Snapshot of daily life in Pokhara – 1

The cry of “Howzat!” echoes off the walls of the surrounding buildings, with shouts of dissenting voices following hot on hits heels.  Friendly arguments then ensue, with the final decision being “Not out” and the game continues.

This all takes place in a central park, commonly known as Cow Park because of the cows and water buffalo that amble over the stony ground to graze on any little blade that might have managed to push its way up through the hardened ground.  It is dominated by three enormous ancient trees, the canopies of which cover the entire area in shade.


The fielders, whose footwear range from bare feet to plastic slip on sandals in all states of disrepair, scurry and slide across the dusty, stony terrain, trying to field the ball that often ricochets at obtuse angles off the gnarled twisted trunks of the trees. Another unusual aspect of this gentlemen’s game of cricket being played in downtown Pokhara, is that the wickets are comprised of a pile of broken concrete bricks, which ultimately would make it almost impossible for a wicket to fall when bowled at by the threadbare tennis ball that tends to bounce off without removing a single “bale”. Two male water buffalo go head to head at deep square leg in an effort to assert their dominance, but nothing distracts or dampens the passion with which these boys play their match. They can be seen out in the park till the sun sets and the street lights turn on, which is a sign for them to call it a day.

These children may not have much materially, but their lives are far richer for it and the good sportsmanship in their general behaviour is a testament to this fact. No one is excluded from this match – that is not a 1 day or 5 day, but a life series.


1, 2, 3 ….. run and jump…!

I have been trying to decide how best to describe the young Nepalese men who issue this instruction at least twice daily – 365 days a year. They are young, adrenaline junkies and even though they say the activity is 99,9% safe, there is definitely an element of danger.  For South Africans out there, imagine the mix of the rugged Camel cigarette macho man (from the adverts of a bygone era),  combined with the coolness of a surfer on Durban’s North Beach with finely tuned bodies and salty sea soaked hair – and there will have it. A Nepalese paragliding pilot, walking around with a natural swagger and are coolness personified with their reflective sunglasses, some with sultry designer stubble, others sporting full mountain men beards with dreadlocks – but all carrying themselves with ease and confidence, which is exactly what you need when you are strapped to one of them and they issue this instruction to jump off the edge of a cliff.

Then it’s “wriggle back – wriggle back” and you will then find yourself secure in your harness with your back snuggly against said mans chest. I am sure however that this has nothing to do with the euphoric magical feeling that I felt the minute my feet left terra firma.  Never in a thousand years did I expect to feel like this.  I was expecting abject terror and maybe a scream or two, I did scream, but it was not from fear, but from pure exhilaration. I was soaring with the eagles.  I am sure everyone has dreamt at some time or other of flying and that feeling of freedom is multiplied ten fold when you are actually surfing the thermals.

Three days later I am still on a high thinking about the whole experience. The build up to the eventual jump was a gradual one.  Nepalese time is very much akin to African time of hurry up and wait and as we say in South Africa ‘just now’. There is no rush – there is a weigh in, indemnity forms are signed, the pilots are all lounging around and we await the transport to the launch site. The nerves are kicking in and the butterflies are doing somersaults in the stomach. Parachutes are loaded into the back and then unloaded again, we wait – no explanation given. Climb into another vehicle, parachutes loaded again and we are off and the anticipation as the vehicle climbs and climbs and climbs up a narrow mountain road, reaches a peak.  The launch site is just an incredibly steep hill which ends at the cliff edge. Pilots are casual, each take a nervous victim and I wonder how many times they have heard “Please look after me I am very scared”.  Conversations and banter between them all continue in Nepalese and we make our way cautiously across the step side.  My pilot – Ramit says in broken English.  “Stand still – look that way – and when I say 1,2,3  … run and jump – then run and jump”


A short conversation en route back down to earth I find he has been doing this for 10 years. After performing what I consider the most perfect landing, I turn to him and say “I would like your job”.  Just imagine being able to fly with the eagles everyday and get paid for it. I am already planning where I will jump next.


Would you like some Marijuana?

“Excuse me miss, you want to buy some hash? Marijuana?” A polite “no thank you” is the reply. I wonder have I changed so much that I now look like someone who would be interested? It almost feels like I have arrived – I now fit in with the “hippy” crowd. This is the first time I have ever been approached with an offer – something I can cross off my life to do list.

It is a lazy, quiet Sunday afternoon. Not a breath of moving air, the lake in Pokhara looks like a mirror, without a single ripple, a light mist hangs low over the water, making everything around slightly muted with a rather eeriness which is quite relaxing.  Children splash in the shallows and their laughter is soft music to the ears. Even the squawking of the crows is not jarring or intrusive.


After navigating the muddy puddles along the promenade, a quiet seat in a lakeside restaurant is perfect for a bit of people watching. Conversations in foreign languages and accents, combined with the gentle background music, create a form of white noise.  A voice can be heard from the kitchen – “I told you – mix sugar and cornflour together. I have shown you. Write it in your book. Then add the water.”  It is a gravely mans voice, maybe a smoker with an American accent, which immediately piques an interest and on looking up, I see it is not a man, but a woman. Or maybe a man dressed like a woman, with the body of a woman, but the jaw is masculine as is the protruding adams apple. He-she has worked wonders with teaching the staff as the service is impeccable and the food combined with a glass of perfectly chilled glass wine just seems to fit the whole afternoon like a glove.


Looking out again over the small slightly overgrown garden that separates the eatery from the lake frontage, white butterflies flit around, also seemingly enjoying the laziness of the day. A young boy, sporting a black headband with matching arm bands, hair up in a man bun, saunters onto the raggedy grass and unpacks what looks like a fire stick and he proceeds to practice his flowing moves – I think he could put on quite a show later in the evening after sunset with the end of the stick alight with flames. The local who approached me with the offer of some local weed, strolls past, lifts his hand in acknowledgement and then makes a beeline to a young girl sitting by herself on the park bench.  I see her shaking her head, but he is not deterred and continues to badger her.  I am grateful for my age where a “no thank you” meant a “no”.

A large water buffalo labours past, with the pedestrians giving him a wide berth. An elderly Nepalese lady, taking tiny steps, by passes him with such ease, even though she is carrying a huge basket on her back, the weight of which is being borne by straps around her forehead.  The basket is laden with beautiful ripe pineapples. Next up is a rather large tourist (not meant in a derogatory sense as I too am a tourist), he wears a yellow t-shirt stretched tight over his portend stomach, socks and sandals.  His breathing is laboured and takes a seat next to the young girl on the bench, with that the dealer moves off to find another target.  It is also my signal to move on which I do but in the opposite direction.