This is the second post in a series where I’ll be sharing my photos and memories of my time in Nepal.
Following orientation in Kathmandu, Badri accompanied me on the scariest bus ride of my life on the treacherous Prithvi Highway 200 km west to Pokhara, the country’s second-largest city, where I spent the remainder of the summer.
Unfortunately, summer isn’t the ideal time to visit Nepal, since monsoon season is from June to August. But as a full-time graduate student, it was the only time of year that gave me the freedom to volunteer on the other side of the world.
Towering 23,000 ft. over the lush, rolling hills of Pokhara Valley is a mountain known as “Fish Tail,” which is what the summit’s silhouette resembles from certain viewpoints. The magical Machhapuchchhre – considered sacred, it is off-limits to climbers – is one of 30 (!) peaks over 20,000 ft. in the mighty Annapurna Range.
Every day during the two months I spent living in Pokhara, only 16 miles south of Fish Tail’s base, I would squint my eyes and strain my neck, trying to catch a glimpse of the elusive peak through the heavy clouds that rolled in by mid-morning and hung over the valley for the remainder of the day.
Pokhara has the highest cost of living in the country, benefitting from the many trekkers who use the city as their base on the way to and from the Annapurna Circuit. On weekends and school holidays, I greatly enjoyed frequenting the Internet cafes, souvenir and clothing shops, and Western restaurants clustered around the tranquil Phewa Lake.
Although beer was available at most Western restaurants, bars were non-existent. To entertain ourselves one evening, a few friends and I rented the movie Casino on VHS (!) from a shop and watched it inside of a small, dark room upstairs.
I only tried to go trekking once – it was supposed to be just an overnight hike in the surrounding foothills with another American, Amy, a Peace Corps volunteer who also taught at my school. We didn’t get very far, though, before a stern Maoist solider with a large gun stopped us and demanded a bribe of $40 in exchange for proceeding past his post. I was tempted to pay, but, on principle, we turned around. From then on, we stuck to day hikes closer to town.
Machhapuchchhre only revealed itself to me once during my time in Pokhara – fortunately, I had time to grab my camera and run to a small park on the corner near the school to snap a photo before the clouds returned. Pretty amazing, huh?
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