Standing on the banks of the river, the water buffalo strolling behind me, and the shadow of the Annapurna’s lingering on the horizon, I said my silent goodbyes to the Tharu village and to the beauty of Chitwan. Our time at the park felt brief, and there was part of me that was reluctant to leave, however Pokhara was calling my name and I was looking forward to travelling further into Nepal to discover more of the country I was growing so fond of. The village had come out to see us off and on the drive out of the park we passed children on their way to school, waving and shouting ‘Goodbye, goodbye.’ It wasn’t long before the melancholy I felt at leaving such a welcoming place was replaced by awe and wonder at the sight of the green domes surrounding me and the emerald waters running through them. The water, foaming with white, looked inviting and it seemed a travesty to keep driving through the land rather than stopping to take a dip. After only a short while into our journey we came to halt on the mountain pass, a landslide of rocks and debris was blocking the road ahead, so we patiently waited for it to be removed before we continued on our journey. We passed small villages that scattered the landscape and more children with their braided pigtails, carrying their books, on their way to school. Streams flowed down the hills and the locals made use of the fresh, clean water to wash their clothes and themselves. We eventually passed a sign welcoming us to Pokhara, the first densely populated area we had come across in the country. Being much more comfortable in the countryside than in big cities I surprisingly felt at ease on the spacious streets, possibly because from every angle I could see the peaks of the Annapurna’s, who appeared to be guarding over me. It was in Pokhara that the first signs of the earthquake became evident. I had expected, before entering Nepal, to see a land full of destructed buildings, however the only evidence so far of the devastation was a former restaurant that had been reduced to rubble.
After waking up under the roof of the stars we set off on a journey up to Mount Sarangkot, to witness a Himalayan sunrise. Eyes half open, and weak from lack of fuel, we climbed our way to the view point only to be greeted by what appeared to be every tourist in the city. Unimpressed so far, due to lack of sleep no doubt, we waited impatiently craving coffee and a pillow for the sun to make an appearance. All negativity was washed away when the shadows of the mountains appeared under the pink glow of the rising sun. Finding a spot without having a line of heads also covering the horizon proved futile, however the mesmerising beauty of the scene overshadowed all the chatter and selfie sticks. It turns out that a Himalayan sunrise is worth missing sleep and breakfast for after all. The snowy peaks of the Annapurna’s fully visible we made our way back down the mountain to explore another activity on offer in Nepal’s capital of extreme sports, white water rafting.
As we stood by the flowing waters of the Upper Seti River, paddles at the ready, listening to the safety speech from our guide, the nerves started to kick in. After listening to his advice only one thing was in my mind ‘DO NOT FALL OUT’. Falling out, as I interpreted it, would mean landing on a rock and imminent death by drowning, despite all the people there to rescue me. We were also advised that our rowing technique should be strong and powerful like a Vikings and not, as our guide explained, like an English person gently rowing down the river thinking about afternoon tea. So it turned out that as I was in a raft with Viking companions from Norway, Sweden and Germany, I had a lot to prove. All fears of death were quickly diminished as soon as the raft started its way downstream, the adrenaline kicked in and team Viking were powering through the rapids with ease and lots of roars and laughter. Waves of icy river tried, and failed, to drag us into its depths and we not only made it to the bottom alive, but also high on life and wanting to go back and start it all over again. White water rafting turned out to be the best part of our trip and we all vowed that we would definitely be doing this activity again somewhere, with higher grading of course because we were so damned good at it.