Pokhara, Happy Village and Sarangkot

After spending a few weeks in Kathmandu, arriving to Pokhara was almost a dream. A few people warned me that once I go there, I will never want to come back. They were right.

Getting from Kathmandu to Pokhara is one of those nightmare (ish) bus journeys in Nepal, taking several hours, the duration is what is often determined by how unlucky you are. But once you get Pokhara, it is hard to believe that this peaceful place exists in such a hectic country.

Pokhara’s life is centered around its lake. It’s a beautiful lake with loads of colourful outdoor cafes where you can relax and enjoy life. Nothing else is needed. At least for a few minutes…

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There is plenty to do in Pokhara – yoga or meditation classes, paragliding, cycling, renting a boat and spending a few hours on the lake and loads of other things.

I love cycling so  I decided to rent a bike and go for a ride around the lake. Little did I know what a challenge it would be!

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I decided to do the circle around the lake going anticlockwise. At first, the road was OK and I really enjoyed being on the bike, exploring little villages on the way. I even found a Happy Village!

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The weather was beautiful and I did regret not going paragliding as I was passing the landing place and it seemed like people had a lot of fun.

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Soon the decent road ended and there was only a sandy path left, parts of it heavily flooded. Suddenly a massive snake crossed my path (2 metres or so long) and it scared me to bits.  It was the first proper snake I have ever seen! I was mildly freaking out and started considering whether I should turn around and go back to civilization. I decided to be brave and carry on.

I found a way to get to the other side of the lake and the sandy path started climbing up. It was getting hard, I was sweating like mad and I wasn’t properly prepared for that challenge. It took me ages to get up the hills and I was exhausted. The only thing that saved me was a wee local shop where I could get some cold drinks. OMG why did I do this to myself, I was thinking…

Eventually the hard work paid off, as I got higher, the beautiful scenery appeared:

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And then the views of the World Peace Stupa and Pokhara just blew my mind.

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The road from the World Peace Stupa was extremely steep but I was going down, so the hard bit was over. I managed to go back to the bike rental shop and relaxed that evening. Note to myself: take loads to drink and more food if I ever do this again…

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After this exhausting day, I spent a few days trekking in Himalayas (there is a separate post on that).

I came back from my trek and woke up early the next day. It was my final day in Pokhara and I still wanted to do a bit more. I looked through the windeo and realised that the clouds disappeared and I could see several peaks clearly! I couldn’t believe it. I jumped into taxi and went straight to Sarangkot, a place which is known for its spectacular mountain views. I was in Pokhara during the rainy season so seeing the mountains was a really rare thing and I got lucky. The only thing was that until I arrived in Sarangkot the clouds appeared, so I couldn’t see everything so clearly anymore, but the views were breathtaking anyway.

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I did some yoga that day and then, being really relaxed and happy, I returned to the mental place called Kathmandu…

Isle of Arran

The first time I decided to do some actual traveling in Scotland was almost after two years of living here. Before that I only visited couple of cities and I couldn’t call that traveling. I decided that the best way to explore Scotland was to do it by bike. I’m not even sure how I came up with that  – I didn’t even have a bike at that point. Having in mind that I wasn’t in the best shape either, I completely underestimated the effort required for the trip.

I convinced one of my friends to join me, bought the bike and decided that the Isle of Arran would be a perfect place for that (no particular reasons, rather than a good access from Edinburgh).

So after couple of hours of train and ferry ride we were in Brodick. My friend’s ex-classmate was living there, so we stopped to say hi. As soon as we left Brodick (heading towards Machrie), a really steep hill was waiting for me. After an hour of dragging our bikes up, swearing and thinking what the hell I was doing there, there was a sweet moment of going downhill. A lot of time it was like that, but after a while I started enjoying the challenge. I think those moments of going downhill were totally worth every drop of sweat.

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The weather was amazing. The sun was shining all the time and a lot of times we were just resting on the stony beaches along the way and enjoying life.

Our first proper stop was to see some stones. Yes, stones! There are a lot of standing stone circles on the Isle of Arran, of which the finest ones are Machrie Moor standing stones. The circles date from around 1800 to 1600 BC and the tallest stone is over 18 feet high!

Soon after visiting the circles we left our bikes and went hiking to see the King’s caves. The caves used to be a hiding place for Robert the Bruce (for those who have no idea who he was – he was a King of Scots several centuries ago). It is said that the King had his famous encounter with the spider there (not an extremely exciting story, but feel free to google it).

We decided to spend the night on the beach near the caves – it was sooo peaceful.

