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
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.
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).
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.
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.
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!
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.