Nepal – Pokhara the Lake Region

IMG_5625Phewa Lake in the Pokhara Valley

Pokhara means “valley of lakes.”  In this region, there are 7 popular lakes.  We stayed next to Phewa (pronounced fee-wa) Lake, the largest lake in the Pokhara Valley and the second largest lake in Nepal.

I love the Pokhara region!  Before, in Kathmandu and Chitwan, I just wasn’t enamored with Nepal.  I felt badly….I mean, here I was in this unique country with such beautiful people but I kept saying to David that I wasn’t having my “a-ha moment. ”  It finally happened in Pokhara but not upon our immediate arrival.  It wasn’t until the following day, when we were hiking the foothills of the Annapurna Mountains that I experienced my “a-ha moment.”

In Pokhara, we stayed at Adam’s Hotel which is in the heart of downtown Lakeside, a very touristy town that has sprung up to accommodate the needs of the trekkers and tourist.  I really liked Lakeside!  Yes, it was extremely touristy but there were tourist from all over the world and such a variety! A fun and interesting way to while away the time was to get a cup of coffee at a cafe and watch the assortment of people go by.

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Downtown Lakeside

Adam’s Hotel had a rooftop terrace where breakfast was served mornings, weather permitting.  One night, David and I made our way up to the rooftop to see if we could see the stars.  In the distance, there was a band playing “Stand By Me.”  Now, whenever I hear that song, I will be swept away to the rooftop of Adam’s Hotel waltzing (a rare, rare event) with my hubby under the stars.

A short walk from the main street is Phewa Lake that had a walkway along it.  This was a prime spot for the locals to stroll at night.  Restaurants, bars and cafes lined the lake and some offered live entertainment during “happy hour.”

We went to Mike’s Restaurant for a late lunch the day we arrived. It was in the guide book and such a lovely location overlooking the lake.  The tables were outside and under some trees.  The menu offered a variety of cuisines from Indian, Italian, Burgers and fries and Mexican.  I was in the mood for Mexican!  I didn’t think it through, though!  I ordered a bean burrito that came with fresh lettuce and tomatoes.  Uh-oh!!!  What was I thinking?  I had been so very, very careful not to eat any raw vegetables.  I just said a prayer and ate it.  Thank goodness, they evidently followed good food hygiene in the kitchen because I didn’t get sick.  David had a grilled veggie burrito that he said was very good.  IMG_5282

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Our view while we ate lunch.  Unfortunately, we didn’t have the best weather and I honestly thought it was going to rain any minute.  Thankfully, that didn’t happen.

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We had a guest while we ate lunch.  This photo shows you some of the restaurant tables, the walkway along the lake shore and one of the many cows that wander through the town.  Cows are sacred animals in the Hindu religion.  It is a good thing except no one really takes care of them.  We saw some cows in our travels that looked very weak, lying on the side of the road.  Other cows, were going through the garbage along this path.  If they are sacred, then they should be taken care of.  Probably easier said than done when it is a challenge for a person to survive.

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Close by the restaurant, there was much activity.  The man squatting was fishing….probably for the families’ meal that night.  The women in the center, walking on the boats, had just returned from shopping.  (Notice the large sack the woman was carrying on her back.)  This was a common site in our travels.  In the background, the woman leaning out of the boat was washing clothes.

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Once their items were settled in the boat, they took off across the lake for the opposite shore.

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Once on the opposite side, they would have to carry their purchases up the hillside to their home.  The women of Nepal work very hard.  That side of the lake does not have roads but trails to homes and at the top, the World Peace Pagoda.  It is a nice place to enjoy nature and get away from the chaos of Lakeside.

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Washing clothes.

After lunch, we took a walk along the shoreline of Phewa Lake.

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This man was repairing boats or “doongas” on the shore, not far from the restaurant.

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Walking along the lake path.

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There are plenty of restaurants, bars and cafes!

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A pier and place to rent boats to take out on the lake.  In the center of the lake, is an island that houses Pokhara’s most famous Hindu temple – Varahi Mandir.

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I have a “thing” for taking pictures of boats!  Someday, I should just post a blog of the boat pictures I have taken around the world!

When the weather is clear, you can see the World Peace Pagoda.  It is on the opposite side of the lake and on the hilltop.  We got a glimpse of it the one day that we had sunshine while in Pokhara!

