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Monthly Archives: March 2012

Bats, Caves and Waterfalls

16th November 2011

Taekwondo at Sunrise

I had promised Gaurub that I would be sure to find him and the Taekwondo group this morning, so just before 6am I open my eyes, heard the rain pissing down, closed my eyes and went back to sleep. Since the kids practice in the open I assumed they would cancel class. Thank heavens I went back to sleep, ’cause class was cancelled and wandering around in the dark and rain would not have been a good wake up. Will have to try tomorrow.

I only rolled out of bed 4 hrs later at 10am. Went to my usual breakfast and wifi spot ordered my usual and got some work done. Then headed over to Laxmi’s as it was a day for sightseeing, not much improvement weather wise, but am at the point where I don’t care.

Sightseeing with Lamsal

Lamsal, Laxmi’s husband, had been trying to convince me to go sightseeing for a few days offering his services. I like Lamsal, but he can get a bit insistent and would never give me a price on how much for a few hours. One of those things that really gets irritating after a while, as you don’t want to insult him but you can’t afford to give a huge amount. On some advice on a friend just give what seems about right and if he complains its his own fault.

At 2pm I hopped onto the back of his motorbike and headed off towards Mahendra Cave.I must admit after spending those couple of days in Kathmandu riding with Buddha on his huge off road bike, weaving through the traffic of that crazy city, sitting on the back of this smaller one with a driver who may not be as confident as my mate, got a little nerve racking at times. But all in all he was a safe driver and I soon learnt how not to fly off the back when we hit a bump or a hole.

Situated about 20min by bus north of Pokhara Mahendra Cave is a stunning spot to explore. They have lights that guide you in, but it is a valuable idea to take a flashlight with you as there are often power cuts, and it can get very dark down there. Discovered in the 1950’s it is a natural limestone caves with some interesting formations. Unfortunately, unsupervised visitors have begun damaging these and also scaring the rare bat species that reside in the cave.

When you get to the center of the gave there is a Hindu Priest who will bless you dot your forehead with red paste for a few dollar donation. I think he was so excited to see a foreigner that he used up all his English words in a span of 1 minute, it was very amusing. As you exit the cave you can leave using the common big entrance or veer off to the right and go through a tight maze to squeeze out through a small opening. I opted for the entrance to exit.

As we left I was in awe of numerous birds in the sky, large birds. I tried to identify them but could only get as far as some kind of raptor species, maybe a kite or hawk. But truly spectacular to watch them ride the thermals and then rest in the tree right above me before riding the thermals again.

The entire experience was great, however, it turned out to be a vacation day for all Hindus so the place was overrun by local highschool kids, in any country that can be annoying when you simply want to take in the natural beauty of a location. But still fascinating.

Exiting Mahendra Cave with my blessed dot on the forehead

Bat cave

Our next stop was Bat cave and it was even more spectacular, it helped that we seemed to have timed it in between crowds of kids. We bumped into an older lady who I had seen in Mahendra cave, her guide was a monk and spoke almost no English, but had a great smile. He seemed relieved when we helped her out, in her very apparent exasperated state of dealing with limestone pitfalls and a guide who just didn’t understand how she wanted her picture taken. It took us a bit of an awkward trek over the limestone, slippery from water, before finding the main chamber of bats. There were thousands and it was truly incredible.

Bats!


A closer view of the little darlings

As we were enjoying staring at the little critters, those wonderful children arrived and were very noisy. We could see the bats getting a little spooked and once we “explained” to the kids that they were about to have a thousand bats come flying out of the cave after being disturbed, they quickly quietened down.. I am not sure for how long. Kids are the same no matter where you are!

I bought Lamsal and I a soda and we sat down and relaxed watching a local family attempt to crawl out of the adventurous exit of this cave. I think one of the dads should have taken the larger, easy exit.

Leaving the caves behind, Lamsal took me to the largest Hindu Temple in Pokhara. He tried to explain some things about Hinduism and about the different gods, but I think that is a subject that needs a common language, as I got confused very quickly and just ended up nodding and smilling (an action that has got me out of a lot of difficult situations).

Devis Falls

The final stop of the tour was Devis Falls. This amazing spectacle of mother nature is a gushing waterfall that has cut deep into the rocks and disappears underground before emerging on the other side. With all the rain it certainly lived up to all the hype. It was spectacular.

