The story of Hom – Sarangkot, Pokhara, Nepal
After the Everest Base Camp trek, Charlie and I wanted to experience somewhere other than Kathmandu, so we arranged ourselves a trip to Pokhara. This was suggested to us by many people, including our close friend, Asa. Pokhara promised to be a land of beauty, serenity and relative calm; and it delivered!
Getting to Pokhara
Pokhara is around 80 miles from Kathmandu, which in England would take around 1.5 hours to travel, e.g. Bristol to Birmingham, which Charlie and I drive regularly. This may be 2-3 hours in a bus in fairness. However, this… is Nepal (said in Top Gear tone).
The trip to Pokhara takes around 7-8 hours on a tourist bus. A tourist bus, in our case is a bus that is all posh for tourists. This has air-con that is in fact a fan, (broken), and takes convoluted routes through towns to pick up and collect locals, or friends of the driver. It’s all good. It also has WiFi, which of course is just for show – it doesn’t actually transmit data, that would be way too modern. The ride is crazy – very very bumpy – we were jumping out of our seats at times; good for fun though. The trip also includes a number of breaks, where you get to have very nice, decent value food & enjoy the spider-infested toilets (there are some big’ns so be prepared).
We’ve put some more info on getting to Pokhara & what to do there, on the Nepal Info page for anyone who wants / needs it.
What we did, other than Sarangkot
We spent about 3.5 days in Pokhara, which was probably about right, although if you like just chilling out in beautiful scenery – you could spend a lot longer.
Among other things, we spent our time eating, drinking, rowing boats, walking up massive hills; visiting peace pagodas; getting lost in the hills; viewing goods made by Tibetan monk refugees (buying the odd one); befriending stray dogs like the one in the picture and enjoying; the vies / taking photos. All highly recommended.
Hom (and Sarangkot)
OK, so after quite a lengthy introduction, I’m going to tell you about a specific day where we met Hom.
It was the 2nd or 3rd day and Charlie and I had decided we were going to walk to Sarangkot, which is a ‘hill’ on the edge of Pokhara that promised fantastic views of Annapurna (the mountain range surrounding Pokhara), as well as views of the city and lake itself. We decided to go all ‘days of no internet’ about it, and did no research; I mean the hill really looks fairly minor from Pokhara. This, it turns out, was a mistake. Sarangkot is 1600m high (that’s like 5300ft)… For our UK readers, Ben Nevis (our tallest) is 4400ft, and Snowdon is 3560ft. It’s a bit unfair to compare, as we started from 750m, so our climb was 850m (or 2800ft), but it’s still pretty hefty. Particularly when it’s 28ºC and sunny!
Anyway, we started our walk around 11AM (also stupid) and quickly started sweating; we aren’t talking ordinary sweating, we are talking wring your shirt & shorts out sweating. The path that’s sign-posted is steep, made from stone steps mostly, and goes through bushy terrain. It’s fine, it’s just steep & long. There are shallower routes that take longer, should you choose to do so.
After around 1.5-2 hours of this, and of Charlie nearly falling off the side of a hill as she ran from a wasp (about 5 times); we found a nice plateau where 2 men were sat. One of these guys spoke excellent English and re-assured us that we had reached Sarangkot. It turns out this was Nepalese humour – we were about half way. I don’t think I get the joke. Anyway, the man that spoke good English introduced himself as Hom (pictured below).
He was a very smiley chap, and told us many stories of people he’d befriended on the same route (alarm bells ringing, Charlie reaching for her rape alarm). He had a really gentle nature about him though, and the stories were of people that had come and stayed with him on his farm; helped out & they are now friends – dozens if not hundreds of these people. All through word of mouth, not internet.
He then offered to take us to his farm, so we could try some of his home-grown & home-roasted coffee (awesome). Charlie and I checked our sanity monitors and decided ‘yes – that sounds amazing’. Hom took us on a pretty peculiar route then, one which we’d have struggled to find our way back through, and we eventually got to his farm. His whole family were spread around the grounds doing various chores. It was really quite idyllic; his house is pictured below.
At Hom’s place, there was an Australian lady named Sally, who had previously stayed there. But she felt bad having arrived late for the rice crop last time, so returned to paint Hom a mural in one of his rooms, of the mountains. She was lovely, and we’ve grabbed her details in case we end up that way when we are in Australia. Sal and her mural pictured below (she may kill us for posting this as she was quite ashamed of the part-finished painting – so note: It’s not finished!)
We met Hom’s auntie, who had a baby goat. The goat had been rejected by its mother, and Hom’s auntie fed it – so the goat thought of his auntie as its mother! So cute! Obviously this is also pictured below, with the full image in the Photos section.
We were also blessed with the insight of a holy man, one of Hom’s friends. He was fairly adamant that Charlie and I were not just two well-matched people, but we were kindred spirits – which is rare. However, in order to keep safe I should wear something blue, and Charlie should wear something Coral. Oh – and we will have 2 children apparently. Naturally – those of you that know me will know how I react to this sort of thing; but I was very polite don’t worry. Charlie now has a blue & coral bracelet to protect both of us. I still wear blue t-shirts from time-to-time.
Food for thought
I had my cup of coffee, and Charlie had some ginger tea. Both very good – the coffee didn’t really taste like coffee to be honest – difficult to describe. We spent an hour or maybe a bit more there, and enjoyed the scenery and the company, and then set off back up to Sarangkot; with Hom’s lifestyle as food for thought. Hom’s life is pretty much entirely self-sufficient, and he doesn’t sell produce from his farm; his family use it all. He does get donations from his guest / friends which help him pay for his kids schooling, and every now and then he’ll have to buy a bottle of gas for when the weather doesn’t permit out-door fires. But he’s got it nailed really – lots of love & people in his life, no bills, no deadlines, no external pressure – just simple – survive – but in the most beautiful place on earth.
Getting to the top – the views – my God the views!
We finished the walk to Sarangkot and enjoyed some astonishing views of the sunset from the top of the hill. The pictures of this are all in the Photos Section, with one below for good measure. It really is a glorious place – you’ve got to see it to believe it. And you can drive / get a taxi there if you’re not mental. The sunrise is supposed to be awesome too, but apparently quite crowded. Sunset was very peaceful.
So in summary, if you’re looking to go and volunteer somewhere and help out on a farm, overlooking Nepal; then this is what you need to do: Go to Pokhara (8 hour bumpy journey from Kathmandu); hike to Sarangkot via the steep path (sign-posted); wait on a concrete platform halfway up (it’s fairly obvious, it’s the one you reach when you’re nearly dead); when Hom arrives – say Hello!