Photographer's Note

I stayed in the Pokhara Valley for 4 nights, 3 of them in the friendly and functional Tropicana Hotel, in the so-called Northside area of Pokhara (much quieter counterpart of the nearby touristy Lakeside, full of restaurants, hotels and souvenir shops). Tropicana offered clean bed linen (not always the case in other establishments), emergency power points for long hours without the normal electricity supply (I shouldn’t really call it “normal”, a better word that comes to mind is “rare”) and one-step-above-lukewarm shower almost every evening for an hour or so.

Why am I saying all this while uploading a photo of beautiful mountains at dawn?

Yet another useful “facility” of the Tropicana hotel was a friendly owner/receptionist/marketing director (all in one), who offered a whole range of services from currency exchange (the most honest service of this kind I have ever come across; you told him what rate you had seen in town and he would match it for you), arranging cheap taxis (2 dollars instead of 3), left luggage (useful when travelling to other parts of the valley and then returning to Pokhara). And, above all, a mini travel agency, booking tours anywhere in Nepal, combined with his skills of a salesman who would easily persuade an Eskimo to buy a fridge in the middle of the Arctic winter. He was a really nice guy and after a while we became friends of sorts (the sort you have to watch your wallet when they are around, but friends anyway…) and he managed (I still can’t understand how he did that; I’m the type of traveller who rarely gives in to hawkers of any kind, never less so than when the sum of 140 USD is at stake) to sell me a trip to Chitwan National Park (“3 days 2 nights” which in practice was “2 nights 1.5 days”). At the time I didn’t plan to go there, I didn’t want to go there, I thought of it as a tacky tourists trap not worth my while. And, to this day, I’m grateful he managed to convince me, as I loved the experience…

Ok… back to the photo of the beautiful mountains. That very man also organised a “tour” to Sarangkot viewpoint for me, which, in essence, was a driver with a car who knew where to go, turned up on time, took me there, waited for me a couple of hours and took me back down to Pokhara.

There were only a few lines in my guidebook about the Sarangkot viewpoint (“good view; take a taxi”) so I didn’t quite know what to expect (apart from that it offered unforgettable views of the Annapurna Massif). We left at 5 am, almost 2 hours before the sunrise so, knowing that Sarangkot is situated only 5 km away from Pokhara, I expected a long trek was awaiting me at the end of the drive.

In fact, the car park was a few steps from the viewpoint. It was still dark, still well over an hour to sunrise and only a couple of other people there. “Why did I have to get up so early to come here?” I wondered. I also could not understand why one of the resourceful locals had turned the roof of his house into an alternative viewpoint (“only 100 rupees madam; cup of organic tea included”). Surely, he wouldn’t make much money out of so few photographers, charging a dollar each?

A minute later, I knew the answers to both of those questions when busloads of tourists started to arrive and, in seconds, all those people formed an orderly queue to the rooftop viewpoint, waving a 100 rupee note each. I quickly joined the crowd, paid and had my “free” cup of “organic tea” (styrofoam cup, live hornet in the sugar bowl so I went for a cup of tea without…).

We all waited, facing a wall of darkness, with no sign of the distant mountains. Some half an hour before sunrise I turned round and took this photo of the lower mountains with pink dawn starting to develop in the background…

Two more photos in WS.

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Additional Photos by Kasia Nowak (kasianowak) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 1692 W: 9 N: 3499] (17676)
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