Devis Falls

The only bummer was Lamsal trying to be the best possible tour guide he could be, which involved in him man handling me into different locations that he felt gave the best view. As much as I appreciated this, the more he did it the less I wanted to stay and look. Never a good combination.

The story of how the falls got its name, however, is a very sad one. It is said that a Swiss couple were swimming in Fewa lake in 1961, when the sluice gate was either opened or overflowed, washing the wife down into the river and ultimately over the falls. They never found her. Her name was Mrs. Davis.

Frustrations

When we got back I went to pay Lamsal. He continued to insist I pay what ever I would like, and since I was also mildly irritated at having been “tour guided” in the annoying sense of the word, and his deferral of discussing anything in the terms of payment, I offered him the equivalent of about $5. He looked at it and said “is this for gas?”. I just rolled my eyes and gave him some more as he mumbled something about how much it would have cost to take a taxi. I know its a cultural thing, but seriously, he wouldn’t give me any hint of how much to pay not even trying to bargain or anything. That’s just downright irritating.

I decided to skip dinner with the family that night and treat myself to a night out. I had lasagne at my favorite Fewa restaurant, which was delicious but ridiculously rich, could barely eat half. My “friend” from the other night, a stray dog, saw me immediately and came over to sit and stair into my very soul. I could only ignore him for so long. When he had finished my garlic bread and saw that I only had a drink left on the table he left, typical male!

Homework

I was back in the room by 8pm, man my nights out are pathetic, when there was a knock on the door. Garaub was there asking if I could help him with his homework. I guess “when you got skills”, as he so kindly put it, you got to help out as much as you can. After homework I headed back and watched movies… Until power went out.

Tomorrow will be my last day in Pokhara as I have decided to return to Kathmandu and the friends I made there.

 
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Posted by on March 25, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Shopping Nepali Style

15th November 2012

Early Morning Taekwondo

Ever since I told Garaup about having a black belt in taekwondo, from my years living in Seoul Korea, he has begged me to come to his early morning class at 6am. So at 5.30am in the pitch dark I rolled out of bed threw on some clothes and headed out into the night. I knew round about where they would be having class, and headed in that direction. It was about an 30minutes before sunrise and a beautiful time of the morning. This mist was rising off Few Lake and creating an eery presence to the morning. I could hear the disembodied ki-aps of the students but could not find entrance to the field. As I wandered down a lane full of buses I came across a staircase leading over a wall to some houses. I was fairly certain they were over the wall, but didn’t want to be that tourist that merrily walks into peoples yards at 6am in the morning. Call me a scaredy cat, but growing up in South Africa certainly makes you more cautious. Around 6.20am I gave up and headed back to the hotel. As I turned to look back at the lake one more time the sun’s rays had just kissed it and it was stunning, for a brief second before the grey clouds realised they were being lackadaisical in their duties and quickly filled the hole. I fear it might be another dreary day, but hey at least there are momo’s in this country, maybe for breakfast after another few hours of sleep.

Sleep didn’t last too long as I received a call from Raj, one of our drinking mates in Kathmandu. He is hilarious that guy, but not at 7am, I mumbled some kind of greeting and put the phone down. Oh well I was due to meet the German folks from Dresden at 8.15am anyway, may as well just get up. Headed over to Few Restaurant and got settled, unfortunately there was a misunderstanding on time and they had been there about 20min earlier. Oh well, all good though as Fewa has decent wifi, so I was able to sit and work on my blog. Been there so many times I pretty much have a table and they know how I like my coffee, one of my favorite things about stopping in one place for longer than a few days.

Walking Fewa Lake

As I could tell the sun was desperately attempting to break through the impenetrable barrier of clouds I decided to enjoy what little sun, or rather glare, there was and go for a walk. For weeks before I had arrived here I had dreamed of talking a daily walk around part of Fewa lake, relaxing perhaps sitting with my singing bowl I was yet to buy, and I was looking forward to it. I put on my MP3 and headed out. After some interesting criss cross maneuvers along the path and field that were saturated with the rain I finally made it to the path around the lake. EXCELLENT!!!!

