Potholes and Steep Slopes: On Our Way to Pokhara
Our group took off for Pokhara to do a short trek to see the Himalayas and enjoy the lakeside town. We stopped for coffee and lunch at Manakamana, the Hindu shrine reached by steep gondola ride and got a real workout in the van trying to keep our seats on roads that feel like speed bumps. We drove along the Trishuli River and the thick vegetation hillsides. Pam Caraffa wrote her first impressions of the beautiful and enchanting countryside of Nepal.
“Today was the 200 kilometer drive from Kathmandu to Pokhara. The drive itself was about 7.5 hours - traffic and road conditions were bad - and we made several stops, including for lunch. The drive was to learn about life in the countryside (we will fly back to Kathmandu, thankfully). The road varied from smooth, but narrow, highway with lots of potholes on the one hand and washboard rocks on the other. There was the occasional smooth bit.
You can’t imagine the variety of houses and trucks. There were so many trucks, each with its own personality - thousands of them - hand painted in vivid colors, the front windows decorated like fancy Indian-like “sunglasses” or Buddha eyes and the sides with mountain scenes, abstracts, or religious art. Our excellent driver maneuvered around these fabulous beasts the whole way.
The houses had personality on steroids. Many of them were tall and narrow, looking like they might fall over in a stiff wind. Every color in the rainbow was represented, and innumerable designs painted on or built in with bricks or rocks or wood. Extended families share these homes and frequently each floor had its own colors and designs, we guessed to fit the personalities of the inhabitants. Between villages were more traditional tiny houses made of mud, plaster and wood, with corrugated tin roofs and many rocks to hold them down. Sometimes the simple houses were in town and the fanciest ones seemingly in the middle of nowhere.
But all of this was in the context of the foothills of the Himalayas and the poverty of Nepal - the contrast of the money trekkers and climbers bring in and the traditional agrarian life of the Nepali people. Most of the people we saw crowding the streets were dirt poor.
Oh, did I forget to mention the pigs and goats and water buffalo and cows? The cows... everywhere. I saw one surrounded on three sides by about 10 huge trucks and the fourth side by the road. The cows were matched by uncountable roadside shrines - from tiny piles of rocks to buildings the size of one small room, all with orange marigolds everywhere.
You couldn’t make these scenes up! And then we arrived in Pokhara- more Westernized than anything we’ve seen yet on the main road, but otherwise pure Nepali. Hopefully morning will bring the big mountains - Machipuchere and Annapurna South!”