Blowing the Budget

Our second stop in Nepal was Pokhara – actually travelling slightly backwards as it’s NorthWest of Chitwan.  Felt weird putting that on the map, like I was cheating and going home already.  Pokhara has been expensive – it is an enormous black hole for your wallet as the streets are just lined with activities to book, things to buy and places to eat.  Pokhara has been painful – we visited the Everest steak house on the first night as a joint birthday party for Rachel ,Paul and Caroline* and I may have gotten over excited at the prospect of excellent meat because I’ve had heart burn for 3 days now.  But most of all, Pokhara has been awesome.  (With one weird exception – this is definitely not a party town.  Everything shuts at 11.  EVERYTHING.  Even the one odd bar we found with girls dancing on the stage who were definitely not professional dancers but may just have been professional something else.  And then when you do get kicked out there are NO street lights to lead you home.  Luckily I escaped with nothing worse than very muddy toes)

There was talk on the first night about doing the world’s longest, steepest and fastest zip line – lots of people still did that, but I changed at the last minute for paragliding instead.  I missed the opportunity when some of the group did it in Turkey, and where better to try it than the Himalayas?  (Plus seriously, same price – slightly cheaper actually – for 30 minutes of air time compared to 90 seconds?  Obvious choice)

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Jay, Jane and Chris on the way to paragliding.  Jane might be a wee bit nervous.  Kate opted to sit in the front of the truck, so I was seated next to an aging Australian Mick Hucknall instead.  He was only along for the lift to the top of the hill because ‘I’ve got my own wings.’  Right.

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Chris being forced to take off first without being able to watch anyone more experienced first – he was not happy about this, as we could hear from the manly screams as he ran off the mountain.

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I’ve previously posted this photo on Facebook and it has been noted that I look like I’m grinning psychotically just as I unbuckle all our safety equipment.  I swear I enjoyed it more than that.  I’m strapped to Prativa, who is apparently the only female Nepalese paraglider.  No idea if that’s true, but good for her.  She was lovely, and helped me feel very secure, and then hummed all the way down, which was…nice, I guess.  And then she gracefully didn’t mention how entirely ungraceful my landing was – I kinda missed the timing on straightening my legs and ended up in a tangled heap on the floor unable to get up without several people’s help.  I loved every minute of it (as you can tell by the smile – I’m not grinning for the camera, I was just constantly grinning), but I’m not sure if it’s something I would do again.  I had the odd combination of being totally enthralled by the view and being slightly queasy at the same time, so it may have been a novelty first time high for me.  I still 100% recommend it, but I think I’m more of a water baby than an airy fairy.

On that note, after paragliding I pulled my organising hat on negotiating discounts, asking questions and running round town collecting everyone’s money for the next day’s white water rafting trip on the Trishuli river.  When I booked the rapids were supposed to be a grade 4, but it had dropped to grade 3 by the next day, so a little more tame.  It was my 4th rafting trip, so I was quietly a teensy bit disappointed, but it was probably best since we had a lot of complete newbies.  As we were such a big group we were split into 3 boats – our boat was clearly perfect since no one fell in (although we all jumped in to go swimming on the calm bits), but one of the other boats hit a mini whirlpool at an odd angle and completely capsized – sending their boat shooting down the river before their guide or the safety kayaker could catch it.  We had to rescue the poor soggy victims while their boat was being retrieved, so we ended up paddling over the biggest rapids of the day with 15 people squeezed into the raft!  Everyone was laughing through the screams though so I think there may be a few more rafting converts – I’m personally dying to try white water kayaking at some point.  All in all, a fantastic day.  Until hometime.  I thought I had asked every possible question, but apparently when I asked if trasnsportation was included, they meant that our payment for transportation was included.  The actual vehicle wasn’t.  Ah.  The guides spent a halfhearted half hour flagging down local buses trying to persuade them to pick up 19 damp foreigners to no avail, before they gave up and called a driver who showed up with one Nissan pick up truck.  For all of us.  21 people (guide and driver included) in a pick up clearly isn’t a big deal in Nepal as the driver just told us we were all too big and this would be easy with Nepalese people.  The 2 and a half hour journey took us 4 hours on the way back, with people sitting cross legged on the floor, people standing on the tailgate, and Graham lying on the roof.  The cheers were somewhat subdued when we eventually got back.

I had planned to do a mini hike up to a nearby temple on our last day, but woke up feeling lazy and unmotivated.  To the extent that when a trip to the lake was suggested I couldn’t really be bothered, but allowed myself to be persuaded since I had nothing better planned other than more shopping (by the way, have bought myself an oil painting to hang on the walls which I currently don’t have).  I’m so glad I let myself get talked into this – we hired a pedalo between 8 of us, along with the mandatory lifejackets which lasted about 3 minutes before the bikinis came out, speaker went on and we were pedalling to the middle of the lake for a swim.

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Aaron totally letting me do all the hard work

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Jay, Kirsty and BEER!  I did not drink beer, obviously.  I had to content myself with good tunes and good company as the world has yet to produce a beer that doesn’t taste of robot farts.

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Edel, marginally more excited than Rachel

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Lauren: ‘Hey, take a photo of me looking majestic!’

It was a fantstic way to end the Pokhara extravaganza, and yet again I find myself vowing to say yes more, even when I can’t be bothered.  Fingers crossed when I’m on my own there will be people to say yes to!

P.S.  I don’t think the builders of this pedalo envisaged people wanting to jump off it.  They didn’t add a ladder.  There is no elegant way to get back on a pedalo without a ladder.  Particularly when you’ve spent the previous day paddling for 3 hours and you’ve already jumped in 4 or 5 times and your arms are getting tired.  The phrase ‘beached whale’ comes to mind.

*Due to excellent spelling on the part of the Steak House cake decorating team, Caroline is henceforth to be known as Cakoline

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