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World Peace Pagoda(Stupa), Pokhara, Nepal

This World Peace Pagoda was built by the Buddhist monks from the Japanese Nipponzan Myohoji organization.  It is the same organization who constructed the Peace Pagoda in London’s Battersea Park that I used to see from my apartment window when I lived in London in 2014.  This organization has built these stupas around the world to give people of all races and religions a place to unite and focus for world peace.  As of 2000, 80 of these peace monuments have been built.  In my future travels, I will keep an eye out for these peace pagodas to visit.

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The Peace Pagoda in London’s Battersea Park built by the Buddhist monks of the Japanese Nipponzan Myohoji organization.

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This was our only glimpse of part of the Annapurna Mountain Range.  I saw a postcards that showed the mountain range framing the lake.  We were not so lucky with the weather.  The rest of our time in Pokhara, it was overcast and the clouds covered the mountains.  It was something that we were aware of traveling to Nepal in the month of March.  The best time to have optimal viewing of the mountains is October and November.

Our Overnight Hike to the Australian Camp in the Annapurna Foothills

This is where I finally had my “Oh My Gosh” moment!  It has been awhile since David and I have done some serious hiking.  We wanted to do some trekking in Nepal, something that we could enjoy and not be too demanding.   We read that the Australian Camp hike was for all skill levels and felt confident that it would be a good way to enjoy the beauty that Nepal had to offer.

Fortunately, it was just about the only clear day that we had the whole time in Nepal.  Before reaching the trailhead, our guide, Rams showed us the “Sleeping Buddha.”

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To the left, is his forehead, then the peak for his nose.  Following along, you see his round tummy.  Can you see him?

We began our hike at the town of Kanda at 1700 meters (5,577 ft).  The Australian Camp is at 2,140 meters (7,020 ft).  Annapurna means Goddess of Plenty or as Ram told us, “Anna” means grain and “puna” means bunch so “bunch of grain.”

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This building was at the trailhead.  At the top is an apiary.

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Some of the bees were kept in a box, that we are more familiar with and to the left, is a log that is hollowed out for the honeybees to make their beehive.

This is some of the different parts of the trail that we hiked on.

March is a wonderful time to see spring flowers in Nepal.  You could say it was our trade-off for not having clear weather to see the mountains.  There were rhododendron trees all along the trail.  Just gorgeous!

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We never quit knew who we would meet on the trail!

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A water buffalo…..

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Who needs a gym membership?

As we met the children who lived along the trail, I handed out stickers.  They were so darn cute!!!!IMG_5320IMG_5340

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These buildings were the school….we reached them after about an hour and a half of hiking.

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This was close to our destination and not the clearest photo (my apologies).  I couldn’t believe it….at the top of the mountain was a home with of all things….a satellite dish!  Ram, our guide, said that electric company’s meter reader would make the hike monthly to read the electric meter for the billing.  Oh my gosh!!!

The ultimate reward and my real “oh my gosh” moment was seeing the peaks of the Annapurna Mountain Range at the Australian Camp!!!

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This is Machapuchare or Fishtail.  The locals have great respect for this mountain and it is considered the home to the god Shiva.  In order to keep him happy, no one is allowed to climb it.

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You can sort of see in this photo that the peak is the shape of a fishtail which is the reason for the name.  It stands at 6,993 m (22,943 ft).

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Trekkers can either stay in one of the many tea houses along the trail or you can camp along the way.  This tea house was called Guran (translated means rhododendron).  There are dorm style rooms with shared bathroom or, if you are lucky like we were, we had our own room with a private bathroom.  I felt like we were staying at the Ritz because we had our own bathroom! The building, on the hill, was where we stayed – second room from the right.

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It wasn’t elaborate but it was clean…and did I mention that we had our own bathroom???  🙂

Tea Houses at Australian Camp

This was looking from our room, looking onto another teahouse.  There were three teahouses in this immediate area and if you look closely past this establishment, you can see some of the tents that were available for hikers to rent.

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This cute little guy was just a puppy, with sharp puppy teeth!!!  He was one of the teahouse worker’s pet.  He loved running and chasing when he was allowed off the leash!

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Yes, my little grasshopper, you may come along for the ride!

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This is how they store corn to keep it away from rodents.

After enjoying the mountains and checking into our room, we walked about another twenty minutes to another teahouse for lunch.  We had a filling meal while enjoying the view.

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Our lunch view….doesn’t get much better than this!

We only had about an hour to see the mountain range before the clouds moved in.  Rams said that he hoped the clouds would clear out and then we would have a gorgeous view of the mountains.  He told us that as the sun rose, the mountain range would glow pink….I couldn’t wait to see it.  Wake up was 6:30…I hopped out of bed, grabbed my camera to see the mountains in all their glory……

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We weren’t lucky at all…the clouds were still there, even though it had poured the night before!  Usually the rain clears the air….not this time!! Darn, darn, darn!!

