Thursday, November 22, 2007

Pokhara, Nepal


Sorry, the internet is so slow I still can't post photos but I have about 500 of them.

Our group’s numerous demands and not inconsiderable whining brought us a larger, newer, cleaner bus which made both a potty stop and a food stop (at a restaurant with many toilets – one of them western style).

We traveled from Chitwan to Pukhara on a road built in 1973. Before the road this particular trip was a ten-day mule train trek. For us it was a 5 hour drive that involved as much bouncing as a ten-day mule train trek.

I’m pleased that the road is there – all 220 km of it – but the sad little road suffers from pot holes like craters and the occasional rock or mud slide damage that creates a great deal of unevenness so that travel is slow, halting, and amazingly bouncy. We spent the whole trip listening to Nepalese or Indian rock music which was okay at first but seemed to grow in volume toward the last hour until our heads were raw from the piercing sounds of thin, high pitched women’s voices.

This bus ride started with a bit of excitement – we chased a run-away horse. We were leaving the village and had just crossed the bridge when Rick pointed out a little horse cart with a cute cover. He called it the “surrey with the fringe on top” but suddenly said surrey took off without a driver.

Amy saw the driver panic and run and Amanda watched the cart speed away. The man smacked on the side of the van and though not a word was spoken the driver realized that he was being commandeered as a rescue vehicle so he slowed the van, the man jumped onto the ladder at the rear and we were in pursuit.

We drove for quite a while and I thought that the pony must have turned somewhere. I watched the man through the back window as he glanced up side roads and driveways but always returned to the forward view with extreme concern and distress.

We must have gone the better part of a mile when we saw the pony stopped on the road. A crowd gathered much like one did when our bus locked together with a pink car in some other town on a previous endless bus ride.

That accident was on a busy street full of cars, bikes, motorcycles, people and all kinds of animals so it was no surprise that there were suddenly enough people to lift the car and pull the vehicles apart but this was a relatively quiet street suddenly full of people ready to help. Where did they come from?

The horse stood in that particular place not because he had been caught and not because he was satisfied with that much freedom but because he ran over top of a westerner’s motorcycle which was then lodged between horse and cart. (It is unknown if the motorcycle was moving or not at the time of impact. The westerner was wearing gloves and helmet so it seems likely that he was riding but we missed the moment of impact.)

The crowd assessed the situation and the motorcyclist held the horse with a “what-the-hell-happened?” look on his face. Thankfully he seemed unharmed.

The horse’s owner jumped from the still moving bus and ran to the fray but it seemed the crowd was in process of detaching the cart so he held the horse as they lifted it from the motorcycle.

A bicyclist went down the street to tell everyone what the problem was. When he came to our bus driver there was a short conversation which must have included the driver reporting his part in the rescue. Smiles were exchanged and the bike rider went on. Everyone was quite patient.

The motorcyclist seemed okay as did the horse. The horse owner kept a tight hold on his animal. People moved the cart to the other side of the street out of the way so that the horse could be hitched to his cart again. The crowd picked up the motorcycle for the smiling rider who, when last I saw him through the back window, was putting his gloves back on and shaking his head.

The rest of our trip was relatively free of drama though the road seemed hardly wide enough for two buses to pass unscathed and it was occasionally nerve wracking. We drove past fields patch-worked in rice harvested and rice cut and drying. We crossed the river a few times once on a one lane bridge so creaky and rattlely that it seemed ready to collapse.

Right along side of the creaky bridge was another bridge under construction so maybe the old bridge will shortly be removed. On this day, only one vehicle crossed that bridge at a time which I thought was perfectly dandy but there didn’t seem to be any signs telling people to do that. How does everyone figure this stuff out?

We often had views of snow-capped mountains, lovely green valleys and winding rivers all watched by people with room to wiggle.

In Pokhara Rick and I walked the town and found an observation platform on the lake where we watched a pink sunset. Rick keeps thinking he is in Peru with pizza restaurants, cold air at night, fires burning in the restaurants and colorful knitted socks, mittens and hats for sale but we are certainly in Nepal where the eye of Buddha is on shirts, buildings, trucks and signs.

Again, the people seem friendly and happy. They interact with their children and greet without pushing one to buy, buy, buy. Also, we are all finding great joy not only in walking on sidewalks but in walking where there are no cow droppings to navigate.

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