After finally arriving in Pokhara last Friday I was a bit ready to stay in the same place for a few days and unwind. With unrest in the near future seeming very likely at the time, it also made sense to sit around and see how everything fell out. Would the country devolve into domestic violence and riots or would the Maoists come to an agreement with the government over the looming May 28th deadline?
The first few days in town felt like a never-ending reunion as I kept running into people from the trek – whether eating at a streetside cafe or just walking around, the random connections seemed to never stop. As time passed this started to change, as one by one the people I knew started to leave town. First most of the Israeli girls left, then the cool Israeli guys left, then finally Guy and Mickey abandoned us. A couple days ago the rest left, and it feels strange to have gone from having 8+ friends in the same hotel to only one - Katrin and I have managed to avoid sticking forks in each others throats so far and it’s been nice to have someone to hang out with.
So, what have I been up to? Truth be told, not very much – most of the days have been spent sitting in restaurants eating and relaxing and sometimes drinking. A few nights ago the Israeli contingent in the hotel made some fresh salads for dinner, but most of the time we’ve been going out. The food, service and selection here is excellent and the prices are amazing. A couple days ago I walked into a cafe at 8AM and didn’t leave until nearly 1PM, then as I was walking I saw Katrin and a British girl (from the Yoga Group, I think her name is Fuschia but I’m horrible with names) having lunch and joined them – somewhere after 3PM we finally left and I realized what a completely empty day it had been.
It was nice to catch up on e-mail and all that, but it felt a bit too much like a real vacation. Since then I’ve managed to be a bit more active - Kat and I rented bikes for a day and visited the local mountain museum, Devi’s Falls, and a Tibetan refugee camp (which were all underwhelming, sadly). Today we did a long scenic hike through the jungle up to the World Peace Pagoda, which offered stunning views of Pokhara from a nearby mountainside.
On the walk up we hung out with this group of kids that were having a lot of fun as we each tried to spot more monkeys (with us yelling at them in broken Nepalese and them yelling at us in broken English). At the top we went off on our own to explore, then hours later on the way down the other side we ran into the same group again having lunch! Everyone thought this was hilarious, but not as much as when we finally got down to the beach to get a boat across back to the main part of Pokhara and decided to stop for tea – only to have the same family catch up again. We shared two boats across the lake and both the kids and mothers were endlessly amused by the situation, constantly taking pictures.
Actually, it’s somewhat funny how many people want to take pictures with Katrin, she’s quite popular (then again you can see why by looking at all the pictures I have of her). Any time I am wearing one of my India cricket shirts I get the same thing, but only from Indian tourists who think it’s hilarious to see this crazy whitey with a huge beard wearing an IPL shirt. I guess I’m not as cool.
I’ve been keeping a close eye on the news and until this afternoon it was actually looking good – no strike, and everyone might even agree to extend the deadline (May 28) for the new government. As of this evening, however, apparently the Maoists have said they refuse to do this unless the current Prime Minister steps down. The locals seem to think this is posturing and that they’ll back down, but it’s a bit nerve-wracking to be unsure whether or not this country is going to dissolve into chaos tomorrow.
We figure Pokhara is the best place to stay for now, since it has air transportation direct to Kathmandu and good facilities. The current plan is to stay here tomorrow, then if everything gets sorted we will head back towards Kathmandu to explore some towns and temples in the area. If things go to hell, we can just stay here and I can pop a plane back to Kathmandu and fly out in the same day while Katrin sticks around here where it’s safe. For both ourselves and for the local people, I really hope everything is sorted and no drama happens.