Bandipur and the return "home".
02.06.2009 - 02.08.2009 18 °C
Written: February 8th, 2009
Riding back into lakeside Pokhara and seeing Fewa Tal lake and the Annapurnas felt like returning home. While many people only spend 1-2 days in Pokhara before heading off to trek, I already spent 3 days in Pokhara before renting the motorcycle and would be staying for 3 days more before heading to Kathmandu. I decided the extra days in Pokhara would be good to give my knee some time to heal. Additionally, extra time chilling in Pokhara before heading to chaotic Kathmandu seemed like a good idea.
The ride from Gorkha to Pokhara was smooth and only interrupted by a stop to the beautiful town of Bandipur perched on a mountain saddle 200m long with a width just wide enough for the small town composed of Newari buildings (2-3 storey) on either side of the main street. The town became a prosperous trading centre during the 19th century. With the construction of the Kathmandu-Pokhara highway passing through Dumre and bypassing Bandipur, there were a lot less reasons to take the windy road (constructed in 1998) from Dumre up to Bandipur. However, the seclusion and beautiful views of the Himalayas were well worth the stop as well as looking at Newari architecture and an authentically preserved town.
Pictures from Bandipur:
After a few hours exploring Bandipur, I rode back to Pokhara in no time and into the chaotic city traffic once again. I checked into my old room at the Hotel Peace Horizon and had a much needed hot shower. I cleaned and redressed my knee scrape with iodine and balciturn powder bought from the pharmacy. I considered waiting until dark to return the motorbike so the owner would have a harder time seeing the damages but I decided to face the music and be honest. As I rode the bike out the guesthouse, I see Doug and Kate and we had a quick chat to catch-up. I showed them the damages to the motorcycle from my crash and Kate reassured me and said it should cost no more than 2000NRs ($27.60US). In the end, the damages was assessed at 1600NRs ($20US) and I paid off the rest of the rental fees. The 5 days of motorcycling came to 1750NRs and including the damages it was nearly double. Still, $40US is pretty good for 5 days of riding around Nepal. Gas cost 2000NRs and it was another 1000NRs to repair the little girl's bike I struck. Even with everything tallied up, the motorcycle rental was totally worth it.
The road back to Pokhara
I celebrated my less-than-expected damage costs by having beers with Kate and Doug. They had a rough time getting from Varanasi to the Birgunj border post. According to them, the bad roads of Nepal would be considered very good on certain stretches in India. They told me crazy stories regarding the road conditions and traffic. One particular story included a road so worn it only had 3"-wide strip of asphalt with motorcyclists in both directions trying to stay on the strip and playing a game of chicken. The height from the strip of asphalt to the rest of the "road" could almost be a feet high and sometimes they felt like they were riding through construction rubble! We caught up, exchanged travel stories mostly on riding in India vs. Nepal. It was truly good to meet-up and catch-up with them as they were heading off to a 10 day trek the next day. After finding out their Jomson trek was along a finished paved road, they decided to change their plans last minute. They wanted an authentic hike so they opted for the Annapurna Sanctuary hike which I wanted to do as well but will have to leave until my next visit to Nepal.
I spent my last two days in Pokhara relaxing, feasting and backing up my photos to USB since I had to reformat my key. The computer at the Daman hotel gave me a virus so I reformatted my USB key and spent time organizing and backing up pictures from my camera onto the key. During my return to Pokhara, I also had cravings for Italian so I had lasagna for dinner at "Rainbow restaurant" on my first night back and spaghetti bolognaise on the subsequent night.
On day 4 of Knee-Watch, progress was great and the knee was healing nicely. I could take on weight no problem and the range of motion good. I was feeling a lot less pain and would estimate my total recovery status to be 60%. My planned Everest Base Camp (EBC) hike start date was Friday, February 13th, 2009 which gave me 4 more days. Hopefully the healing and plans progress smoothly and I could start at that time.
On my last day in Pokhara, I had coffee and pastry at the Himalayan cafe before talking with the owner about Nepali politics. The older gentleman was frustrated with the inefficient and corrupt government. He wanted to see real representation, real work and real progress. According to him, the Maoists (Communists) have gained 50% of the vote due to the people's frustrations but still could not govern. The current "democratic" government has been in power as a minority accomplished nothing. Corruption was rampant, politicians and public services have done nothing to improve living conditions. There were well qualified professionals in the service but they were not listened to by their superiors. He told me stories of votes being bought with hopes of getting a return favour. But after a few years, the people know they can't trust the politicians and their promise of favours anymore. The Nepali people's frustrations with the corruption are indicated with the overwhelming votes for the Maoists. The situation reminded me stories I heard in Palestine of people voting for Hamas not to support terrorism but to send a message to the Palestinian Authority that they were tired of the corruption and lack of action. I explained that though democracy wasn't perfect, in my opinion it was the best and most realistic system. It also takes a long time to mature in a new country and doesn't happen overnight. It requires the people to ask for more, to be educated and hold their representatives accountable. It seemed like all of those key steps were gradually happening and with a free press, democracy in Nepal can only move forward with time.
Well that's it from Pokhara, "Hello Kathmandu!"