After the rigours of trekking I decided we needed some R&R and booked us into a luxury resort at Begnas Tal about an hour above Pokhara. As usual Doug was dubious — what would we do for 5 nights at a remote lake? Well it was love at first sight.
Begnas Tal (Tal means lake) is a tiny gem nestled among hills with, on a mistless day, a breathtaking view of the Annapurnas from the balcony of our room. The taxi dropped us at the gate and luckily two boys were waiting to shoulder our bags and lead us down a long set of stone steps (starting to see stone staircases in my sleep) to the reception perched half way down a slope with fragrant gardens, little stone paths and yes, more steps, meandering between stone Nepali style cottages. Our room was fantastic, huge and comfortable, with a balcony hanging over the view, and — wait for it — an old fashioned claw foot style bathtub!!
The first thing we did was take a hot bath and scrub some of the ground in dirt off our feet, then we headed for massages to relief our still aching calves. The resort has a program of Ayurvedic medicine offered as an option and there were 4 German couples there, having “treatments” daily, and going to yoga sessions, and as far as we could see subsisting on vegetables and rice, accompanied by carrot juice. Really they should just have gone to Gujarat where they could have seen interesting things while eating a pure veg diet.
Anyway, to each his own, we found the massage interesting, quite different from Traci our sadistic therapeutic masseuse who makes us cry but relieves our painful necks and backs. These involved stripping stark naked and being coated with vats of oil while more of a stroking motion was used to stretch the muscles and who knows, remove impurities or some such. After an hour of this, including having our faces and scalps vigorously oiled, rubbed, and slapped, red powder was applied to our heads, necks and foreheads, and we were sent off wearing dressing gowns to relax somewhere. We repaired to our porch and sat stunned, gazing at the mirror like lake surrounded by buff coloured hills dotted with small farms. Sound carries over water, and we could hear farmers yelling at their buffalo as they ploughed and the buffalo complaining back.
Legs restored to health, we set off to walk to a small coffee plantation nearby and then on to the grubby tin roofed bazaar at the end of the lake. There we hailed a boatman to take us back to the resort, an idyllic ride with our single paddler dipping his small bladed paddle soundlessly into the still surface of the lake. Can’t think how these lakes have resisted having motorized transport but wonderful that they have.
Our confidence buoyed by our trekking success, next day we went on a 5 hour walk with a guide from the resort to the top of a ridge we could see from our balcony. We were accompanied by a Dutch mother and son staying at the resort. Mother was full of trepidation, I kind of talked her into it, and she did struggle but they both really enjoyed themselves.
They had not had the experience of walking through little villages, and they were just charmed by the baby goats and water buff, the people carrying heavy loads who passed us at a trot but had the strength to “namaste” and grin at us, mothers readying kids for school — so cute to see the kids emerge from very basic houses wearing neat school uniforms, mums braiding their daughters’ hair and typing in big white bows, farmers ploughing, women spreading manure by hand, and on and on… Of course the ubiquitous stone steps were relentless, and the Dutch mother’s struggles made me both proud of my new found strength and angry with our guide who did not have Sunil’s cheerful helpfulness. It was left to Doug and me to help her as her son was absolutely useless and scampered ahead with the guide, completely ignoring his mother. Oh well, she claimed to be delighted she had come, though she was purple faced by the end.
Our last day was lazy, and Doug admitted that every time he objects to taking a break to “not do nawthing” on a trip, he ends up enjoying himself. There was an abundance of bird life in the area, and the trees below our balcony had some interesting specimens that got well photographed. The restaurant had wonderful views and breakfast was delicious and enormous. We were so very glad we weren’t on the therapy diet, wine with dinner was definitely not part of their regime!
We left reluctantly for our flight back to Kathmandu for the final few days of our trip. The pain of leaving was tempered by the tranquil and beautiful trip in the hotel boat back to the bazaar where a car picked us up to go to the airport. We’ll have a bit more culture before we leave. Patan, another of Kathmandu’s old kingdoms will give us a final dose of Nepali heritage before we leave for home.