I took a very early morning bus from Kathmandu to Pokhara.
It was an incredibly long journey which took over 7 hours mainly due to the traffic, lots of unnecessary toilet breaks and steep, windy roads but fortunately I met a nice girl from New Zealand, whose first name was Hayley, sat next to me who was also travelling a little around Asia – with her final destination being London to work, her first trip to Europe. We chatted for most of the journey which helped to pass the time. I also spent a bit of time with her in Pokhara which eventually resulted in me jumping off a cliff – more on that later. It was great to meet another traveller and already have a connection to hang out with in Pokhara.
When I arrived in Pokhara, checked into my hotel and took a walk around the town I almost instantly fell in love with the place. Centred by a stunning lake and surrounded by hills, the place was very scenic and had a great laid back vibe with one long street full of restaurants, bars and many trekking shops. It was such a chilled out refreshing change of pace compared to the utter chaos – or should I say carnage – of Kathmandu.
As usual in Nepal, however, my hotel had no operating WIFI in my room and I had to sit in the reception to clock onto the internet on my phone. Grrrr.
Anyway, enough about my internet connection problems.
After I settled into my hotel, I arranged to meet Hayley for a couple of drinks. I went to get something to eat then met in a bar in town called the Busy Bee. We ended up having a few drinks and sharing a Shisha pipe. After only 3 or 4 bottles, I felt a little tipsy – the bottles are very large here and quite strong at 5.5%. Neither of us wanted a bad hangover so we headed home fairly early. I had clocked a KFC earlier in the day and the vision of it had never quite left my head all night so I headed there very excited for a second dinner but unfortunately it was closed at only 11.00PM………..I do not have the words to describe the bitter disappointment I felt at this incredible injustice.
The next morning, I received a message from Hayley saying that she was having breakfast in a place called the “You and I” café. After searching for the place for nearly an hour, I was surprised to find she was still there when I arrived. I ordered my breakfast and after another hour of waiting, it finally arrived. As usual in Asia, the sausages were pretty grim but the rest of the meal was really nice and the coffee was fantastic. I head heard that Nepal had good coffee. There was an unusual, run down looking theme park outside the café and nice views of the lake.
Now to the part about jumping off a cliff………
Feeling slightly fragile from the few beers I had enjoyed the night before, I was under the impression that I was just coming out for a nice bit of relaxing breakfast and a refreshing brew before heading back to my hotel to recover from the remnants of my hangover, however, Hayley had other ideas. As we walked back to our hotels, she took an unexpected stop at a Paragliding shop where I thought she might be booking in advance for the next day so I was surprised that after she had finished her enquiries on the prices etc she said “Can I do it now?” and the lady replied “Yes, in 20 minutes”. Never one to turn down an adventure or new experience (despite an alcohol induced headache), I agreed although I was probably more nervous then she was and not that good at hiding it either.
After a rather bumpy and highly uncomfortable drive up a large hill to Sangrakot, we arrived at the paragliding spot where I was harnessed and strapped to a man, the parachute rigged on our backs and after a bit of a safety briefing which I didn’t really understand due to his strong Nepali accent, I was literally told to run and jump off a cliff. I looked at him as if he was bat crazy, he assured me it was safe and so after a few deep breaths I ran and took the leap not seeing many other options by this point.
The first few minutes of the ride were a bit scary – or should I say terrifying – and I was literally holding on to the straps for dear life with my knuckles becoming whiter by the second, especially whenever he turned but after that I relaxed into it and really enjoyed the experience and the views from above Pokhara. He even did a few tricks at the end, turning in steep circles.
Unfortunately, the paragliding shop is a bit old school and I only received a DVD with the video and photos of my own paragliding experience. My modern laptop does not even seem to have a DVD player so I am unable to load any photos of my experience for now but I have included a photo of Hayley coming in to land after me.
Later that day, I took a walk round the town which was fast becoming one of the top 5 towns I had visited on my travels. It reminded me a little of Queenstown in New Zealand.
The next day, Hayley, having already impressively completed the very challenging Everest Base Camp Trek only a week before, had left on a short 4 day trek to Poon Hill which was not the one I was planning to do. I was a little stuck for what to do next as I still hadn’t met any other people who wanted to do the Annapurna Base Camp Trek yet but there was a really nice Nepal bloke at my hotel reception who put me in touch with a guide he knew. I met the guide the next morning and he seemed to be a good, trustworthy option so I decided go with him and that was that. I was all booked up to go on the trek the very next morning, leaving at 7.30AM.
I still hadn’t done any shopping for my trekking gear yet so I had a rather unpleasant day (I hate shopping!) rushing around the town, bartering and purchasing everything I need which included – a comfortable backpack to take on the walk, 2 pairs of hiking socks, trekking poles to save the knees, sleeping bag (gets cold near the base camp!), warm jacket, light rain jacket, hat, gloves, batteries for torch, a 1.5 litre water bottle, water purification tablets, medicines such as paracetamol, ibuprofen and altitude sickness tablets just in case, a new pair of sunglasses (the rather expensive previous pair I brought in Indonesia definitely didn’t have UV protection and it was finally time to admit that to myself), a pair of warm hiking trousers and a new book. All in all, the above probably cost me less then $100 so it was very cost efficient buying the stuff in Nepal.
The trek I had planned was a 10 day trek to Annapurna Base camp, with a slight detour going the scenic route via Poon Hill. Annapurna base camp is surrounded by a group of mountains in the Himalayas, one of which (Annapurna Main 1) is over 8,000 metres, the 10th highest in the world and one of the most dangerous to climb in terms of fatalities, or so my guide told me anyway. Fortunately, I wasn’t climbing the actual mountain – just going to base camp to have a look which was enough of a challenge for me. The trek would take me right into the frozen heart of this mountain group.
That evening, I felt excited but also daunted. I was about to go out and walk for 5 – 7 hours a day, every day for 10 – 12 days. On the surface, I was very excited – so excited I found it hard to sleep – but a part of me deep inside knew this was going to be tough……….very, very tough.
Next post: My Nepal trek to Annapurna Base Camp.