The Synergies Of Pokin’ Around Pokhara And Jumping Off Cliffs
08.12.2008 - 10.12.2008 21 °C
I really hate trendy business jargon. I cringe whenever I see a website that proudly proclaims that they “leverage technologies” to do this, or employ that “paradigm,” or whatever. One trendy word a while back was “synergy,” the idea of a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. It got badly overused, but it’s still an important concept.
After checking out the wildlife and hot elephant polo action in Chitwan, we headed back to Kathmandu for the weekend (I’ll be covering all of our time there in the next post). Early on Monday morning we caught a flight on Yeti Airlines (truly -- it’s Sherpa-owned, and one of Nepal’s best!) to Pokhara, the trekking capital of Nepal. Resting beside a beautiful lake at the foot of the Himalayas’ Annapurna range, this is a Mecca for outdoor enthusiasts of every kind. We stayed at a guesthouse in Lakeside, one of the world’s hugest backpacker ghettos, stretching for a couple of miles along (well, obviously) the lake.
A Nepali REI
Lakeside is one long string of trekking equipment shops, souvenir stands, used book stores, travel agencies, money exchangers, and restaurants featuring the same menu: Indian and Nepali dishes, Chinese, and “Continental,” which is sort of a catch-all category for hamburgers, pizza, pasta and even Mexican. It’s kind of interesting that Nepalis seem willing to take a culinary shot at making anything; this is a tradition that goes back to the ‘60s and the days of hippies overlanding from Europe through Asia in search of enlightenment and cheap pot, and finishing in Nepal. Some smart Nepalis realized that all these westerners were starved for variety after months of curried lentils and vegetables in Pakistan and India, so entrepreneurs that they are, they started opening travellers’ cafes that served everything under the sun -- but made with locally available ingrediants, so it never comes out quite like you’d expect. Thus, you order “Tacos de pollo” from the menu, and what comes out is a big hard corn shell stuffed with diced chicken and kidney beans, laid on its side and smothered in not-particularly-spicy tomato sauce and cheese like an enchilada, and sprinkled with parsley rather than cilantro. It's not bad, it's just not quite right. It’s sort of a reverse-synergy: the whole is somehow slightly less than the sum of its parts.
It was a misty day when we arrived, so we decided to spend the afternoon looking around the non-ghetto part of the town, attractively dubbed Old Pokhara.
Nothing much happening in Pokhara
Truth is, there’s not really much to see there. It took all of about ten minutes to mosey down the street called the “old bazaar.” There were a few shops selling baskets and cloth and other staples to locals, and that was about it.
Not exactly burning up the cash register
But hey -- no one comes to Pokhara to see sights in the town anyway. The sun came out and mists parted the next day, showing us what they do come for...
We took a colorful rowboat across the lake...
All those years as a boyscout come in handy once in a while
...and climbed to the Peace Pagoda at the top of the ridge south of the lake for the view of Mt. Machhupachhare (don’t ask me how to pronounce that) and the rest of the Annapurnas in all their glory.
The Annapurna mountains over Pokhara’s Lake Phewa
Mountains display a synergy of their own. Really, they’re just incredibly huge rocks. But you put a bunch of these huge rocks together, and you get a sight that defies words. I mean, what can you write about mountains? They’re big. They’re beautiful. They make normally rational people want to climb them. I wish there was more that I could say, but really you just stand there looking at them and saying to yourself, “Yup, this sure doesn’t suck. I am so blessed to be looking at this.” And you take some photos, knowing that there’s no way a camera can capture the view, or the feeling of looking at them. They are simply beyond words. We go to see them, as one climber sagely put, “because it is there.”
Speaking of “normally rational,” the following day we drove around the lake and up to Sarangkot at the top of the cliff, where I proceeded to run off of it and fly back down.
The knowledge of Craig, a Zimbabwean paraglider, is all that stands between you and certain death
Nepal rivals New Zealand as a magnet for adrenaline junkies, and while I’m normally pretty sane, I really wanted to try paragliding. In Pokhara, you can do tandem flights with a seasoned pro, so I strapped on a helmet, and off we went.
You take a big rectangle of nylon and a bunch of ropes, a strong mountain wind, and the mind of a man who can sense the air currents with his whole body, and you create an amazing synergy.
It’s called flying.