November 29, 2014 – December 3, 2014
The touristy town of Pokhara on the shores of Lake Phewa, was both our starting point and ending point for our Annapurna Base Camp trek. Situated in the middle of the country in the foothills of the Himalayas it is a convenient centralized starting point for many tourists on their way to and from trekking, climbing, rafting and many other popular activities.
We arrived in Pokhara via the ‘tourist’ bus, a seven hour ride from Kathmandu. There are a few different types of buses in Nepal, starting with the super cheap and not particularly nice public buses. Next for a small step up in price (usually around double the cost) are the ‘tourist buses’ which are really just nicer public buses, which anyone can ride. Finally there are very expense ‘private tourist buses’ which cater to tourists only and are quite expensive. We took the regular tourist bus as double the price was still very cheap and much cheaper than the private buses. We recommend anyone traveling in Nepal to take the cheaper of the ‘tourist’ buses as they are quite nice at a fraction of the cost of the private buses.
There are no bathrooms on the buses in Nepal, but they stop reasonably often at public bathrooms/restaurants along the way where you can find real free bathrooms to use.
Once in Nepal, assuming you take the regular tourist bus, you should be dropped off at the bus stop near the lake. The city of Pokhara is large but the nice part of town, which is also the touristy bit, is a relatively small section along the lake. The rest of town is quite dusty and grimy with shops that really only cater to locals. You won’t find as much English spoken away from Lakeside, or much reason to wander away either.
The touristy part of town, called Lakeside, has nearly every modern convenience you could hope for between your Himalayan trekking, mountain climbing or rafting. Lakeside, Pokhara is filled with outdoor gear shops were you can rent or buy outdoor gear (renting is recommended unless you really want to lug stuff home), tons of restaurants, ATMs, coffee shops, night clubs, bars, spas and quite the nightlife. You can grab a real espresso coffee at an internet cafe and walk across the street for an hour long massage for around US$10 and pick up some super cheap North Face gear on your stroll home.
Restaurants offering nearly every type of food you could want can be found in Pokhara, we even found a great steak house called The Everest Steak House, which had one of the best tasting steaks I’ve ever had!
One popular activity to do just right out of town is paragliding. Everyday we could see dozens of paragliders circling their way down from the large hills looming over the lake. One company in particular called The Parahawking Project specializes in parahawking. Parahawking is when you fly with trained birds next to you. In this case they have both hawks (Black Kites) and some rare Egyptian Vultures, which will fly next to you and even land on an outstretched arm. We visited to take some pictures of the birds.
It was very foggy and hazy during our stay, something which we learned occurs every winter. Views of the Himalayas were rare and the air was quite thick with smoke and smog. The Nepalese often burn their trash so the smoke fills the air everyday, and the cold still air keeps the smoke low to ground. It is our understanding that it was unseasonably hazy during our hike in November, as normally it is common to have outstanding views. Power outages are also common, in fact they are scheduled daily. Our hotel staff could tell us when the power would go out and when it would come back on again. Most hotels run noisy generators to ensure at least a couple dim lights still work in each room, though not much else. The country of Nepal faces a growing demand for power with more and more people wanting to run more and more hardware, and only a few outdated power plants which are currently overwhelmed by the demand, so nearly the entire country experiences scheduled daily brownouts.
Pokhara turned out to be a great place to get ready for our trek and to stay for some R&R afterwards. We spent several days relaxing and arranging an overnight river rafting trip, our next activity in Nepal.