The sunset had painted Fishtail softly pink and I was already missing the mountains. For the first time in Nepal we woke up late, had a good breakfast and went visiting the city. Some of us had booked a paraglider fly, others went kayaking on the Phewa Lake, the main group opted for a classic trip, once again led by our guide Ram Bir.
Pokhara "is the second largest city of Nepal" and "the most expensive" one! It's "200 km west of Kathmandu", and lower, only 800 m while the capital is 1.300, but "in this region the mountains rise very quickly, and within 30 kilometres (19 miles), the elevation rises from 1.000 to 7.500 m." It "lies on an important old trading route between China and India. In the 17th century it was part of the Kingdom of Kaski which was one of the Chaubise Rajya (24 Kingdoms of Nepal) ruled by a branch of the Shah Dynasty".
Its history is long and rich but "until the end of the 1960s the town was only accessible on foot and it was considered even more a mystical place than Kathmandu. The first road was completed in 1968 (Siddhartha Highway) after which tourism set in and the city grew rapidly. The area along the Phewa lake, called Lake Side, has developed into one of the major tourism hubs of Nepal."
Indead, Pokhra is now a confortable touristic place, with a main street dedicated to souvenirs shopping and international food, several leisure activities, a few ancient temples to visit, a viewpoint and some museums. It's a nice place to rest, but you wouldn't go there on purpose. Once there though you are confronted with one of the most impressive lanscape of Nepal: the Himalyas mountains reflected in Phewa Lake dotted of coloured boats.
So that morning we crossed the lake on a boat, climbed to the World Peace Pagoda view point, took the booy again and went visiting the Tal Barahi Temple on the island in the middle of Phewa Lake. It was an intense experience, because the view is really stunning - including also my beloved Manaslu! - and the holy places are lively, crowded of people performing their worship rituals, not just museums or ruins.
We had lunch in a restaurant called "Moondance" that I warmly recommand: the atmosphere is great and the food absolutely special. You can eat Nepali dishes but also very good international food, delicious cakes and... a proper Italian espresso!
In the afternoon we visited the International Mountain Museum (IMM), opened in 2004 in the Ratopahiro area, not far from Pokhara airport. Located in a modern building in the middle of a park, the museum includes different sections, dedicated to the mountain by different point of view: ethnographic, geographic, historical. Equipments from the mountaneering expeditions to the 8.000 are displayed, as well as the traditional clothing for the different groups living in Nepal, and I felt blessed as I could watch that last section together with Ram Bir, explaining me about the daily life and material culture of his people, the Rai.
When we came back to Lakeside, I bought a Nepali dress because my clothes were all absolutely dirty. And also because in Nepal I was feeling at home, not a foreigner. And that's strange for me, as I have no strong roots anywhere, no home that I call 'my home', 'my country' or 'my people'. But in Nepal I feel I could settle.
That night we were supposed to had dinner with Pompili at the "Himalaya Steak House"... but I went back to the "Moondance" with another one from my group: we didn't feel like to eat again bad meat in that shabby place. Instead we had one of the best dinner ever, and a good conversation.
That day in Pokhara had been bittersweet: I had loved it, but it made me sad that Lalit wasn't there to share it with us.
..........MORE TO COME............