Nestled in the heart of the Himalayas on the banks of Phewa Tal (Lake Phewa) is the relaxing city of Pokhara. Located 200km from Kathmandu, Pokhara is a laid-back destination with a population of around 300,000 people. Despite the sizeable population, the city feels more like a town and it’s a great place to rest your feet and muscles after a long trek.
I had been trekking the Annapurna Circuit for 15 days with my cousin Stephen. A few days prior we had crossed the Thorong La Pass at an elevation of 5416m (17,769 feet) and descended to Tatopani (1160m) when Stephen had no option but to throw in the towel with bloody, blistered, and swollen feet. Stephen had struggled with his feet from day one of the trek and so had done well to last the 15 days that he’d managed.
We stayed in Tatopani that night and in the morning I bid him farewell as he waved from the window of an over-crowded, top-heavy, Pokhara-bound bus with an anxious look on his face. These Nepali buses were rugged workhorses equipped with heavy-duty suspension for the rough, single-track, dirt roads that cut through the mountains. Stephen knew that a percentage of these buses ‘bit the dust’ every year as they toppled and rolled down the mountain tracks into – more often than not, raging torrents of glacial melt-water, and certain death – for sure, for many aboard.
After watching the bus disappear from view as it trundled and bounced along the track, I continued on – ascending back up to an elevation of 3210m where Ghorepani, and the popular viewpoint of Poon Hill was located. I ascended over 2000+m that day and I was f#cked by the time I got there. I spent the night in a Ghorepani guesthouse run by a weird-looking ‘strange yin’ with googly eyes and a funny walk.
After yet another restless sleep in the thin air, the next day I awoke early at 3.30am to head for Poon Hill in the dark to watch the sunrise over the Annapurna Massif and Machapuchare (Fishtail mountain). Poon Hill was heaving with people by the time the sun started to come up. I wondered where they had all come from? Ghorepani didn’t look big enough to cope with this amount of people – hundreds, but on reflection, my guesthouse had been packed and Ghorepani was made up mainly of guesthouses that must have been full too.
The sunrise views of the majestic Annapurna mountain range from Poon Hill were stunning – I don’t think I’ve ever seen nature as being so beautiful as I saw it that morning. I stood open-mouthed and overawed and snapped a few pictures before heading back down to Ghorepani and my guesthouse to get loaded up for the descent down to Nayapul – a full day’s walk away, where I would catch a taxi to Pokhara.
The tourist area of Pokhara is down by the lakeside where an abundance of value for money guesthouses and hotels are located. I headed for the guesthouse – the Mount Kailash Resort – that Stephen and I had stayed at before starting the trek and found him sunbathing by the pool well-rested and in good spirits. After dumping my bags in my room and freshening up a bit, we headed for a restaurant and a well-deserved, hearty, European meal.
The main drag in the tourist area of Pokhara is made up of a variety of restaurants (food from around the globe), bars, mountain-gear shops, and internet cafes (with a few pharmacies, grocery stores, and tour companies thrown in). On a clear day the snow-capped mountains – Machapuchare in particular, pose majestically behind Pokhara like a painting.
With no guide or porters, I had completed the trek without trouble. No boot/feet or backpack problems had hindered my progress throughout the trek. Stephen, on the other hand, had made the classic mistake of buying ill-fitting boots that hadn’t been ‘walked in’ properly and a poor-quality backpack that had begun to fall apart a few days into the trek.
‘Howz your feet big yin?’ Stephen asked, in between forkfulls of tagliatelle.
‘Fine,’ I replied. I had trekked the Annapurna Circuit in a well-worn pair of Karrimor boots that had cost me £25 back in Scotland.
‘Fine!’ he repeated: ‘in those old clumpers?’
I glanced down at my old Karrimors – they looked a bit bruised and broken but they had done the job a damn sight better than Stephen’s new £150 boots; I looked back up at him: ‘ comfortable clumpers ma man. Twenty-five bangers and not a blister in sight…’
Note: a pair of well-worn, ‘walked in’ boots are a must when trekking – don’t make the same mistake as Stephen and opt for expensive new boots over a pair of old clumpers
After our meal we went for an evening stroll along the lakeside shore. Lake Phewa is a freshwater lake and the second largest lake in Nepal. Traditional Nepali rowing boats bobbed on the surface of the water like colourful decorations. Further out in the middle of the lake was Tal Barahi Temple, accessible only by boat, and on a lush, green hilltop on the opposite side of the lake sat the ‘Shanti Stupa’ or ‘World Peace Pagoda’, lingering threads of light reached across the sky above it from the sun that had just slipped behind the mountain.
We kicked back in Pokhara for a few days, partly to recharge our batteries, and partly to delay returning to the pollution and chaos of Kathmandu too early, from where we would be catching our return flight home.
Pokhara is a great place to head for if you plan on trekking the ‘Annapurna Circuit‘, the ‘Annapurna Base Camp trek’, or the ‘Poon Hill/Ghorepani trek’.
- On average the Annapurna Circuit takes between 15 to 20 days to complete if you start from Besi Sahar and end at Nayapul.
- The Annapurna Base Camp trek (ABC) can usually be completed in around 8 to 10 days.
- And the Poon Hill/Ghorepani trek in 4 to 5 days.
Other popular activities that are on offer in and around Pokhara are:
- Bungy Jumping
- White-water rafting
- Buddhist Meditation Classes
for Pokhara Hotels see here
for Annapurna Circuit Post click here
‘In the end, we only regret the chances we didn’t take.’
Copyright © 2017 Raymond Carroll