Leaving Europe last week and destined for new horizons I boarded my flight and headed to Nepal. Descending upon Kathmandu I managed to sneak a peak of some of the highest mountains in this range and in the world. The snow covered tips breaking through the clouds like the sweet mounds on a lemon merengue pie. Beneath the cotton candy shapes, the city emerged and the colourful houses dotted amid the fields and streets glistened in the late afternoon sun. Curiosity, excitement and some uncertainty set in as I ventured into the unknown immigration procedures to secure my visa and make my way to Thamel, central Kathmandu for one night before heading to Pokhara the following morning. Here is where I will spend most of my time as I explore this country, culture, traditions and people for the next three weeks.
Pokhara lies west of Kathmandu and has become a popular place for trekking as some of the popular destinations can be reached from here. It was largely sheltered from the recent earth quakes although the routes to and from the city were impacted, making it less accessible and hard for the people that relied on tourism in this part of Nepal. Things are changing here now and are slowly improving, but nevertheless this country is still one of the poorest in the world.
Lakeside – the road that captures the tourist’s eye as the Western and Nepali restaurants line the street, offering everything from trekking equipment and imported healthcare products to locally produced crafts and souvenirs. The restaurants advertising happy hour , free WiFi, coffee and vegan treats. You can watch a blockbuster at Movie Garden in the local open air cinema, run by an English chap while lying back and enjoying popcorn and a cool beer, or you opt for a stroll down to the lakeside cafes to watch the sun set over lake Phewa. Walk up to the World Peace Pagoda and take in the breath taking views overlooking the city, go out to the temple on the island in the middle of the lake for a Hindu blessing as you join the locals in their daily rituals. Venture off the main street and you see the local watering hole where the women gather to collect their daily supply and bare the burden of heavy labour, as they care for their loved ones. The cost of feeding a family is less than 1USD spent on rice and lentils and many basic levels of hygiene are not maintained when access to flush toilets and running water is a luxury for few – not just in the remote villages. On first impression it was the chaos and lack of organisation that stuck out, but behind the scenes the nature of this country’s challenge is much more complex. Behind the scenes is where I hope my trip will take me as I open my eyes to what lies beyond Lakeside.