Experiencing the saddle of rock in Pokhara, Nepal.

Day 10 – Nepal 2008

We planned our second day in Pokhara to be a bit more active than the first and after another huge breakfast (loving these cooked brekkies for 80p every day!) we sought out a bike hire shop to get ourselves kitted out on two wheels. I was looking forward to this, having not been on a bike in weeks, but my hopes were dashed when

we finally found the place hidden down a dodgy little side alley. Predictably your average Nepalese bike hire company probably isn’t the most up to date when it comes to equipment but the place we found was still managing to get some mileage out of bikes that I’m pretty sure had seen action on the Russian front in the 40s. Undeterred though, we rummaged amongst the penny farthings and the iron-built, pedalless push-alongs to find 4 reasonably serviceble steeds. When I say reasonably we at least had about 7 pedals, 5 pumped up tyres and 3 working brakes between us, so can’t complain. On setting off I discovered the main advantage of buying a bike made in the last 2 decades – they’ve ceased building saddles out of stone and thistles. 20 metres in and my supposedly saddle hardened posterior was begging for mercy. 50 metres in and it had already given up the ghost, ceasing blood flow to my nether regions and preparing for full shutdown. I’d paid my money though and we had sights to see so I said a probable farewell to my future children and soldiered on with my striken soldier.

First call on the sight seeing tour was a visit to Devi’s falls, requested by Steff after she’d read something about it in the Lonely Planet. Nothing wrong with a good waterfall we thought, so off we pedalled. We actually got a little lost at this point , but luckily the local urchins in a highly commendable and enterprising fashion offered to show us the way for a mere 50 rupees. Saluting their mercenary nature we handed over the 30p and the little kid jumped on the back of Bastion’s bike. Even more depressingly, but rather predictably, he directed us back the way we came and literally 100m straight on pointed us at the big sign on the left saying ‘Devi’s Falls’ in big black letters. The little nepalese Del-boy jumped off the bike, gave us a big grin and dashed off, rupees in hand. Oh well, there’s one born every minute…

Devi’s falls turned out to be more money-sink than waterfall – nothing more than an entrance gate, about a hundred souvenier shops and a crappest, piddly little bit of water you’ve ever seen, The biggest attraction was actually watching the large crowds of highly pissed off people milling around, and spotting the odd inexplicably enthusiastic loon snapping away on their camera as if they’ve never seen a puddle dripping down a drain before. To top it off, when we stood our bikes outside the gate some chancer came over and tried to charge us a parking fee. ‘For a bike?!’ we asked incredulously. funnily enough when we turned around in disgust, preparing to wheel them over the road to the completely equivalent but totally free bit of pavement across the road, the little guy said, ‘Ok ok, free, free!’ and walked off. I reckon he was just some guy standing there who had spotted a stupid-foreigner opportunity – fair play to the man!

After the falls we got back on our bikes, cursing at the waste of money, and headed in the direction of the world peace pagoda. The peace pagoda is a pretty impressive looking monument right on top of a hill on the south side of Lake Phewal. In the guidebook it claimed amazing views of the whole of Pokhara and the mountains beyond so we dropped off our bikes and started the 45 minute hike up the hill. An hour later we had sweated out half our body weight and were still a fair bit off the top. Another half hour and we’d made it. 45 minutes eh? The pagoda itself was indeed pretty impressive, a massive rounded shrine with a huge staircase leading up it, and prayer flags draped off it in every direction. Annoyingly though, that afternoon Nepal decided to show us that, despite appearances, it’s not quite permanently sunny. The clouds had started to loom over us from the North about half way up the hill and by the time we were at the top there were some pretty impressive purple looking monsters about to break all over us. So, no mountain views for us – just a slightly hurried set of snaps of the pagoda and a rush back down the hill ahead of the storm.

We cycled back into Pokhara in the hosing rain and, having mistimed it slightly, the pitch dark. The whole way we had triple discomforts competing for attention – the rain soaking through my flimsy t-shirt at least distracting from my battered under-carriage, but overridden by the oh-too-real fear of being mowed down by a tractor carrying a 10m high stack of hay. Naturally, our 1940s bikes hadn’t come with lighting.

We made it home though, and managed to dry off sufficiently to fully appreciate the pain inflicted by that saddle. That night we went out for dinner and I bought myself a full nepalese Thali, their traditional meal. It was pretty good, pretty reminicent of indian, bowl of dhal and all, and also came with curd – a sweet tasting natural yoghurt which I fully expected to cause some plumbing troubles later on. Other than that though it was a quiet night and we went to bed in preparation for more travelling the next day.

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