12th November 2011
Riding the local bus
After a quick breakfast and settling the bill we headed off to catch our bus. As we drove through town we saw one of the normal forms of transport, an elephant. I love different ways of looking at normal.
You also never know what you might find half way around the world in a tiny corner store.
This time it was the local bus and it lived up to its expectations. The other couple were in the 2 front seats and I was behind them but they were willing to switch so I could have the very front one by the door. This was in the attempt to minimize any form of bus sickness and after effects. Turns out our friendly German, Jens, was also heading to Pokhara and he had the seat next to me. At least the seats were comfy, which was good as the shock absorbers were a little on the worn side.
Jens’ Curse Strikes Again
Barely 1hr into the drive we were joking about how every mechanical form of transport seemed to break down when Jens was on it. Then we had a pit stop, or so we assumed. In truth the wheel had gone flat so we spent an hour as the guys tried to figure out how to change it. We all looked at Jens the minute it happened…
While we waited, all debating if there was time to hunt down a bathroom or buy a cup of tea or safe to leave our bags, some local kids showed up and looked cute…always a sucker for that. I make it a rule never to give money to cute kids as then they never grow up to help themselves. However when you have two cute kids stare at you just as you have a chocolate digestive cookie half way to your mouth, it just seems rude not to share.
Finally we were back on the road again and heading in the direction of Pokhara. But as this was a local bus we stopped to pick up people along the way. No worries really, until we stopped in front of a rather large group of young men all heading our way and they all tried to shove in, I had one almost in my lap as he perched on the bar in front of me at the door. Definitely an experience, but one with tons of laughter.
It took another 6hr journey to reach our destination and as we pulled into Pokhara the rain started falling. Our hotels were all in different directions but we decided to meet for dinner around 5pm. My driver took me just a hop skip and a jump down the road and then up a long alley to my hotel. I was staying in what was known as South Pokhara, the touristy section was North Pokhara (where the others were staying).
I checked in and other than a “welcome” got no other info about the place. I was on the 4th floor and all I wanted was a hot shower after that bus trip. The room was nice and clean and I looked forward to relaxing. However, there was no hot water, the towel was still damp, the internet didn’t work, it would take 2 days to do my laundry which I was on the 3rd go around of wearing and I was getting grumpy. Luckily a self pity text to my friend Buddha in Kathmandu had a nice reply that boost my spirits and explained how to remedy the situation.
Welcome My Sister
I “bathed” as best I could and headed out to look around. As I wandered down the alley I met all sorts of wonderful people and poked my head into many different shops. I wasn’t really in the mood to buy anything, but as I walked past one shop called The Golden Yak, the lady there called me over. “Sister, sister come over and look, you are welcome”. With a start like that you just have to go and look at her wares. This is how I met Laxmi, soon to become my sister and adoptive family. I decided to buy a shirt and a few other things and then she offered laundry services. I was super excited when she said it could be ready by the morning. I ran back immediately to pick up pretty much everything I had brought with me, changing into the new clothes as they were the closest to clean.
After grabbing my clothes I headed back down the dark alley that led to my hotel and was at first enthusiastically greeted by a dog. Then sort of nipped at by said dog and another, then it got a little scary, but the owner called them off, then asked if I needed laundry done. I wonder if he lets his dogs catch unsuspecting tourists. I headed back to Laxmi’s shop and she seemed rather surprised that I had returned. She offered me tea and before I knew it I was sitting in her back room chatting about life. She had one son named Garaup, and had had 3 miscarriages. She was very sad about this, as you would expect, and seemed afraid to try again as the last time very nearly took her as well. Of course her husband would like more kids and her son always asks for a little brother or sister.
Garaup, 11yrs old, returned from school and after initially acting shy was soon telling me all about school and his dream to be a civil engineer and that he was learning taekwondo… to lose weight as he was too fat. I told him I had learnt it when I lived in Korea and was a black belt. He was really excited about this and soon was asking me to teach him things and come to his class to meet his teacher. Very sweet kid. Laxmi asked me to stay for dinner but declined as I had plans to meet the others on the North side of the lake. She offered to call her husband to take me there, turned out to be a bit of a walk and it was dark already.
Meeting Or Rather Missing Friends…
I hopped onto the back of the motorbike and headed off to the North of town. We had planned to meet at the Canadian couples hostel and as I walked in I passed a couple heading out. They seemed familiar but as none of us showed recognition I assumed it wasn’t them. And in truth I do have a terrible memory for faces (I worry when I have kids, might take the wrong one home). But my excuse was that it was dark and I couldn’t see their faces clearly. I looked around and then someone who worked there asked who I was looking for. When I explained he said you just walked passed them. Oh Shite!!! So it was them. I ran out and down the street, but they had disappeared into the crowds of tourists. I returned thinking maybe that truly wasn’t them, but as there was no answer at their door all I could assume is that we missed each other. Oh well that sucks.
I waited around a bit longer to see if Jens would show up and finally decided it was a lost cause and went to find some place to eat…alone. I sent Jens a text just in case (the other’s didn’t have a phone). I found a place that looked decent with a nice vibe and a table near the open area. I was craving red meat so decided on a steak, medium. As I waited Jens texted back and came to meet me. His skype chat with family had gone long and he hadn’t got my message till then. It was good to have someone to hang out with, traveling sure can make you lonely sometimes. When my steak arrived looking delicious covered in veggies and on a steaming hot plate I dug in. Or should I say “sawed in”. The piece of steak was so tough I could barely cut through it, add to that the steaming hot plate cooking it to the point of it being exceptionally dead and very well done. I ate the chips and veggies and when the waiter came over I mentioned that the steak was too tough and very overcooked.
me: “everything is very good, but my steak is too tough and overcooked”
waiter: “I can cook it some more”
me: “no no it is over cooked, its ok, I don’t want it”
waiter: “but it looks undercooked, we can cook it again”
me: “really thank you , but I don’t want it it is already cooked too much”.
It was rather amusing and after you saw him with the other waiters looking at it and trying to cut it. I wasn’t complaining I was simply saying I didn’t want it and that it was too tough and overcooked. There wasn’t a hint of pink in it anywhere, in fact it had a rather brown grey consistency, kind of like rubber. But he seemed so intent in cooking it some more to make it better. We did get a free shot at the end of the meal, not sure if it was always part of the experience or if it was a sorry for serving me a piece of tire. Oh well no complaining here when it comes to anything free.
Jens and I walked around and looked into some of the stores. Then we had another drink. I was really exhausted and as it was 11pm and some of the bars seemed to be shutting we said cheers and I got into a taxi to go back to my hotel. Even the taxi driver had no idea where the place was. Another sign this was not the place to stay.
A Slight Problem
I paid the taxi driver and walked through the open gate. When I got to the door that closed off the reception area and led to the rooms on the upper floors I discovered it was locked. There was no note, I had not been warned about this, there was no night porter… I WAS LOCKED OUT!!! At 11.12pm.
I knocked and walked around and knocked again, getting very annoyed and not sure what to do. Finally I remembered I had their card and just as I tried to call, someone came out of the room nearby. The man was wrapped in a towel and unlocked the door. I was not impressed and tripping over the door as I entered made me feel even worse, because it gave the guy the impression, I am sure, of a bloody drunk tourist coming back at a ridiculous hour! Did I mention it was, by now, only 11.30pm. That was the last straw, new digs would be looked for in the morning.