There are several options to choose from, if you want to travel from Kathmandu to Pokhara. There is the luxurious choice of taking a flight which would land you in the city of the big lake in a mere 40 minutes. Then there are the cabs which can be hired at anything between 3000 to 4000 rupiya for a one way ride. Also there are big Volvo buses which take about 8 to 10 hours… since the roads are hilly and narrow at times. But being on a budget, these choices did little for me. As I started to google my way into options, I realized that most locals take up what is called the microbus, a 12 seater tempo traveller which accommodates more than 15 people, a few goats and also large sacks of potatoes and luggage. Getting a seat in one of these is a matter of reaching the bus stop as early in the morning as possible and grabbing a spot by the window to ensure nothing else occupies your seat but your own self and your rug sack. The high point of the entire journey is the mere 120 rupees that you will have to pay up for the ride.
I reached Kalanki bus stop at 5 am from Bhaktapur and got a spot in the backseat of the 7am microbus, luckily by the window. Now no matter what, I was guaranteed a view for the rest of the day. The benefit of taking this ride over the Volvos is that it takes only 6 hours to reach Pokhara. I guess what they lacked in space & comfort, they made up for, in speed and panache.
As the journey unfolded we started climbing uphill through twists and turns and flashes of village life passed by. The two ladies next to me chatted on about the wedding they were going to attend and as I dozed on and off, I almost got a taste of the grand meal and the festive hullabaloo that was in store.
By 1pm we had reached our destination and after spending a couple of hours, I managed to find a homestay far from the busy town, up on a hill. It did require a 30 minute hike up a stoney path, but the peaceful silence and the view of the lake below was truly worth it.
This was the month of April and although the monsoons had not yet started, winter was already on its way out. The cold blue skies had turned grey and grim, preparing for a season of heavy rains. Tourists were fewer, making it easier to find accommodation at non season rates, but it did have a big downer. The view of the big mountains, for which I had travelled all this way, was nowhere to be found. The cafes and guest houses were lined with photographs of Annapurna & Macchapuchure gleaming the town of Pokhara and it only saddened me further. I spent almost an entire day trying to find a vantage point from where I might get the view, but the rain Gods were not on my side. I decided I needed to go on a trek higher into the mountains if I had any chance of meeting the big daddies.
With no expansive view in sight, my mind occupied itself with the smaller things around. The chameleon family that lived in my neighbourhood, the raindrops that held onto the leaves long after the rain had stopped, the fishing boats going up and down the lake, the last glimmers of the sunset. The next 3 days passed by and it was time for me to head into the Annapurna circuit for a small 5 day trek. As I left Pokhara with the trekking permit in hand, suddenly the sky cleared out and there they were, through a mesh of electric cables and poles, the magnificent snow covered peaks of the Himalayas. This came to me when it was least expected and my eyes teared up with a strange form of happiness. I guess while I was seeking it, it was seeking me as well.