It's just about 24 hours since I landed in Nepal and it already feels like am in a different world. On first impressions, Kathmandu seemed like any other big town trying to cope with the influx of tourists. Garbage, traffic, drunken driving, political unrest (not right now but sometime back) and am sure more of such things. But it felt like home! The first sight of the Tribhuvan International Airport and the Buddha in this deep meditative state felt like this is a place I should have been to already. The people were friendly, there was controlled chaos everywhere and there's a separate queue for Indians and Nepalis. Yes, for once we seemed to be on the privileged side! But Kathmandu was hot! Landing from Bangalore, one wondered if the pilot flew to some south Indian town by mistake - it was so humid and sultry! The day only got hotter as we moved closer to the Annapurna Mountain range as we set off without any delay to Pokhara. Though our original plan was to stop at Manakamna and get the darshan of the Devi (there's a thrilling wench ride up the mountain), the logical question of what to do with our luggage forced us to come directly to Pokhara as we wouldn't be allowed to hoist them up the hill.
Pokhara is the gateway to some of the finest treks in this region and everyone in Nepal seemed to think it's an awesome place - right from our hotel manager to the cab driver at Kathmandu. So with a lot of excitement and anticipation of a smooth 6 hour drive, we settled in our high end 'fully A/c, with WiFi" mini luxury bus. In fact, WiFi and ATM seems to be ubiquitous as we discovered driving out of the town. Every bus to Pokhara promised this 'ultimate luxury' and there is an ATM every 200 feet or so! Though the former petered out once we moved out of Kathmandu and lost the signal! So much for the hyped up marketing!! And as for the smooth ride, I was forced to lull myself to a brief sleep to stop feeling every small stone that came under our bus as our bus driver hurled out of Kathmandu as if the very devil is behind his back! I wonder how I anyways manage to attract such sort of people who are always in a hurry to get things done (hehehe, if you ask the husband he will day am one too :p).
Soon, the sights of the city gave way to mountains covered in lush green forests, mist and cloud. Every turn of the road revealed another beautiful scenery that seemed like a page straight out of a book on mountain paradises. But one must admit that it does get tired quickly if one tries to win the title of 'the best photographer in an roller coaster'. A slight nagging headache developed and yours truly had to stuff the phone and camera inside and throw open all windows in sight to deal with the increasing temperatures (ya, the A/C seems to have vanished with the WiFi too!!). I wondered vaguely if I am already experiencing the first signs of altitude sickness thanks to the million hours I spent reading up on how to deal with it. I dismissed the thought as quickly as I got it as the altitude gain was way too insignificant to trigger any sickness let alone the big A!
An hour or two into the trip, past the traffic hold ups outside Kathmandu and past the crazy bends and turns in the hills, I woke up as the bus came to a jarring halt for a five minute nature break. Since nature didn't seem to be in a hurry to take a break, I took the opportunity to taste the 'local cuisine' remembering the hubby's wise old world to 'experience the culture'! Soaked and fried Chickpeas with fried potatoes with an optional topping of Pakodas (which I have the pass as it looked highly suspect). I never knew that Chickpeas could be so tasty or that Potatoes and they can go well together. With a mental note to try it on hubby back home, I quickly polished it off as our 'devil-might-catch-my-bum' driver started honking like there's no tomorrow!
From then on, I was hooked to the window as I decided I must somehow try to win that title I mentioned as the sights were too good to behold. Big mighty mountains, lush green fields, clear blue skies and a vivid setting in your mobile camera makes for awesome clicks that one can post proudly on Facebook. So since one can, I must hmm?
Little did I know that this was a small treat indeed compared to what was in store for me as the bus drew to a halt for a '25 minutes' breakfast (never mind that I gobbled up those Chickpeas thinking that was my breakfast). The mighty Kali Gandaki river (I think) revealed herself in all her glory in a site that is created just for a resort (but which is right now just a breakfast shackle). She flowed fast and furious down below while one could sit serenely for a slow breakfast and endless chitchat high up on the hill side. Alas, 25 minutes is barely enough to soak all that beauty in. A few quick clicks later, we got back on our way to Pokhara.
To be continued....
Meanwhile, here are some pictures that in noway do justice to the beauty I witnessed today. As we say in Tamil, "Parka erandu kangal poradadi" (two eyes aren't enough to see this magnificence).
Note: All pictures are from my humble mobile camera and most are captured from a moving bus :D