“Live your dream and share your passion.”
Just before heading into the mountains I did two different home stays. First, I stayed with a family who invited me in after I bought oranges from them. There were five children in the family, plus a cousin or two who seemed to live there as well, making for a busy household. They described themselves as Nepali middle class (everyone is very aware here where they stand in society), and though they don’t have much money to spare, all of the children attend (or attended) a private English medium school in order to ensure a future for them. The three girls did everything, the laundry, cleaning, cooking, and running the small fruit stand they owned. The two boys on the other hand just got to run around and play all day. I definitely think they got the better deal! I then stayed with one of their neighbors, a wealthier family who was very nice and made me feel at home without it being overwhelming.
From there I started heading to Pokhara. I was under the impression that I would be climbing at least 3,000m, that it would be cold, and that I would have snow covered peaks all around me. Boy was I wrong. Though the road beautiful, it was just the rolling foothills of the real mountains which are still very far away. Though I did climb a bit, every time I went up, I went down almost just as much. Now that I have made it to Pokhara I am still at less than 1,000m, and unfortunately, it is still warm enough to walk around in just a t-shirt during the day.
Though I stayed in hotel rooms along the way, I spent one night with a women and her children in, what we would call, an apartment. It was a building where everyone rented just one room, no matter how many people were sleeping inside. It seemed to be mostly women and children, as the fathers had jobs that took them away for days, and sometimes weeks or months, at a time (drivers and the army).
What shocked me most along this section was the number of tourist buses. There were Nepali, Indian, and western buses and vans alike passing me every ten minutes. There were even huge “western” tour buses holding people who had payed thousands of dollars for a two week all inclusive tour (with a guide, nice hotel rooms, spending only a day or two in the most touristy towns). It was amusing for me to see them as I am not accustomed to meeting anyone but backpackers, but Nepal, and especially Pokhara, is such a popular tourist destination now that everyone, even those who travel in comfort, make their way here.
Then I arrived in Pokhara, the most touristy town I have ever seen. Of course there is still a sections with locals (it is large, Nepal’s third largest city) but by the lake, there are thousands of guest houses and tourist restaurants that run for a few kilometers. I am not exaggerating either, there are literally thousands upon thousands, with more popping up every year. The wealthier section is filled with Indian and Nepali tourists (only the wealthy can afford to travel in these countries, and they always travel in lux), as well as the rich western tour groups, while the other end of the lake, where I was, was for us backpackers or cyclists on a budget. It was touristy, clean, and easy… Which made for a perfect spot for me to take a little vacation.
People always ask me where I shower when I am out camping. Well, rivers and lakes are obviously nice, but sometimes the water source at the side of the road is just as convenient (as long as you can ignore all the trash).