TL;DR for our Pokhara Post:
Our trek (12 days of non-stop mountain walking!) was over and, as you can imagine, we weren’t feeling terribly ambitious. We finished in @Pokhara, which is Nepal’s 3rd largest town with 250,000 people.
Pokhara is a beautiful area, but the town itself (like Kathmandu) is no prize. There are tons of small hotels, restaurants, and knock-off gear shops. Our plan was to circle back to the nice/cheap hotel we stayed at before our trek and just hang out for a few days before rafting.
Pokhara’s lake is its distinguishing feature– it’s a massive-but-shallow lake with floating islands of vegetation and mountains towering over it on two sides. Rarely do you see any boats on the lake, but there are a few fleets of wooden ones that can be rented by tourists.
We spent our days resting, catching up on Internet time between power outages, and hitting a few choice restaurants around the lake. We had two favorites.
One was @Bistro Caroline (tripadvisor), owned by an expat couple (he’s British, she’s Malaysian). They served comparatively fancy food, spendy for Nepal ($25 for salads, entrees, desserts for two), but well worth it as a reward for our trek. We even added a bottle of wine ($15!). Our hosts were chatty and charming. The owner does some guiding, which allowed us to swap stories about the trek. He also happened to be a Washington Redskins fan (?!), so we could talk about American football! And, finally, we geeked out about sci-fi books– turns out we were both re-reading Asimov’s Foundation Series. Bistro Caroline also featured a resident turtle that would slowly crawl around and beg for food and flowers from the diners.
Our other favorite was @Pokhara Beach Club (website), which was our daytime lounging spot. We’d spend hours here. It was a 15 min walk to the north side of the lake, but the views were stunning and the food was outstanding (they had a great boar burger!). The owners were also expats– he was from Canada and she was from Rishikesh (where we were immediately before Nepal).
The lakeside walk to Pokhara Beach Club featured nice views of the paragliders who were out every single day. Pokhara is apparently one of the top spots to paraglide in the world.
Our plan was to do an overnight rafting trip after a few days of rest. We knew this was a bit dicey– it was the end of monsoon season and most of the rafting spots weren’t low enough to raft yet. But one was open by the time our trek was done and we were able to get a day in.
The rafting itself was a hoot. Our guide spoke lousy English but was enthusiastic. Most of our raft-mates were young Chinese tourists who also didn’t speak much English, so communication wasn’t really happening. There was however a Canadian reporter stationed in Qatar who had some amazing stories.
Normally, when we’ve rafted, we start on a relatively calm portion of the river so the guide can get us paddlers tuned up a bit to paddle on command. Not here. Within 60 seconds of our launch, we watched another boat fully capsize and ours nearly did, dumping two of our Chinese tourists into the river. These were returned to us via a few kayakers who were charged with accompanying us (presumably for just such an occasion!).
After 90 minutes of pretty rough rafting, we pulled over for a 10 minute break. The Chinese tourists decided to wade into the river a bit and one of them got swept away in the current. Our guide shouted at him to swim towards the bank but he wasn’t able to get to shore so we loaded up the boat and headed after him. Our guide didn’t seem terribly alarmed, but it was probably a good 5 minutes before we were able to catch up to him, still floating downriver rapidly, soggy and exhausted.
Our plan was to raft a second day, but our guide told us the water was too high to do anything other than the same stretch of river, so we decided to pass. We were going to hop a bus that afternoon back to Kathmandu, but he persuaded us to stick with our plan to camp by the river, which turned out to be lovely, with the river drowning out the noise of the nearby road.
In the morning, we hopped a 6 hour bus back to @Kathmandu and made ready for our next stop…. Bali, Indonesia!