At the Southern end of the lake (Phewa Tal) at Damside there is an island temple. Tai Barahi is a revered female deity and her shrine attracts many Hindu pilgrims. Oddly many guide books tell how the island is situated in the middle of the lake and describe the magical journey there by row boat. The island is actually not too far from the shore in a relatively narrow section of the lake. The shrine is in a small temple surrounded by trees and apparently the concrete around the base of island is badly cracked. Sadly the island is very slowly sinking.
Less visited is the Buddhist stupa and school at Matipari Gumba situated on a hill to the North East. It was a steep ride up but not too far and with good views to the West.
Pictured below on the left with his bike is a lad called Siddartha. His mother ran a small tea shop nearby where I had some lunch. Siddartha cycled some of the way with me before going back to school for the afternoon.
Close to the vegetable market in the old town I saw a wedding party and was invited in to see the ‘happy’ couple. I was surprised at how glum the bride looked. Her mother, however, smiled for the cameras. . I was informed later that, according to tradition, a Nepali bride was supposed to look unhappy. This one was doing a good job and looked as miserable as sin.
Further up the hill past countless jewellery shops and overlooking the Seti river is ‘Nature Park’. It is quite small but is a good resting place with seating facing towards the mountain range to the North.
The Machhapuchhre mountain (trans. Fish-Tail) at just under 7000 m high dominates the skyline. Supposedly unclimbed (prohibited by law) and considered ‘pure’ it creates a powerful sight. Often shrouded in cloud the ‘Fish Tail’ looms large over the city and quite possibly the most compelling feature of any visit to Pokhara.
Further along the Seti River is Pokhara’s Natural History Museum. It is a sad affair with a few comically stuffed animals and information boards. It is the kind of dry dusty museum which classes of schoolchildren might pass through and blissfully ignore. It does however have a superb collection of butterflies.
During the rainy season the Seti River is used for white water rafting. It curves North West and cuts deeply through the city. I followed its course and over a bridge to visit the Tibetan part of the city which I had viewed from Sarangkot. I saw quite a few Western visitors helping at the Buddhist monastery and school. One, who hailed from South London, had recently helped to create a small cafe just inside the entrance. She was sad to have to go back to England and was concerned about what would happen to the cafe. I sat sipping lemon tea and chatted with a Buddhist monk whilst students played football around us. The security guard on the gate took my bike for a little ride in front of the school. He wobbled a lot before finally getting off and walking back.
I could have stayed at the monastery and taken over the running of the cafe. I considered the possibility but decided it wise to stick with my planned itinerary. It was a good thought though.
Within the main monastery building monks were seated in rows reciting texts. The walls of the hall were finely decorated with scenes depicting scenes from the life of the Buddha.
Altogether I spent nine days in Pokhara. With a good local baker and regular trips into the old town I managed to survive quite well. I breakfasted on fresh Palpa coffee, croissants and boiled eggs. Lunch was often on the hoof and invariably at a favourite local place on Ram Krishna Tole. I took pleasure (and to the surprise of local people) in cooking my own evening meals. I met some great people at Lake Side including trekkers, volunteers and conservationists. The perennial British biker staying at the hostel, having obtained petrol for his machine, finally set off for Himachal Pradesh and before his Nepal visa expired.
There were several heavy downpours during my stay but even in the rain the lake looked beautiful. I would love to return to Pokhara with my family for a ‘proper’ holiday and do a little trekking or even eat in some the fabulous looking restaurants! The paragliding looks great too. The Annapurna range is only 30k away and would provide a real family adventure.
I gave the bike a good clean and service for the next leg of my journey. The biggest climb of my cycling career was ahead and daring me to give it a go…