Pokhara: Peace Pagoda
It’s been 9 days since we arrived back in Pokhara after trekking to Poon Hill and Base Camp, almost the same length of time as the trek, and we haven’t done any walking. In fact, we haven’t done anything noteworthy at all. So we decided it’s about time we stretched our legs. Especially as we start the longest and possibly the most difficult trek in a few days time.
Overlooking Pokhara is the World Peace Pagoda. It sits on top of a hill which can be reached by walking around the bottom corner of Phewa Lake or by rowing across. We decided to take a rowing boat one way, climb the steps to the stupa, then walk down through the forest and back into Pokhara.
This was also the first clear view we’d had of the mountains in about 3 or 4 days. The haze has gradually got worse as the temperature has climbed, but often big, white, fluffy clouds just sit on the mountains anyway. Pokhara had experienced a torrential downpour the afternoon before, 30 minutes I’d extreme rain and a massive thunderstorm. Overnight another two huge thunderstorms had rumbled through, along with a lot more rain. All that rain had emptied the clouds and reduced the humidity and removed the haze which had blocked our view for so long.
As we left the hotel the air temperature was about 26° but because of the intensity of the sun it had a real feel of 33°. Hot!
Getting the boat one way means we had a ‘rower woman’ to row us there and bring the boat back. This would have been great if she hadn’t nagged us quite a few times for a ‘dollar tip’. I kindly informed her that we’re British and don’t use dollars. We’d already paid 400NPR ($4/£2.40) for the boat so either she wasn’t getting a fair cut of the money, which isn’t my problem (I think that giving tips to low paid workers just exacerbates the problem and condones poor wages and treatment, anywhere in the world!), or she was getting a fair cut and just wanted more of my money. Either way, she understood what we really meant… which is more than Annemarie who was sat at the far end of the boat taking photos and didn’t understand what the woman was saying.
From the shore to the stupa is about 1,000ft (330m) and is almost all steps. We’ve done this trip before, the day before we trekked to base camp, but it was about 10° cooler then. This time the heat made it a horrible experience. We were panting, dripping and boiling hot most of the way up. Admittedly, last time we went up at a gentle pace which took 40 minutes and this time we marched up in 30 minutes.
At the top we found the only shade was under the steps which are part of the pagoda. A dog was already laid down sleeping in the shade, which seemed like a good idea. Annemarie wandered around taking photos before the mountains were covered by clouds again, whilst I was joined by two woman also seeking shade from the burning hot sun. One was from Israel, the other an American living in Taiwan. The American is possibly the first none British person to identify my accent to the north of the UK (I think I have a very weak accent but so many people can’t work out where it’s from), she also knew English slang, apparently due to the large numbers of British people in Taiwan. Neither had done any trekking, weren’t planning on any trekking and had no idea about the costs even for curiosity. Strange to think of people coming to Nepal and not trekking.
The view was great though. From here we could see Annapurna South (101st highest in the world), Annapurna 1 (10th highest), Annapurna 2 (16th highest), Dhaulagiri 1 (7th highest) and just in the far distance was Manaslu (8th highest). Incredible to see some of the highest mountains on earth so easily.
The walk back through the trees was all in the shade and an OK walking temperature. We passed a lot of people coming up that way and it seems that the popular option is to go up through the forest on a long but gentle gradient rather than the much shorter but far more brutal route we took. Some were carrying their rucksacks, obviously to check the weight was acceptable and they could carry it. We had planned on doing this but decided to pay for a porter anyway and not have to think about carrying anything heavy.
The last section of the walk was mostly on unshaded footpaths around midday. After travelling in Asia for many months we had acclimatised to the heat and could handle walking in temperatures around 30°+, but after just one month in Nepal that acclimatisation seems to have gone. The walk back was simply unpleasant. In addition the mountains were now totally covered by the usually white, fluffy clouds. If we didn’t know better we wouldn’t know any of those mountains even existed!