Sunday, October 15, 2006

The rising son in Annapurna...

There are no words to express the magnificent power that these mountain ranges have. I have made it back to the phenomenal chill lakeside city of Pokhara once again. The lakeside streets filled with people of the world maneuvering in a shanti-shanti-like manner. No worries here, just store after store selling you the latest trekking, rafting, bungy jumping, paragliding, rock climbing, boat cruising... I think you get the picture. There is a bike 'gang' here called Hearts and Tears, a Enfield motorcycle club. I have arrived back with open arms and great big smiles. There's a cast of them from all around the world. Some visiting, some living, some escaping, you name it you'll find it. Some of the older chaps hand out their road wisdoms while sipping on a beer and smoking swilly cigars while the rest of us hunch forward with big ears and eyes. The exchanges are of life experiences, some of which are absolutely dazzling and remind you to live now.

I failed to mention anything about Kathmandu. I failed because the city was the least of my favorite on this little expedition. I stayed in an area called Thamel, the expensive-rip-you-off-touristy-kinda place. I travelled with me mate Vince 'The Jeweller' and we shared a quaint little guesthouse right at Thamel Chowk (intersection) and a bird's eye view of the goings-ons. There is a great supply of eateries and dance bars. The gents and I were curious about these dance clubs, so in Pokhara we ventured in. There's a stage and mirrors and when we arrived a couple up on the stage reinacting a Bollywood video. From our limited understanding of the whole situation what one does in one of this joints is you have to order your food and dance before your meal is done. Novel concept that was right up my alley not to mention seeing three English guys try to dance. Well, I decided to try in Kathmandu. Vince and I met up with three Nepali guys, one of them lives in Tokyo and runs a Nepali restaurant. It was nice to be with some people that spoke Nepali because no one seemed to speak English there. After sitting for about five minutes something seemed very seedy about this whole scenario. There were lots of pretty young girls hopping from table to table and the dancing became less family orientated. This was a place where one goes and shops for companions. It was one of the most bizzare situations I have been in and the looks on the bar keepers faces signalled me to get out of there as soon as possible. An experience that I've never had and that I don't think I'll be jumping at in the future. The seediness of Kathmandu constantly slaps you in the face.

If anyone ever goes to Kathmandu there are a couple things I recommend: the Durbar Square, the 24-hour sandwich shop around the corner from Full Moon, the most amazing bookstore I've been to with full garden restaurant and low down chai area - Pilgrim's Bookstore (just down the street from Thamel Chowk and the sandwich joint) and the villages/towns of Nagarkot, Bhaktapur and Patan.

Kathmandu doesn't seem to sleep and neither did I. With horns blowing, people yelling, drunkards wandering the streets and the rest of the chaos... I kind of had a good time. Only because of the company I kept was it enjoyable. In India there is a concentration of travellers from a certain country that will remain nameless as opposed to Nepal where it is filled with mainly Europeans. There were some amazing sights and wish I had more time to have taken them in but alas, the saga continues.

On the bus ride back from Kathmandu I noticed a girl sitting a couple seats in front of me. The thoughts of her being Canadian, from Vancouver and that her name was Stephanie popped into my head. So at the first stop I asked, "Are you Canadian" and her response was yes. Then my second question, "Vancouver?" again a yes was the answer. Now the third, "Is your name Stephanie?". Well, two out of three isn't bad now is it?! ;) Her name turned out to be Fleury and was travelling with a young Japanese girl whom she had just met, Yuki. We arrived to Pokhara and after nourishing ourselves ventured up to Sarangkot. From Sarangkot you can view the entire Annapurna range. Our trip up was fine until the angry fat rain came tumbling down, the lightning storm while maneuvering up the stairs in the mountainside, and the fact that all the power was out and we couldn't see a guesthouse or end to the stairs in sight. We arrived soaking wet and we greeted by the sweetest little Austrian couple. We sat and enjoyed a meal together and discussed the possibilities that dawn possessed. Five o'clock the bells rang and we woke to climb more stairs to the peak. Absolutely breathtaking - we were lucky, there were no strong clouds impairing our view of the magnificent peaks. My camera was filled with at least fifty pictures of this range being lit up by the red sun on the horizon. The pictures of the area and visuals are absolutely stupend.

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