed out in a mudslide -- all of the cultivating is done on terraced sides of the hills (or mountains). He offered to take us up to the farm, but it would take a couple of days to travel and we weren't going to be in Pokhara that long.

We continued until 2:30pm on the bus. As for the local stops, Matan's new philosophy: I used to hope there would be toilet paper, now I wonder if there will be a toilet...

Lots of almost dry riverbeds with huge bridges over small rivers. Some of it is seasonal, some is climate change. Pictures didn't seem to come out. Not sure why. We did see kayaking and river rafting in some of the bigger river areas.

Heading west, away from the Mt Everest mountain area, but near to the Anapurna range. That's approximately a 20 day trek, with Pokhara one of the main starting places. So there are lots of stores with trekking gear and folks getting ready to go or returning. Day or week treks were leaving all the time. We walked from the bus drop off place towards the lake front since we kind of knew that's where our hotel was located. We stopped and asked questions and changed more money. Matan wanted to know mostly about renting a motorcyle... less than $10 a day, not many questions asked!
Our hotel:

First we tried to rent a motorcycle, and the hotel called someone and he brought it over. The owner and Matan went out for a spin and to fill up the gas, but it was a big bike and had manual gears, so the owner said he was reluctant to rent it to Matan. That was ok with me, and we decided to postpone that project until the next day. We also postponed the dawn visit to the lookout points until Sunday, even if it was going to be cutting it close with our 7:30am bus ride back to Kathmandu.

We had dinner up on the patio, and, well, didn't go out for the evening. What tired folks we were! Lots of reading which I dearly love on vacations.

In the morning I did wake up for the sunrise and went up to the patio to wait. What I could see before the sun rose was the neighborhood just under the hotel. People obviously didn't have electricity, they came out with flashlights to the outhouses, they started fires in the backyards for cooking. Kids got dressed to go to school. (This picture is better if you click to enlarge it).

After breakfast I went out and walked around. I found a motorcycle rental place around the corner and talked to the owner about having someone give Matan a quick lesson before he went out on his own. We agreed on a price (less than $10 for lesson and 2 hours) and I went back to tell Matan. He was ready!

I was pretty nervous, but sometimes I just have to let go a bit. Walked to the lake. Talked to women who were selling handicrafts from Tibet. Couldn't afford anything they had to sell anyway. They were pretty aggressive and just didn't seem to believe that, no, I don't have that kind of money. Eventually I shook them. It's an awkward feeling, but it was also really hard just to walk along the lake without a crowd. I walked in each direction - found the Chabad house, found bookstores, found lots of Hebrew! - even menus and letters of recommendation!

Later I just waited in a coffee shop and Matan eventually came back from the hills. We went to lunch and I wanted details!!

More great food, easy going Norah Jones music, and he told me about his adventures. He didn't get too lost, didn't have a cell phone (at least not with a SIM that worked in Nepal) but the owner gave him his card so if he had any problems, someone would have helped him call in. All in all, he was happy. I thought I was going to rent a motorcycle, too, but in the end, I decided that I would rather not. oh well.

The day was clear and the mountains visible (the dawn had been cloudy, so I was really glad I didn't do the trek up to the observation point that day).

We hung out, read, walked, and eventually went out for supper. This time it was Italian with music from the 80s. Lots of older tourist trekkers (ok, my age), not only the post-army kids from Israel!

The next morning I did go up to the observation point. The car stalled about four times on the way up (it's 40 years old, they said)

but I had a clear sky to see the mountain peaks.

We had to hurry to get to the bus and back to Kathmandu. Another beautiful day. Lunch -- lots of rice -- what more could Matan want?!

Long time getting into the city, but by about 3pm we were at our hotel. It was amazing. Just lovely. If we ever want to go deluxe, it would be $18/night instead of $14, and then there's a bathtub and balconey, too! The downstairs area was welcoming and folks sat around -- sofas and guitars, some computers (and wireless for those who were carrying laptops -- which we were not!), a beautiful garden with a hammock.

We went out to the most famous pizza place in Kathmandu (though our hotel clerk said maybe we wanted Pizza Hut -- it had just opened that week. we said no!). Fire and Ice. We played chess and enjoyed the food.

Found out there was no exit tax to be paid (there is, but now it's included in the price of the airfare), so we had a bit of money to spend. The credit card may have given me a bit of security, but it was not useful when it came down to buying say, good walking boots for Matan. oh well. we managed on the cash reserves, just so folks aren't expecting a lot of presents!

Flight back was uneventful. We'd brought another pizza with us for the airport... it's kind of odd to know a few people on the flights, like Matan's school principal or one of the high school seniors traveling on his own to see someone in Nepal. I'd sure like to spend a few weeks there the next time!


  1. Wow! Sorry I missed this at Thanksgiving. My new son-in-law is from Pokhara! My daughter met him there (if you've read my blog I'm referring to Woman Warrior) traveling there after she left Korea a couple of years ago.

    Sounds like you had a great time.

  2. A great adventure! I enjoyed reading about it. thanks.

  3. I'm grateful for the fine pics of your travels in Nepal, since I don't expect to get there myself in this lifetime.
    Matan seems to have the same anti-smile mindset that I have whenever a camera appears to be aimed at me.
    Must admit the mountains are awesome!