May 3, 2012

#Nepal #travelogue part 6: tea in the #annapurnas with you

This is the sixth of several posts about our recent totally awesome family vacation to Nepal. We worked with the fabulous folks at Geographic Expeditions to plan and book the trip.

We made it to Pokhara alive. Not dying on the Nepal highways turned out to be the beginning of our awesome luck after Chitwan, which we attribute to turning lots of prayer wheels at Swayambhunath and buying a lucky painting at Bodhnath. Our karma thus enhanced, we were in for an awesome two days at Tiger Mountain Pokhara Lodge. This place should go on your bucket list, if you have such a thing.

In my next (and probably final) travelogue post, I'll talk about our two day hikes through the villages, farms, and trekking trails around the Tiger Mountain lodge, in the hills high above the city of Pokhara.

 An unassuming, little sign for this gorgeous resort.

The city of Pokhara lies about 3,700 feet above sea level, and the lodge [Google map it] sits another 1,000 feet higher. The hills launch straight up from the valley floor, cut nearly all the way by terraces probably a thousand years old, or more. The road to the lodge is narrow and steep, and in the traditional Nepali style is more accurately described as a five mile semi-repaired pothole.

Standing at the edge of the main lodge patio, you see Pokhara stretch out before you. The airport is just to the left of that smaller hill in the middle of the city. The mountains are to the right of this photo, just outside the shot.

The lodge comprises two dozen tidy little stone cottages nestled in the hills and trees and linked by a few stone and grass paths. A small infinity pool hides below the lodge and has a view of the Annapurna range almost as good as that from the patio.

 Stone paths reveal the cottages hidden among trees and bamboo stands. Each stone cottage is beautiful on its own, but they're all set into the hills at angles that make them all seem very private and perfectly designed for their locations.

Sam in front of our cottage. The boys had the downstairs (separate entrance, down around to the right off camera), and we had the upstairs.

 Just a shot of one of the cottages, showing how many trees and how much bamboo set the mood.

The steps up to the main lodge. It's got a shotgun door with the main patio right beyond; the bar and lounge are to the right, and the dining hall is to the left.
I mentioned the infinity pool, right? Not huge, but more than enough cool water to dip your hot feet in after an eight mile day hike through the baking hills.

The rooms themselves are pleasant and very comfortable, but we spent very little time in our rooms. We mostly hung out on the patio playing chess, drinking tea, and reveling in the spiritual experience that is gazing at the Himalayan range.

 The rooms were not huge but were adequate, with very nice bathrooms...

 ... and gorgeous, little patios. You can't see the view to the right, but there's a window that looks right out at Annapurna 1.

The service is top notch. If the morning is clear, they wake you with a tea and cookies service at 5:45 a.m. If the weather is clear (or if you prefer to sleep), they won't wake you until later, or not at all. I asked to be woken up, but both days I woke before they could knock. What a treat to have hot tea and yummy cookies brought to your door, then to step outside onto a private patio and look up at an Annapurna peak.

Even so, the better view was from the main patio where they serve breakfast on days with good weather. Our good luck flowed freely--the lodge manager told us it had rained the five previous mornings, and no one saw much of the mountains. In fact, when we arrived the clouds shrouded the entire range. We marveled to see a tiny bit of snow-covered peak in a ittybitty break in the clouds... then we woke up early the next morning to this:

The Annapurna range (here we see Machhapuchhare and Annapurna II, I think) as viewed from our little, private patio through the window. Machapuchare is also called the holy mountain and is not allowed to be climbed. No one has ever reached the summit, at least not on record. So many people have died trying that it was decided the gods didn't want anyone reaching the top, so it was dedicated a holy mountain. I like the idea that there is such a peak that no one will ever set foot on.

And, as the sun rose, we got different light on the peaks and were treated to one of the very best views in the entire world for several hours. All the while, they kept bringing us tea and hot chocolate. Sam played chess with Alisa's daughter (the same Alisa we met on our boat safari in Chitwan), and the whole time was sublime.

Sam playing chess with Machhapuchhare and the others in the background.

Breakfast late in the morning on the patio. Is there anything better?

The patio set up for breakfast. Can't really see the mountains in the background here, but you get the idea.

On the second night, during cocktail hour before dinner, we were treated to a second epic, biblical lightning and thunder storm. This one included pea-sized hail, even though the evening was warm enough for tee shirts. But by the morning, the clouds had cleared off, and in fact the rain had washed the air clear. So be sure to turn the prayer wheels and buy a painting in Kathmandu when you're on your way to Pokhara.

The food at the lodge was awesome. We had to ask for the Nepali dinner the second night--the first night they served us cooked vegetables and something else I don't really remember even though it was good. But we wanted the dal bhat, and we were not disappointed. Plus, the apple cobbler was sublime.

Anyway, these mountains were the main reason I first thought I wanted to go to Nepal. Actually, I wanted to see Everest, but we never did and I don't mind. This was more than worth it. The view includes several of the world's peaks over 7,200 meters (23,000 feet). I never felt the need to climb them; looking at them with hot cup of ilam tea was pleasure enough.

The view through the shotgun front door. They really did a nice job of designing this lodge. It's beautiful and comfortable and friendly and just plain perfect. If you're going to Nepal for any reason at all, make sure you spend at least one night here. We loved every second of it.

1 comment:

J P Hannan said...

So beautiful! Those mountains - OMG - it's no wonder this is where people go to find spiritual fulfillment!