We came to Nepal for several reasons but one of the main ones was the outdoor activities available, particularly trekking and white water rafting. There are available in a number of places but the main hub is definitely Pokhara so, bleary eyed, we boarded the early morning tourist bus to travel the 200km there. Nepali roads are notoriously terrible and accidents are common, within minutes we had passed an overturned bus which did not fill us with confidence. The journey was our first chance to experience the Nepali countryside, which is beautiful. The hills are patchworked with terraces and rivers run in deep valleys but it was all unfortunately accompanied by the inevitable litter. The bus was certainly not luxury by our standards but we would come to appreciate just how nice it was as our time in Nepal went on. The most impressive thing about Nepali bus travel is that it somehow combines driving at absolutely hair-raising speeds on incredibly dangerous roads with apparently making very little progress and moving at an average of 50km an hour. After 8 hours of winding roads, traffic jams, roadworks and one of our fellow passenger’s seat collapsing underneath him, we stepped off the bus in Pokhara. James heaved a massive sigh of relief, he is not the greatest passenger at the best of times as anyone who knows him will attest.
Pokhara operates at a much slower pace than Kathmandu, at least in the main tourist area along the edge of the lake which is dominated by trekking gear shops, souvenir shops and restaurants. The lake side is a nice spot for a wander and you can get a boat out on the lake, or across the lake to visit the World Peace Stupa. We didn’t actually get around to this because we climbed Sarangkot first and it nearly killed us, we’re writing a separate blog about the hike itself so we won’t go in to detail here. We bought a small amount of gear for our upcoming 5-day trek. It was cheap and definitely knock-off but served its purpose and did what we needed it to do, although James did end up with some interesting red staining from his new Thunder Armour t-shirt. Pokhara essentially provides disposable gear which you wear for a couple of treks and then throw away. We would advise avoiding the shoes and bringing along your own, good quality pair. We heard several stories of pairs bought in Pokhara falling apart on treks.
During most of our time in Pokhara the sky was hazy, which isn’t uncommon so visitors should be prepared for it. However, on the return trip from our trek the skies cleared and we were treated to stunning views over the Annapurna Range so we can confirm that it is a first-rate backdrop to any activity. Paragliding wasn’t on our to do list but it is a big draw in Pokhara and if you do manage to get a clear day we have no doubt that the views would be magnificent.
We were essentially using Pokhara as a launching pad for other activities so were there on three occasions over two weeks and probably spent about 4 days in total actually in the town itself, mostly recovering from whatever undertaking we had just completed and preparing for the next one. It is worth noting that most homestays/hotels will happily store your bags for you whilst you are away which makes life considerably easier.
Whilst we were keen to be as inactive as possible whilst we were in town, we did manage to get a couple of things done. You may have noticed that James’s hair had been getting crazier and crazier after nearly 7 months without a haircut. It had reached a stage where it poked out in all directions and James finally reached the end of his tether, it was time for a trim. There are a fair few barber shops in Pokhara but, naturally, we chose the one run by a cross-eyed chap who proceeded to give James a slightly interesting haircut. We happened to be in town on a Friday night and in the evening there was a parade down Lakeside. We asked one of the shop owners what the parade was for and they said that it was for closing the road. We assumed that they had misunderstood us and that the road had been closed for the parade rather than the other way around. We later learned that it was in fact in honour of closing the road; on Friday and Saturday nights the main street, Lakeside, has been pedestrianised as of whatever day it was we were there. We point this out because it makes such a difference when you are wandering around looking for dinner to not have to listen to the inevitable car horns or negotiate traffic.
We also made it in to a good number of the many restaurants in town and can recommend the following places;
- Perky Beans – we ate breakfast here on several occasions. They serve big mugs of excellent Nepali coffee and probably the best banana porridge we had in Pokhara.
- Olive café- Great for any meal. The food we had here was consistently excellent. Healthy, tasty and not always served with a smile. The wild boar thali was a particular highlight for Caro.
- Nepal Organic Café & Bakery – we stopped here on the way to our white water rafting trip as nearly everywhere else was closed. This turned out to be great luck as the breakfast was tasty and cheap. A great cheap eat.
Last but not least, the shopping. There are loads of trekking shops but there are heaps of shops selling clothes, paintings, books and souvenirs and Caro had a marvellous time building an imaginary wardrobe of Ali Baba trousers.
Pokhara is a great place for preparing and recovering from other activities but a visit to the town is also worthwhile in and of itself and we would definitely recommend that it be added to your Nepal itinerary.