The path turned out to be all of 500m long, it just stopped at the edge of the lake to the left and at the boats you could rent to go on the lake to the right. I was gutted to discover the only way around the lake, other than by boat, was to walk through town. As much fun as that can be it was not the relaxing, zen like hike, I had been imagining all this time. Oh well if you can’t beat ’em may as well walk and explore the main drag, luckily I had forgotten my money at the hotel so had an excuse everytime a seller approached me. I wish I had more money to be able to sit and bargain and interact with all of them, as it is one of the most enjoyable and occasionally frustrating things to do when traveling.

Rent-a-boat

Shopping Trip!

Popped in at Laxmi’s for tea and she said she was going to go to town to get some supplies and look for some cloth for me if I want a traditional outfit. I asked to join and we decided to leave in an hour. Went to get changed and take a rest and then headed back.

We hopped on the local bus and squeezed into a seat. Then enjoyed the 20 minute ride out of the tourist center and into the local shopping center. When we got to our destination we hopped off with barely enough time for both feet to hit the pavement before the bus hurtled off in search of more passengers. Laxmi uses one shop to buy material and the fabric was all absolutely stunning, the colors amazing and the embroidery beyond description. Unfortunately, even with the owner giving me the friend of local discount, it was still too much to pay for an outfit I might never wear. In hindsight I kind of wish I had, but when you are in backpacker penny pincher mode its often hard to see hindsight…

We walked around a bit and she bought us some peanuts to share. They are roasted out in the open, in their shells. Very yummy!!! She also chose some Indian style bracelets and bought us each a set, “a gift for my sister”. Explored some of the local produce and then caught the bus back home.

Prickly Cucumbers…


Fresh Produce on Every Corner

As we boarded the bus and squeezed into the front seat we were rewarded with this, some of the best word art on a vehicle yet… I am still not sure what to make of it!

Ummm… well I guess it’s better than two pieces…

To Stay or To Go

Back in Pokhara I went to my usual wifi spot at Fewa Restaurant to check emails and chat to friends. Chatted a bit with my mate who had been in Pokhara a year before in January about staying or going. He said the weather would clear if I wait another day. But considering the weather reports keep pushing the sun out another day, I am seriously doubting that. I will give it a few more days, but am leaning towards heading back early. At least in Kathmandu I have a great friend who can take me to many places on his bike and show me all the nooks and crannies with yummy local food. Staying in Pokhara is going to result in a serious dip in my bank account as I am just not motivated to go out sightseeing when it threatens, and often succeeds, in pouring with rain each day.

Around 6pm I headed over to the family and helped Gaurab with his homework. He told me that I should come and stay and teach, he would talk to his teacher and get something sorted for me. In his words:
‘Cause you’ve got skill Kathy, you’ve got skill!” Well at least I know I have skills somewhere. Laxmi is just amazed at how he listens to me. Unfortunately she was brought up very traditional and Gaurab, being a boy, barely has to disagree with her decision before she gives in. She changes significantly when her husband gets back, I don’t think he is mean in any way, but she just becomes quieter and more deferential.

I am a little concerned because she has developed a bad cough and was vomiting last night. I wish there was something more I could do, she is so sweet and am so blessed that she adopted me as her sister. Luckily Gaurab has facebook so we can stay in touch a little at least when I leave.

Back “home” involved curling up in bed with the movie channel…

 
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Posted by on March 11, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Annapurna what??

14th November 2012

Pokhara day 3

I woke up to another grey miserable day. If I didn’t know better I would think I was back in Eugene, Oregon where we have about 9mths of grey weather with occasional sun spots. Everyone keeps telling me how amazing the mountain views are, and how paragliding here would be a once in a life time blah blah blah…. Most times I can’t even see across the lake, apparently there is a Stupa that is visible…apparently. Not that I am unhappy enjoying all the sites and sounds of Nepali life, it is truly amazing and I am already developing regular haunts and getting to know people, not to mention being “adopted” by a local family. But lack of sun has a way of making you feel tired and unmotivated.
Mountains? What mountains??!!??

Mountains?? What Mountains??!!???

My days revolve around eating and sleeping and shopping and at this rate I am going to run out of money as there are wayyyyyy to many good things to eat and buy. This afternoon I was stopped by a lady claiming to have walked from Tibet when she was a child, to have about 6 kids and selling jewelry to get by. I told her perhaps on my way back… dang it all if she didn’t keep a watch out for me and catch me as I attempted to buy some small oranges from a guy I had walked past about 10 times. She got me arm in arm and walked me across the street tut tutting at how I had overpaid for the fruit. Then began a very animated and rather enjoyable bargaining session. Her stuff wasn’t the best quality and there wasn’t much that jumped out at me, but it was so much fun I couldn’t help but pick out a couple of things, even if the price was too high. If you are going to be hoodwinked you may as well enjoy it!!

