Hello and love from the Himalayas! How are you? What’s going on there?
Pokhara is described below, so no sense being redundant here. I hope you enjoy this initial report about Nepal’s wonderful lakeside city and gateway to the world’s greatest mountain ranges. There will be much more to tell about it in the weeks to come. If you have any questions about this area, or whatever, let me know. Maybe I can find the answers.
Thanks very much for reading, and for clicking the backlinks. Be well, Tenzin
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The Road From Kathmandu To Pokhara
The road to Pokhara from Kathmandu is only one hundred and twenty five miles long but takes almost six hours to travel. After more than a solid year in the big concrete city of Kathmandu, the ride through mountainous jungle bordered by river seems like a ride through ecstasy. The road is nothing but curves! The longest straightaway of the entire trip lasts only twenty yards.
Dusty brown earth accents the lush green vegetation rising into the skies. It is more greenery than I have seen in one place since leaving Vermont a year and a half ago. Twenty foot wide shelves are carved into several of the mountains, giving a stairway-to-heaven appearance. Some of them accommodate crops. They may also help prevent landslides.
One out of every half dozen vehicles on this busy two lane highway is a truck spitting out toxic black fumes so noxious that the vehicle would be impounded, with its driver fined and likely arrested, in many countries on Earth.
Small towns and smaller villages pop out of the mountainsides every five or ten miles. As is true throughout small-town Asia, there are some very nice houses but at least as many tin shacks with no running water or plumbing. A river follows the road for most of the distance between Kathmandu and Pokhara. In places it flows well enough to accommodate rafts and kayaks. In other spots, and especially in the tributaries, exposed stone river beds let everyone know that it has been a dry winter—and monsoon season is still a ways off. Nationwide forest fires are a serious problem. Smoke sits over most of the mountains. It joins the truck fumes in making the air very unpleasant if not downright dangerous to breathe. Luckily, I coughed up a little extra money for a Jeep with AC instead of coughing up a lung.
With only an hour left in the trip, a severe thunderstorm accompanied by violent wind pops up very suddenly. It mercilessly bounces the few motorcycles off the road whose drivers aren’t smart enough to pull over immediately. Luckily, no one appears to be seriously hurt. Even the deluxe size Jeep I ride in gets blown around a bit! Visibility is at no more than a car’s length for half an hour, but this doesn’t stop the berserk drivers from continuing to pass each other on blind curves. Even near-zero visibility, explosive thunder, lightning massive enough to be in a National Geographic photo, and water flowing from the sky in thick sheets instead of drops can not slow down a Nepali driver!
The storm finally stops about a half hour outside of Pokhara. The air is more breathable and the terrain more visible. Everyone in this nation hopes that the rain has also put out some of the wildfires.
My car pulls up to the hotel where a cordial staff helps unload too much stuff and haul it all up to my room. The view from the balcony is stunning!
Yumpin’ Yimminies! Those are Mountains!?!
The hundred hotels within view do not diminish the natural splendor that surrounds them.
They are dwarfed by it.
On the north side of the hotel is a beautiful lake nestled between emerald hills. I wouldn’t swim in it, but it provides a view as sweet as any in Ireland or Thailand. Composing the horizon on the south, as well as much of the east and west, are breathtaking mountain ranges. Massive snow covered behemoths of rock and earth whose tops have been jaggedly carved by nature for millennia hug the sky. They tower over the rest of life with such a silent majesty and total authority that all of civilization below resembles an ant farm by comparison. These mountains make much of the Rockies look like foothills, and Vermont’s Green Mountains look like large speed bumps. I stare slack-jawed at the glorious Himalayas for a half hour, then head into town.
The lakeside main drag of Pokhara looks a little like Waikiki’s ocean front main drag in Honolulu, Hawaii, but it is so much sweeter, smaller, cleaner, more diverse, and prettier that the comparison is short-lived. There are restaurants that feature international as well as local cuisine. Many of these have live music several nights per week (temporarily suspended due to virus-related government restriction on public gatherings). There are travelers from many different countries around the world. Most of the international travelers here use the city as a base station for trips into the mountains. They are more accurately called trekkers, rather than tourists.
There is a very noticeable difference between the vibe in Pokhara and the vibe in Kathmandu. Pokhara is also a big city, but the more natural and less man-made aspect of the physical environment seems to keep the population moving at a more natural pace. There is less hectic motion, less hustle and bustle. Of course the people here are also going places and doing things, but it feels like that action is taking place in a California or Cape Cod beach town. The action in Kathmandu feels a lot more like it is taking place in Brooklyn or Boston.
Kathmandu, especially in the monastery-filled Boudha section where I spent last year, is a rich spiritual environment in spite of the physical environment. Pokhara is a rich spiritual environment because of it. Winters are mild and summers hot in Pokhara. It is, or so it seems after only one week, among the more beautiful places in the world that I have ever lived.
Paddleboats and row boats are for rent on the lake. You can flow solo and row for yourself, or you can have an oarsman do it for you. The sun rises up from behind the distant Himalayan snows in the morning. At twilight it sinks down behind the hills that caress the lake. A Hindu spiritual service is performed every evening on the lakefront’s shore. This “Araati” ceremony is complimented by one strikingly beautiful background containing a brilliant bloodshot orange sunset and vibrant green hills, and by a second background exactly as beautiful that shimmers as a reflection in the lake. Three priests dressed in their finest ceremonial red and gold swirl massive fiery…
The Pokhara story continues in the weeks to come.
Many thanks to our wonderful friends at Pema Boutique Hotel for their help and support. ***The books Fearless Puppy On American Road and Reincarnation Through Common Sense by this same author are also available through Amazon or the Fearless Puppy website, where there are sample chapters from those books. Entertaining TV/radio interviews with and newspaper articles about the author are also available there. There is no charge for anything but the complete books! All author profits from book sales will be donated to help sponsor an increase in the number of wisdom professionals on Earth, beginning with but certainly not limited to Buddhist monks and nuns.
***If you missed the Introduction to the new book that will be titled Temple Dog Soldier, or would like to see several chapters of it that are available for free online, go to the Puppy website Blog section. This is a book in progress. You will be reading it as it is being created! Just like you, I don’t know what the next chapter is going to be about until it is written. As the Intro will tell you, this is a totally true story—and probably the only book ever written by and about a corpse journeying completely around the world!