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Sunrise!

Sunrise behind us, we sat down to breakfast and it was the best!!!  I had actually had it for dinner the night before and we both liked it so much, we ordered it for breakfast. Talk about “comfort food!”

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Rosti is a peasant’s dish from Switzerland.  It is a thick, mashed potato pancake flavored with onion and parsley and fried in an pan seasoned with oil. It has some grated cheese spread over it and is topped with a fried egg.  This was served with fried Tibetan bread.  Oh my gosh!!!  David and I said this is the perfect food for a day that a good ol’ Maine nor’easter that dumps tons of snow and everyone stays in and enjoys warm, filling comfort food!  It is something that I think I could actually cook!!!

After breakfast, we started our hike down the mountainside.  It is much easier hiking up than down a mountain…..IMG_5367

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There was a variety of terrain.

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Plenty of stairs….I cannot begin to imagine the amount of work and time that went into building these paths.

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This was a small temple we passed along the way…

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Offerings that were made.

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Nature at its best.

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Along the way, we would pass through small communities of homes….IMG_5403

People were busy with daily chores….

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This husband and wife working together to get the field planted. (I asked permission to take their photo.)

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Not exactly certain but I think this woman might be pulling greens to feed the livestock. I saw many woman throughout our travels carrying large baskets full of vegetation and was told that it was to feed the animals.

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Taking the cows to greener pastures!

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This is Katie from Munich, Germany.  We met her at Chitwan Jungle.  She stayed in the room next  to ours a the Parkland Hotel and was in our group for our tours of the jungle.  We left the jungle the same day for Pokhara.  She had booked a tour and was traveling by bus.  We had exchanged texts in Pokhara but weren’t able to connect before heading out on our hike.  Lo and behold, as we are hiking down the mountain, I saw a person in the distance frantically waving.  I couldn’t see who it was because they were so far away….it was Katie!  She saw my bright pink hat and just knew it was us.  She was on her way up…so much fun seeing her again!

More pretty spring flowers….amaryllis.

Always there were children to greet us and give stickers to…..

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Sisters and…..

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there mom and baby brother!  The red dot in the center of the mom’s forehead has a texture to it.  This shows that she is married.

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Do you think the young girl in the center is thinking, “This silly American gave us some stickers and stuck this happy face on my forehead and then had the audacity to ask to take our picture!!!  Really???”

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Brotherly love!

and for my parting shot…..

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These children wanted chocolate!  I really don’t like giving children anything but the precedent has more than likely been established long before I arrive.  For that reason, I carry non-edible items with me that I can hand out to them.

Sights around Pokhara

The day after our return from the Australian Camp hike, Ram took us on a tour of Pokhara.  Our first stop was in the the Old Town of Pokhara.  There are a few of the Newari (Nepal’s earliest people) house made of brick and elaborate wood carvings still standing.IMG_5430

Bindabasini Temple

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This temple, dedicated to the goddess of Durga, sits high on a hill.  Durga is the warrior goddess who combats evil forces who threaten good and prosperity.  She is the guardian goddess for Pokhara.  She is depicted as a fearless woman, with many arms carrying different weapons and rides a tiger or lion.

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This temple was built in the 17th century and has since become a center for worship on a daily basis.  I read that animal sacrifices were made on Tuesdays and Saturdays.  Gratefully, we were not there on those days….OMGosh!!!  I would not ever want to see an animal sacrifice!

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I am wondering if this might represent Durga’s Lion that she rides, as it is covered with red powder for offerings.

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There were a couple of other temples on the hilltop.  This one is to the God Shiva, the god of destruction and rejuvenation.  His symbols of the trident and his drum are standing in front of this temple.  As well as, Nandi, Shiva’s bull.

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At the base of the hill, where the temples are located, is a beautiful garden.

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The gate to the garden entrance.

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The garden full of flowers.

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A white poinsettia plant.

Seti River Gorge

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This is looking down a deep gorge that the Seti River has carved in the center of Pokhara.   The white water is from the limestone and different minerals found in the earth.  The river originates from a glacier in the Annapurna Mountains.

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This is looking down onto the canal that has been built to create power from the flow of the water.  It is believed that if you wash in this water at least once in your lifetime, you will wash away your sins.  There are buckets at the end of the canal that you can gather water to do so.

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