Tibetan food

A friend/writing guru/occasional shrink of mine recommended I go to a local Tibetan restaurant and try their momos. He had stayed in Pokhara for an extended period of time about a year prior while he was traveling and writing and so knew a lot of good places. The momos were AMAZING!!!! They were lightly fried too, which makes everything better. I knew this would become a regular lunch spot for me. I only wish I had taken a picture but the it tasted so good I forgot as I stuffed them in one after the other, attempting not to dip them too enthusiastically into the rather spicy sauce, already experience the after effects of that…

Full Moon!!

After a bit of a nap and some chill out time, all you can really do in weather like this, I headed over to Laxmi’s for dinner. I helped Gaudal (am sure I have a couple of versions for the spelling of his name, I keep hoping one of them is right) with his homework. Then he took me over to a local restaurant that has a nightly cultural dance show. We hovered behind some bushes until the door man asked us if we needed a table, for about the 5th time. He kept looking over at us and so we eventually headed off back to dinner.

As we were walking I looked up to see a tourist couple in front of me, the father their kid on his shoulders. I nearly fell over laughing when I was faced with a very white, very full moon! The kids shorts had slipped during loading onto shoulders and was showing the world his rear. I was giggling but managed to tap the couple on the shoulder. The wife was mortified but amused, the father I think would have stripped with the kid saying its all about freedom. We fell in to chatting and discovered they were from Dresden, one of the cities I would visit in Germany. We planned to meet up the next morning for breakfast. I still get a giggle when I think of that full moon!

Mmmm the power of Dal Baht!!!

Once again Laxmi cooked an outstanding dinner, I am sure eating with your hands had something to do with it. She is an amazing cook and makes it with just enough spice now not to kill me, which I am sure is barely a pinch compared to what they are used to. Then off to bed for sleep.

Contemplation

There is something about this country that makes one stop and think. I feel completely at peace at times but the very next minute agitated. Am sure its all the emotions of this past year and the knowledge that after 1 more country, 1 more month, it will all come to an end. The constant calming sounds of Buddhist chants make one want to sit in the lotus position and simply BE… but unfortunately that only lasts so long, guess then the thinking starts, and its way to dangerous to let that happen…


A Daily Scene in Pokhara

 
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Posted by on March 10, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Pokhara cont.

13th November 2011

Shake and Wake

At precisely 5.19am I was awoken suddenly by the earth moving, I swear I only had 1 drink last night. But no it had nothing to with that, as a few seconds later I got a text from Buddha asking if I felt the quake. Turns out it was a 5.0 earthquake that lasted 3sec and was felt all through Nepal. Thinking about the “construction”, to put it lightly, of the buildings in Nepal I fear anything stronger may just collapse the entire nation.

But that thought only lasted a few minutes as I rolled over and went back to sleep. After finally emerging and discovering that there was still no hot water I decided to check out and look for a new place. As I only had to be out by noon, I decided to pop down to Laksmi’s and have some tea and see if I had clean laundry, she had also suggested I move to a place just round the corner as her husband knew the owner.

I really like the Nepali tea, black or milk. It was great to sit and talk with Laksmi, and learn about her life. I showed her some photos of my travels and she was shocked to see the one of me teaching at a zoo holding a snake. My laundry wasn’t ready and wouldn’t be for a couple of hours but she called her husband to come and take me to the Nepal Guesthouse round the corner. While we waited we looked at the shirt I had bought the day before as I wanted an adjustment, but then we noticed it had some fading. Laksmi was very embarressed and offered to exchange it for any of the other shirts, I found a nice long sleeve black tunic style.

When Lamsal, her husband, showed up he took me to meet the owner of the hotel, it was literally 3min from their shop and home. Usually they would charge $15 for a room with a bathroom and tv (including the movie channel!!!). But for me, being friends with the family, they would charge me $10. Sounded good to me and I went to collect my stuff and check out of Hotel Miracle. When it came to pay the not surprising miracle was that they wanted to charge me $15 , but I insisted that I had been quoted $10, so I was able to check out at that price (even if they did use a high exchange rate). Settling in my new place my first step was to have a hot shower. Oh joyous joy of joys. Only fellow travelers who have missed a good shower for over a week will truly understand the sheer pleasure of hot water running through your hair and being able to suds up without the fear of it changing it frigid ice water. The wifi was still weak but I decided I may as well find a restaurant to work in anyway.

