I left Parsadhap, Chitwan at 5:00 in the morning. I was standing beside the highway waiting for the bus when Bishnu came out of the darkness and waited with me — he always waited with his volunteers, as far as I knew. We exchanged pleasantries, final parting words and embraced awkwardly over my packs as the bus slowly came up from Meghauli, headlights beaming, busboy asking if I was headed to Pokhara. I was.
2 stops, NPR 300 (Nepali Rupees) and 6 uneventful hours later, drifting in and out of sleep with music on my earphones and my kindle on hand at times, I arrived at Pokhara. I was half asleep with a window seat when my seatmate, an elderly woman gave me a Mandarin Orange from her newly purchased stash. I politely declined at first but didn’t resist when she put one into my left hand. As I began peeling it open, the busboy told me we had arrived at Pokhara and I should get off and take a taxi to Lakeside if that’s where I was headed. That’s where all tourists go.
I got off with my packs and the Mandarin still in hand. I sat down on an empty bus stand — a sturdy steel bench with a steel raincover. I could still feel the night’s chill through my pants despite the gradually heating day. I took my time savouring the small and sour Mandarin, tossing the peel into the patch of soil next to me containing a single tree I could not distinguish, soon to feed on its decomposed form, as I fed on its fruit. It occurred to me: I’ve never received gifts from random strangers in buses before.
I took the time to figure out where I was in an offline map on my phone, then hailed a mini-bus that took me towards Lakeside. Smartphones make traveling so easy; it’d be interesting to have a trip without any gadgets — Ah, the liberty of doing with less! And the challenge, to boot!
I checked in at a hotel and met up with the friend I was to hike with. She was from Dusseldorf. We went around town for supplies for the trek we were to embark on the very next day: 2 liters of water (more for the bottles than the water themselves) and some trail food — peanut chocolate bars, nuts and dried fruits. I didn’t know how many days we would take to finish the circuit, but we were both pretty carefree and spontaneous so it didn’t matter.
Lakeside Pokhara was a quiet area; touristy, but quiet. A pleasant contrast to Thamel. The main road that ran along the eastern length of Lake Phewa, several kilometers long, was filled with hiking, tea and souvenier stores, coffeeshops, restaurants and large hotels for the more wealthy and less budget-conscious travelers.
Fortunately for me, guest houses, hostels and cheap eats were numerous and easy to find on the inner streets, away from the lake to the north and east — with cheaper alternatives sometimes being only a matter of turning a corner from the main road. Being a popular starting point for many trails, Pokhara Lakeside is full of tourists.
The young and old, people from the East and West alike, groups of friends, solo travelers and large tour groups all fill hotel rooms as do they hostel dorm rooms, restaurants and trekking equipment stores. The youngest I saw on the trail was a 3 year old boy with his mother and 5 year old sister. The oldest was a Japanese retiree by the looks of him, at about 60.
I carefully took the time to repack my bags and leave everything I thought I wouldn’t need. Without any scale, I could only guess that my backpack weighed around 9 or 10 kilograms, including 2.75 liters of water and some food. I had a 0.75 liter BPA-free plastic thermos that clipped easily to the front of my bag straps.