Archive | 3:52 am

Attack of the Giant Leeches

23 Jun

Well, OK, not giant, particularly. But big enough, thankyou. But that comes later.

Are we sitting comfortably? No? Well, I will begin anyway.

So…let’s get out of the city. Onto a tourist bus, crammed next to an Indian guy whose hat is starting to make me think of a woodpecker as he falls asleep on my shoulder. But all is forgotten as the landscape unwinds from majestic and awesome as we wind through the Kathmandu valley, and eventually the deep gorge unrolls to a wider valley.. and we are left with merely impressively beautiful.

To Pokhara (4)To Pokhara (5)To Pokhara (9)To Pokhara (1)

Next stop, Pokhara,,, in a land locked country, where do you go to unwind? To the lake, of course. And this is a truly scrumptious lake.  I am in a nice guest house by the lake, run by a Gurkha.

Pokhara is set in a beautiful, imposing cradle of mountains, the Annapurna massif.. the most imposing is the Machhapuchhare, the only mountain in Nepal left unclimbed as a sacred peak. Please don’t ask me to type it again.


Pokhara is a trekking centre, a home for hippies (and, apparently, home to large amounts of marijuana production). The hemp shops are widespread. It’s full of souvenir shops and restaurants, but nowhere near as manic as Kathmandu – and noone has offered to sell me Tiger Balm yet. They have very few worries about trade names… I have spotted WalMart, Holiday Inn and Safeway so far.. and of course places to buy those trekking permits…


So, a walk by the lake, a day spent passing the time with a lovely Russian girl, Marina, with stories of Russia and Norway (where, for some inexplicable reason, she is living). And tales of massive marijuana plantations on the hills above Pokhara.

My desire to travel and charge around is totally purged.. but I do set out on a trip up to the Japanese Peace Pagoda above the lake. I follow the Lonely Planet instructions, setting out on the climb from the paddy fields above the dam. It’s a sight of true rural tranquillity, with water buffalo ploughing the paddy fields, and women picking rice in the field.


I make my way through some incredibly wet and slippery terrain, the progress of which can be summed up as: climb – slip – curse profusely – check for leeches – start climbing again. I do get a couple of leeches attaching themselves briefly to my leg – and several more that merely get a mouthful of sock – although I am somewhat concerned when I discover a large wound on my thigh. This is concerning because a) it is much larger than previous leech bites; b) I cannot find the leech concerned; c) it is nearer to my groin than I want a leech to get. After some close investigation I decide that this is actually a graze from falling down. Panic over.

My camera has now started to malfunction – using the zoom takes a picture – and joins my PC, my USB memory (where I have my pictures backed up) and my Kindle in the ‘slightly broken technology’ section.

I’m lost in the jungle, of course… the path I am following slowly disappears, causing me to wonder what happened to the other people who made it in the first place. I’m not too concerned about tigers… but sloth bears might be something to think about.

Eventually I rejoin the path, and find myself at the Peace Pagoda. It’s one of 100 planned to be built around the world by the Japanese Nipponzan Miyohoji organisation to promote world peace. And it’s a lovely place. It lacks the crazy Buddhist veneration that I have seen elsewhere in Asia – and it simply…. is. Perhaps it’s the setting, perhaps it’s the lack of tourists (the lack of anyone, really (although I do remind two German backpackers to put their shirts on to respect the Buddha)) but it’s a truly spiritual, peaceful place – if we choose it to be. The mist shrouds the Annapurna range in the distance, but there are incredible views over the town and the lake – which, anywhere else in the world, would have made it worth the climb. Again, I take my thoughts with me from what I hear at the summit… something else to tuck safely into my ‘insights and experiences’ folder to be considered – and then acted on.


Eventually I make my way down using the well worn track. Unfortunately, this takes me right across town. I do find a way through the backstreets as a shortcut – but this short cut finds me right against the Seti River – just upstream from the Devi Falls. It’s jump – or walk. I opt for jumping – which hurts, but not as much as walking round! I then realise that I have just jumped Devi Falls – so named for a Swiss man called David who drowned while navigating the falls.  Lucky escape then!


So, tired, weary and totally at peace, I am back in Pokhara. Time, I think, for the best coffee yogurt shake on the planet (at the Lemon Tree) – and I think I may have earned a banana pancake too.

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