Exploring Pokhara

Jens was coming over to meet me so we could walk around Pokhara a bit and then later we were both invited to Laksmi’s for dinner, traditional dal-baht. While I waited I indulged in a Nepali delicacy, Mo’Mo’s. They are like dumplings or potstickers and are filled with veggies, chicken and or buffalo. Yup you heard me right, due to the large population of Hindu’s, cow is not on the menu, however the “tame” buffalo are free game and rather yummy. The waiter did warn me about the sauce, but having had it before I dug in without fear.
Note to Self, Believe the waiter. This was not the same sauce as I had already tasted and I nearly choked as a fire ball singed my esophagus and might have even gone up into my nasal cavity… Just as Jens walked round the corner.

The it was off to explore. There were so many things to see and buy and well I normally hate the very idea of shopping, give me a market where I can bargain and I am in Heaven. We stopped in at a local jewelry store and ended up sitting there for almost an hour having a fascinating conversation with the owner about stones, and semi precious rocks, and old jewelry vs new. It was truly interesting and it wasn’t as if he was trying to sell us stuff (although I am sure he would have loved it if we bought something, preferable the more expensive stuff. Something that was a surprise was that people found fossilized red coral in the mountains, indicating that the himalayas had at one point been under water. The mountains in Nepal and Tibet are a virtual treasure trove of goodies when it comes to stones and gems. As our shop owner told us in frustration, it is a great source of income for the country if only the government did something to control and organize the mining of this resource. As we left I purchased a small bracelet, known as a dragon bracelet. It has carving on the outside and an etched dragon for protection on the inside, made of tin silver. I bargained him down to 650 (about $8), but in the end he gave it to me for 600. A very nice guy and a shop I would return to in the future.

Tin silver bracelet with "Ohm" sign


etched dragon

Coffee Break

As I was almost out of cash we decided to head back, as the rain started we turned up an alley in search of a coffee shop. We found a small place run by two women. They were very sweet and the coffee was rather good. We sat and chatted with them and watched them weave.

Coffee Shop Weavers

We were lucky to find the place because barely 2 sips into our coffee the heavens opened. It was rather impressive actually and there were times when we worried the wind might take the roof off or the rain come through. Finally it stopped enough to pop out, Jens headed to his hotel on the North side and I headed to mine, planning to meet up for dinner at Laksmi’s. I spent the rest of the afternoon catching up with my diary and watching movies.

An hour or so before dinner time I headed over and helped Gaurab with his home work. He was so excited to have my help and to show me his science project, a well like contraption.

Gaurab and me with his project

Laksmi and Lamsal have another lad who essentially lives with him. I never got his name correct, for the life of me I just couldn’t say it right. At a young age he lost his mother and his father beat him so badly that he broke his arm and he hid in the forest. Laksmi and Lamsal took him on as a shop boy. He is 12 (1 yr older than Gaurab), and spends his days working in the butcher with Lamsal, he comes home for lunch then relieves Lamsal, the same routine for dinner. They can’t afford to send him to school, and he definately has that street wise kid attitude, much to the annoyance of Gaurab. I took a shine to him and could tell he was very bright. Even though he spoke almost no English and my Nepali was non existent we still managed to get a decent amount of communication, most of it teasing each other. A great kid and I take my hat off to Lamsal and Laksmi for caring for him.

Together they taught me a game that reminded me of pool. The difference being that it was on a board and you used your fingers to flick the tokens at each other. Rather painful until you get the hang of it. Just as each of them beat me thoroughly, Jens walked in and so he had a go too.

game time


Jens takes on Gaurab

Finally it was dinner time and I must say it is some of the best food I have ever tasted. Dal Baht also known as Thakali is rice with a soup and various pickles or curries. I had tried it before but it was always too hot. Laksmi is an expert cook and I couldn’t stop eating, it was so yummy. Tasting even better because we were using our hands.

A very good evening, now time for a good night sleep and hoping the sun will come out tomorrow…… 🙂

 
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Posted by on March 1, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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