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LancasterLad May 7th, 2014 03:43 AM

Nepal - The Prithvi Highway, Pokhara, and Bandipur
This thread follows on from the one I started called "Nepal", which covered a week in Kathmandu, the first of 5 weeks non-trekking in Nepal...

Our alarm in out accommodation close to the Kathmandu Ring Road (at Swayambhu) goes off at 0515, and it's time to move on to Pokhara.

The tiny Maruti Suzuki 800 taxi turns up a few minutes early. By which time we've said our fond farewells to our host family. Unlike many accommodations options which are soon forgotten, we'll never forget the welcome and kindness of our host Hindu family.

It's the first time we've left our accommodation so early, but it could have been at any time during the day, as everything was so busy. Day light is so important to the people of Nepal, and every minute has to be used.

There are a lot of bus companies who ply the Kathmandu to Pokhara route. We chose Greenline as it gets regular recommendations on Trip Advisor. It is the most expensive at US$20 (or equiv), but does have a/c (that works!), a litre bottle of water each, and lunch included.

Arriving at the Greenline Depot at 0650, we were the first passengers there. And although everyone was supposed to be there by 0700 for the 0730 departure, there were still people turning up almost at the last minute.

I had a good look at the bus before we got on. Not what I'd call luxurious, the tyres looked alright and it was a world apart from the average beaten-up Kathmandu public bus. Here's the Greenline website...

Rosemary and I were sat immediately behind the driver, and so whatever action we'd come across along our route we'd be the first passengers to see it, but hopefully not hit it! No seat belts!

The driver looked as though he'd had a good night's sleep, so that was reassuring. We set off on time at 0730, the bus was full. It quickly made its way to the Ring Road west of the city, and we were soon on the Prithvi Highway...

Those photos look bad, but I think they must clean up the mess fairly quickly as we only saw the odd bit of wreckage along the way.

The Prithvi Highway runs all the way to Pokhara, about 200 Kms, and the trip during the dry season should take about 7 hours with a lunch stop and a couple of quick toilet stops.

By 0715 we had climbed up through the Kathmandu Valley and through the notch in the rim at Thankot. It's there that you first see the epic scale and steepness of the hills beyond, and also the evident danger of the road. And it's also nice to leave the smog back in the Kathmandu Valley.

For the first half of the journey the Prithvi Highway is also the main trunk route between Kathmandu and India. It is chocker-block with big lorries and buses going in both directions. One false move and you could be history, so if you're a nervous type they take the easy route at 20,000 feet!

Plenty of switchbacks, sheer drops, and lovely scenery to occupy our time (and focus our minds). After another 35 minutes we hit a traffic jam, a BIG one. For the next 3 hours we are either stopped with the engine off, or crawling along.
So I gave my sudoku book a bit of hammer, and although the scenery was beautiful as we crawled the whole area had turned into a male toilet. Rosemary wasn't happy!

Eventually we got to the problem, and it looked as though there’d been a landslide. Whether it happened that morning or not I never found out, but the road had now turned into a rutted mess, which struggled through getting thrown around in our seats for the next few minutes.

We finally got to our first loo stop at 1255, almost 5.5 hours after setting off. The toilets were clean. There was a kilometre-stone by the roadside which read Kathmandu 54 Km!

The driver was no against the clock, overtaking on bends on the switchbacks, brakes constantly making an uncomfortable screeching sounds. But the scenery was magnificent and we tried to let that occupy our time.

After another 75 minutes we stopped for lunch at the very pleasant and scenic Riverside Springs Resort. Lunch was included with the ticket and was a very eatable dhal bhaat buffet. We should have had an hour there, but due to being so far behind the clock we were only given 35 minutes.

We were now following River Trisuli valley bottom, passing spidery suspension bridges, precarious ropeway, scores of lorries along the river bed with people smashing up rocks to earn a couple of $ a day. Rice terraces, sugar cane plantations, farmers ploughing, water buffalos. National Geographic stuff and it goes on for miles.

Another toilet stop at about 1600 and we’re on the last lap to Pokhara. For the last hour or so the scenery became less dramatic and more industrial.

We eventually arrive at the Pokhara Tourist bus park at 1800, almost 4 hours late. But at least we’re in one piece!

annhig May 8th, 2014 06:58 AM

The driver looked as though he'd had a good night's sleep, so that was reassuring>>

especially as there were no seat belts!

I admire your sang froid, LL.

LancasterLad May 9th, 2014 12:16 AM

Sang froid indeed. After spending a lot of our week in Kathmandu on public buses, often 'jockeyed' by teenage rookies, it was a great relief to be chauffered by someone who at least looked the part!

LancasterLad May 9th, 2014 02:01 AM

The first thing you notice in Pokhara, at least at the end of March, is that it’s considerably warmer than Kathmandu, and that the air is cleaner.

The Pokhara tourist bus park isn’t really walkable from most of the accommodation options in Lakeside. All Tourist buses arriving are immediately surrounded by accommodation touts and taxi drivers. We already had our accommodation long booked, so ignored them all and recovered our baggage.

I asked the bus driver if he was going any closer to Lakeside. He said that he would be parking-up near to the Greenline office, and that he’d take us there. The Greenline office was only a few minutes walk to where we’d be staying for the next 9 nights.

We quickly found the Pun Hill guesthouse in South Lakeside, were warmly welcomed, and soon settled into our 2nd floor good-sized ensuite room. We had a roof terrace, with great views north to Sarangot, the Annapurna and Manaslu mountain ranges, and south across the Phew Tal Lake to the pine and chestnut forests with the white World Peace Stupa sat proudly at the top. it was going dark when we arrived so the views would have to wait until the morning.

The Pun Hill guesthouse had been recommended by a trusted member on another forum. They don’t advertise, and receive most of their bookings by word-of-mouth and repeat visitors. We’d done our homework and knew that South Lakeside was a quiet area, with arguably the best all round views.

It’s always a bit of a risk believing recommendations given by someone you don’t personally know, but we were absolutely delighted. It cost 1,650 rupees (£11 or US$16) a night for an ensuite double, including a delicious made-to-order breakfast. The manager is a lovely Sherpa girl called Pasang.

A quick bit of unpacking, a welcome shower, and we were off out to do a bit of exploring and something to eat.

annhig May 9th, 2014 06:53 AM

It’s always a bit of a risk believing recommendations given by someone you don’t personally know, but we were absolutely delighted.>>

don't we all do that when we follow recommendations made here or on TA and the hotel booking consolidation sites?

but i know what you mean - as the family's main hotel chooser, i often get nervous as we approach somewhere we are going to stay for the first time.

LancasterLad May 9th, 2014 07:31 AM

Anyone can post any old rubbish on the TA hotel reviews section. No proof required that the poster has even set foot in the country.
I think a lot of the spurious OTT stuff on TA discredits the site, and let's down the many genuine members who post on there.
In fact it's easy enough to be TA DE simply by using the internet to gather information.
Approach with caution!

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