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Sharon McRae
India and Nepal 1998 (with kids)

Nepal/ Pokhara


Music and Mountains

Back together again, legally in Nepal, staggering the few feet to our "hotel", one thing is strikingly different, the music. In India, one hears only Indian musicHere, as we cross the border, "Living Next Door To Alice" booms from a crackly radio. In the matter of a few feet we’ve definitely entered a different dimension. The hotel looks fine. We navigate the maze-like building to our room, and things get positively scuzzy. We do have four beds; they are however bare boards covered with sheets which look tie-dyed, they’re so dirty. The bathroom is squat type, but a new twist is that you must stand on the "toilet" to use the tap. Have you ever tried to brush your teeth while holding your breath? Considering we only have five hours until we have to board the next bus, we roll out our own sheets, and hope the rodents eat the bugs. Welcome to Nepal!

Eagerly vacating our accommodations, we wake early to yet another sunny day, our first in Nepal. Our bellies full of chai and pancakes with fresh honey, we load our gear onto an impossibly dilapidated bus. Yesterday’s ride was squishy, with three to a seat; today’s will require yoga-like contortions to survive, but at least we’ve finally left "Boner Boy" at the border.

The ride starts out wonderfully as we pass through the fertile "Terai’, the flat land at the base of the Himalayas. The seating is cramped, but I’ll not complain, because my husband Don has fared worse than I. As the kilometers pass we let on more and more people, until the bus is positively bursting at the seams. Don, the eternal gentleman keeps offering his seat to ladies with babies, the elderly and once (to Roddy’s dismay) a drunk. A man and woman boarded the bus at a small town market and the lady looked a little green, so she got Don’s aisle seat with Roddy at the window. In a matter of minutes the woman was leaned over Roddy, vomiting out the window. Roddy keeps on reading. Eventually, Roddy managed to scramble to the outside seat and the woman could continue for the next hour or so in relative comfort! The husband explained that she had indulged in "too many Kingfisher (beer) at the bazaar!" I’m certain Roddy is beginning to feel he has a knack of attracting fairly unsavory bus companions!

The bus continues to let people on, and the ever-changing variety of people is fascinating. A small boy gets on and sings a hauntingly beautiful song at the top of his lungs for a few kilometers, and leaves a few rupees richer. Women with babies strapped to their backs, people heading to market with huge baskets of produce and livestock, all dressed in vibrant hues and in possession of warm smiles…the scenery inside the bus is as interesting as the scenery outside. We wind our way into the mountains, our bus twisting and turning over impossibly precarious roads. By mid-day we begin to see the snow-capped peaks of the mighty Himalaya. Approaching Pokhara, crowds of eager young men board the bus- hotel touts. These hard-talking men try to encourage passengers to stay at their hotels, showing color photos and extolling the virtues; their manner is friendly and we strike up a conversation with Alex. Again we’ll be arriving at dark to a strange town, so the prospect of having an escort to a hotel is welcome. Sealing our "deal" with Alex, a short shower is capped by a beautiful rainbow over Machupuchare, the holy mountain, surely an omen.

We pull into the bus stop at nine o’clock, and cram ourselves into Alex’s vintage Toyota, four in the back; it’s like being back on the bus. The hotel turns out to be a gem a little more than we’d hoped to spend, but after our night at the border fleapit, we’re due for a splurge. Our room is on the roof of the hotel, with windows on three sides, a tease tonight as the mountains are hiding behind the clouds. We grab a bite at one of the town’s many great restaurants and tumble into clean beds.

I wake in the pre-dawn hours, and quietly open the curtains and grab the camera, heading outside for the sunrise. I wake the kids as the morning sun begins to reflect a pinkish orange glow off the snow-capped peaks; the spectacle of the mountains is complimented by the awe in the children’s eyes. Pokhara is nestled, lakeside, in a valley amid some of the World’s highest mountains, the Annapurnas (I, II, III, IV, and Sud) Dhaulagiri, Himalchuli, and Machhapuchhare, ranging from 6,997 to 8,167 meters high. We watch the sun glint off the fingers of snow trailing from the peaks, the ever-changing colors of the range coming out to play, a perfect backdrop for breakfast on the roof.

We have come to Nepal to end our trip and hopefully spend some time in the great outdoors, letting the kids run free after the confines of India, so we head off to make our plans. The owner of our hotel spent years as a trekking guide, and has agreed to help us plan a week’s worth of activity. We decide on a short trek of two days into the mountains, and a two-day raft trip. This means we leave tomorrow on our walk, have two days rest in Pokhara, head out on the whitewater, and then off to Kathmandu. Everything is arranged in an hour or so, we are excited about the days to come and well-rested and full of anticipation we head out to explore the town.

The small town of Pokhara is very much geared to the foreigner. Western music spills from the many shops and restaurants, menus list pizza and tacos, and every establishment has a "movie night" to help you while away the evening. The lake is calm and blue, and we spend a few moments chatting with two kids who are gathering minnows. The day is spent in glorious nothingness, wandering, writing postcards, sipping beer and playing pool...quite a change from India.

Border Crossings
Trekking the Himalaya
  Sharon McRae - Bio and Journals
  India and Nepal 1998 (with kids) - Intro Average Rating of 10 Viewers
Chapters of India and Nepal 1998 (with kids)
  And we're off...
  Into India
  To Pushkar
  The Taj, Reptiles and Cows
  Train to Varanassi
  Border Crossings
  Nepal/ Pokhara
  Trekking the Himalaya
  Whitewater Rafting
  Back to Delhi & Home( the end...alas)


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