Day 19, 20, 21 – Pokhara to Katmandu
We spent 2 relaxing days in Pokhara and I was looking forward to dinners and lounging in the many chairs overlooking the lake. Two sunsets were spent at a family bakery with a small balcony in the upstairs. The baked goods are known, by locals and tourists alike, for their great taste and generous portions and each visit offered spontaneous interactions with fellow travelers. First with an aging couple who seemed completely at peace with themselves. I could see myself as an elderly man and realized that a steady decline in attitude and unchecked anxiety could make me a very unpleasant old crab. Second was with and American/Spanish couple with a variety of experiences. We enjoyed the sunset together and could have talked for hours. The most interesting interaction however was our climax of experiences with the “Pokahrians,” at what seemed to be their meeting hall, the Tabi Restaurant. This place is run purely on weed smoke and the entire encounter lost it’s endearment the moment we sat down. We knew this wasn’t our scene but the place had been recommended on a number of occasions so we decided to endure. The first waitress promised menu’s after a few minutes of us waiting but on her walk back towards the kitchen, someone handed her a joint and she must have forgot us. Eventually 2 hand-drawn menu/ note-books arrived from another waiter and I wanted to contribute a picture to the collection (we had a lot of time to wait). The other staff had joined up with our original hostess so I decided to add something small without asking, “no harm here,” I thought. Upon seeing me drawing on his return the guy about flipped but then reigned it in with “O man please don’t write on the menus. We use the extra paper for… stuff.” Who knows. The food came and it was so-so. The only real benefit to this visit was the realization that stoners of this breed are basically useless and I am well beyond any romanticisms of the life-style. **There were no Nepalese staff or guests at this establishment. We have had such success with Nepali hospitality and service that I would have liked to use my money at a place run and owned by locals. The most disappointing part of the encounter was that we gave our money to these apparent nobodies.
It was a wasted evening because we were so uncomfortable we couldn’t even chat but the following day brought us an odd gift in the form of a “strike” or Bandha. It forced us to stay an extra day and see a new side of the city. It is unclear who initiates or why a Bandha actually takes place but the affect is that all motorized transport must halt, the electricity is turned off and shops not related to tourism must remain closed, COUNTRY WIDE. The riot police were on main street corners in full regalia, sitting relaxed chatting and smoking, to enforce the Bandha. Today those who are caught driving or working are fined? (I suppose), but in the past were simply shot (by Maoists). This day was apparently an election and the strike was government enforced to stop movement and organizing of the people. We noticed an increase in Maoist flags and a few clusters of people organized in the streets but didn’t get to speak to any locals. The political situation in Nepal is well beyond my comprehension but from what I have seen and read, there is no hint of “by the people, for the people.” For tourists and children (schools closed as well!) this day would seem like a street holiday. With no horns blaring and the streets clear, bikes and soccer games can be seen up and down the usually congested roads. Rachel and I took the opportunity to rent rickety old bikes and tour the city outside of our comfy “tourist camp.” My knees may be a bit tender from rusty chains but the ride was enjoyable. Children safe on the streets, helicopters taking off, and some grazing buffalo eating garbage were just a few of the sites. At lunch we met Jonathan from France/Israel and had a lengthy discussion, followed by dinner overlooking the lake and a clear sky with shining stars for a nice send-off meal. We said good-bye to Kolpana and her comfortable beds in the morning and made it for Katmandu, leaving Pokhara behind. Well almost, 2 Pokharian British girls, Cheech-ina and Chong-et, sat behind up stoned and jabbering the entire way. What they said was unintelligible aside from one laughing like she was asphyxiating and the other repeatedly affirming her friend with “yea, yea, yea!” Damn stoners.