Pokhara is a city of about 265,000 people nestled below the massive white peaks of the Annapurna Massif. It’s crazy though, because the city feels as if there is 100 times the amount of the population because it’s incredibly busy. The main attraction for western tourists is Phewa Lake, a beautiful man made lake on the West side of the city. Most tourists make their way to the street known as “Lakeside” and either use the street to wash up there for a while, or they are there before going trekking. Trekking is the international term used for hiking. Trekking usuaully entails carrying a pack every day while hiking through amazing scenery.
Thats why I’m here. We arrived in Pokhara on October 5th to begin preparing for our trek. We decided to take a few days to make sure we had all the details worked out, and everyone had their gear. There is a pagoda on a ridgeline above the lake outside of Pokhara. It’s called the International Peace Pagoda. It’s said that Buddha reached one of his stages of enlightenment there. We took a day to ride a canoe across Phewa lake and hike up through the jungle to reach the Pagoda. It’s a massive white stupa, which is a monument used to inspire peace. They ask for silence and that you remove your shoes. We walked around the stupa for a while, enjoyiing the views and looking at the sculptures of Buddha. Then we left to start hiking back down but we kept hearing a rythmic drumming and chanting.
We followed the drumming to a small monestary with an old buddhist monk playing a large drum and chanting his prayers for the day. We listened to him for about five minutes before some of my friends stepped inside the monestary. The monk stopped playing and coaxed them inside. They all sat on their knees in a line and the monk handed them each small drums. He then began to lead them in the rhythm while playing his drum and chanting his prayers again. They played with him for about five more minutes before he stopped and gave them candy and thanked them for joining him. I found it comical that the cliche old man move of giving kids candy hasn’t been lost to the monks.
After that we had lunch on a rooftop overlooking the Annapurna range. Part of our group walked back down to the lake to take a canoe across but my brother, his girlfriend, and I wanted to take the long way down through the city. There was a cave with a buddhist shrine that we could visit as well as a waterfall. We hiked through terraced rice paddies, buffalos and goats back down to the city. Like most Indian, and Asian cities the streets are a blur. Traffic laws are pretty much just suggestions and people don’t really listen. We walked along the busy streets and bought some Samosas, a curry filled pastry. Ryan found a tiny baby goat in the place we bought our samosas and the shop owner let him pick it up.
I had been feeling sick for a few days and we were wandering past a pharmacy and I was curious if they would have Zithromycin. It’s an old antibiotic that I would take as a kid when I got sick. I walked over and asked and he turned around, and pulled some off the shelf. I asked if he had five days worth and he pulled some pills out of the package and told me “430 rupees sir.” That’s a little less than $4.30! I was amazed, that would’ve cost a ton in the states to acquire. I would’ve needed to make an appointment before I could get a prescription and then I’d have to pay for all of that.
We went into the cave but there was a portion of the cave that was closed and we could only see one of the shrines. The entrance to the cave was a crazy spiral walkway lined with stone carvings of so many different buddhist dieties. There were even some awkward Karma Sutra carvings. We decided tos kip the waterfall and started the long walk back to lakeside for dinner.
The next day we were all ready to head into the mountains for our 25 days of trekking. That next morning we took a taxi to the bus stop and the bus trip was the first cog in the wheel of our time in the Himalayas.