Saturday, November 14, 2015

Pokhara, Nepal, Part 1: Paragliding Over Pokhara

After inhaling loads of dust particles in Kathmandu, it was time to move on! I'd planned on heading to Pokhara, this well-known, adorable city in the North that's known for being much more peaceful and relaxed.

In Kathmandu, I had met two friends in my hostel who were traveling together. Melissa and Quico are from Spain, and both are taking extended time out of the working world to go travel a bit - they've been volunteering in Calcutta, India for the past month but were taking a break in Nepal.  The three of us booked a bus together to Pokhara, which was a fun activity in itself given the fuel crisis.

What It's All About:
Pokhara is a mountainside town that borders a lake in the North of Nepal - it is where a ton of treks start, and where a lot of people go to relax, take in nature, and do a plethora of outdoor activities. After the frenetic activity that was Kathmandu, Pokhara was (literally) a fresh breath of air.

Pokhara Lake, which the city of Pokhara sits alongside

Cliffnotes of the Day:
  • Our 7AM bus to Pokhara departed right on time - but then the bus made a little detour, went to go wait in a fuel line, backed out, drove in circles - and an hour later, we were literally 2 feet from where we had departed from. Ah, Asia. We then finally got out of Kathmandu, and down a bunch of crazy winding mountain roads to Pokhara. Apparently Pokhara is only about 200km away, but the ride took us over 8 hours. No complaints here, though - we had tons of snack breaks, bathroom breaks, gorgeous mountain scenery, and I had just downloaded the new Adele song and a bunch of Spanish lesson podcasts onto my phone (Hay una farmacia cerca aqui??). 

This was the only photo I could think to take out the window of the bus - but the scenery was 100 times prettier usually. There were tons of mountains and rivers and overlooks (and the rivers were a beautiful sea green color)
  • And then we arrived in Pokhara! Which as expected, was adorable. It is definitely tourist-oriented, but the main streets were so adorable, and all the travel agencies offered a variety of super-exciting sounding activities - paragliding! trekking! safari! boating! The city also sits right next to a giant lake, framed by the mountain ranges on all sides.
I do have to say though, I showed up at my hostel and immediately saw this. What. Apparently the owner used to live in Boston - the place is covered in Boston sports teams paraphernalia (whomp) 

The main streets of Pokhara

Morning view of the mountains from the roof of my hostel

And you can barely barely see it, but in the ultra background you can faintly see a very tall, very peak-y mountain - this is one of the Annapurna peaks!  It's a super famous mountain here to hike - I am dyyyying to come back and do the 19-day Annapurna circuit trek one day.
  • The next morning, I somehow managed to sign myself to go paragliding. My hostel owner had really, really recommended it and apparently the views are ridiculous. So off I went in a tiny squishy van to the top of one of the mountains.  And it was one of the prettiest things I've ever done (albeit a little cloudy). It didn't even feel real - floating above the entire city with nothing more than a parachute above us, with my guide controlling all of it with two pulley handles (who was the first person to invent paragliding, do we think....?  Because they were clearly insane.)

Lots of paragliders in the morning haze

All the plantations from above! And my feet.

Paragliders over Pokhara Lake

Side of the mountain

Pokhara Lake from above

My guide insisted on taking some photos with my selfie stick in an effort to help me out, but watching my phone dangle precariously on the stick in heavy winds was a little nerve-wracking

At the very end, my guide randomly goes "Do you like acrobatics?" and without thinking, I answered yes because honestly, who doesn't like acrobatics? So then he proceeded to wildly swing the paraglide back and forth, and then drop it in these super intense dips over and over and over. I do not get motion sick easily, but trust me when I feared for my life slash almost vom'd everywhere
  • Overall, paragliding was ridiculous and gorgeous. And it didn't feel like real life.  
  • I met up with Melissa in the afternoon, and we explored the streets of Pokhara. Well ok, to be honest, we were trying to get to this meditation center Melissa had heard of to see if we wanted to sign up for a weekend meditation course, and we got incredibly sidetracked with shopping, drinking tea, snacks, and wandering around the lake. 

They have these makeshift swings all over Nepal for the kids - they're made out of the bark/trunk of local trees, and you literally see them everywhere - off the side of roads, in farm fields, in front of stores, etc. And there's always a child swinging on one.

Melissa and I having a romantic lakeside stroll

Pokhara Lake panorama

Fun Facts of the Day:
  • "Thank you" in Nepalese is "Dahn-eh-bahd"
  • Currently, it's a festival called Diwali in Nepal - except in Nepal, they called it Tihar.  It lasts over multiple days, and each day has a different specific celebration.
One day of Tihar celebrates all dogs - so all the street dogs had a red tika mark on their forehead, and a bunch had a wreath of holy pooja flowers. I looooooved the idea of people chasing down the street dogs to adorn them. For some reason, this was the best mental image ever.

And at night, little kids chanted, sang, and dance in front of random storefronts. Again, cutest.

1 comment:

  1. Nice to see a different side of Nepal than what I typically see in adventure magazines. The paragliding looked amazing. And love the make shift swings. Both are definitely on my list to do now!