However, we didn’t plan our water supplies well enough so in the morning we had no water left. We found our bikes as quickly as we could and cycled to the nearest village to get some water.

The rest of the day we spent cycling and stopping at beautiful places and at the end of the day we reached Lamlash.

Next morning we reached Brodick and went back to see ex-classmate I mentioned before. He took us to the Sannox Bay Hotel & Restaurant where I had the best fish and chips ever (portions were enormous as well).

My friend didn’t enjoy the trip that much, but I really liked it. I was really struggling a lot of time during the trip and the fact I managed to complete it made me really proud. The weather was perfect, the island was amazing and even though it was a short trip and we did not even cycle that much, it was a perfect escape for my birthday. That summer I promised myself to go on some crazy trip for my birthday every year (and I’m doing quite well with keeping that promise).

I don’t have a lot of photos from this trip and they are not that good either. But you got an idea, it’s a nice island and I still want to come back there. I feel like I still haven’t seen a lot – Goatfell & Arran Coastal Way are still on my to do list 🙂

Isle of Mull

Let me tell you about the trip during which I completely fell in love with Scotland. It was the summer 2013 and I was really keen to do some travelling. I convinced a friend to join me (I didn’t even know her that well, but she agreed to share a tent with me for three days!), so we packed our house, pumped up the tires and few hours later we were in Isle of Mull. It was the second time when I was on a cycling&camping trip in Scotland, so I knew what to expect and I was really excited (maybe I’ll tell you about my first trip one day as well)!

We didn’t cycle around the entire island, only the upper bit (starting from Craignure going to Tobermory, Dervaig and then back through Salen). I don’t want to talk much about how amazing the weather and how beautiful the island were and how much I enjoyed the whole trip.I think I’ll just leave you with some photos and hopefully they will do a better job explaining my experiences, than trying to put everything into words 🙂

The first day: Craignure, Duart Castle, Salen and camping a bit before Tobermory

The second day: Tobermory, Calgary & a campsite somewhere around Acharonich

The last day: from Acharonich, through Salen to Craignure and back to Oban

I’m definitely going back! 🙂

Amsterdam (…or how I got lost in the Netherlands)

I think I’m going to jump back in time again and tell you a bit about the travelling I did last year. I keep thinking how to put all the experiences I had in an order that would actually make sense, so I think I will keep talking about the travelling in the mainland for now and once I finish I’ll go back to Scotland – there is so much I want to tell you about it.

Ok, let’s get started. So in June 2015 I went to Amsterdam. One of the reason’s I was going there was to visit my friend (and the best flatmate ever) who was on exchange there. I kept promising to visit her and it was one of the last chances to go.

I genuinely hated the fact that every time I’d tell somebody I was going to Amsterdam, the stupid grin on their faces would appear and they would always ask me about the amount I was planning to smoke. I don’t even do drugs. Amsterdam is so much more than just that. It’s an absolutely gorgeous city with plenty of exciting architecture, art and beautiful canals.

I went there a few days after I completed West Highland Way and half a marathon in Edinburgh, so I kind of felt like I needed some rest. But I didn’t get that much rest and it turned out to be a pretty active holiday. And it was a perfect time for the visit as well – the weather was so good and the temperature even reached +31 degrees one day (dream about it, Scotland).

I probably won’t surprise you with this one, but one of the best things in Amsterdam was cheese shops. Some of them were better than others, but they were all pretty amazing. I ate sooo much tasty cheese while there and mostly for free 🙂

The second best thing in Amsterdam was a cat boat – a cat shelter. There were loads of cats, some of them were more excited to interact with people than others, but it was so nice and refreshing to get to play with them.

Van Gogh museum was definitely worth a visit, but don’t try to cheat and borrow your friends museum card (especially if she’s Asian and you’re not) – it’s not gonna work and as soon as they find out you’re cheating they will be super extra mean to you. Although I had a few other times when people were rude to me for no reason – making fun of me because I didn’t understand what they were saying. But there are mean people everywhere and I probably just got a bit unlucky.

Did I go to the red light district?-people kept asking me. Yes I did and I’m going to talk a bit like a granny now, but I hated that. Streets were full of drunk British tourists, the type of guys I hate the most – loud, stupid and arrogant. I think the district just ruined the city, but at the same time nobody forced you to go there and the place could be easily avoided.

Should I tell you my biggest failure while in Amsterdam? Well, it happened within the first hour while there, as I was slightly confused with the trains while going from the airport to the city centre and ended up in Utrecht (I know I know it’s embarrassing….). Yes it was embarrassing, but not until the time when I was going back from Utrecht to Amsterdam city centre (this time for real) and the controller asked for my ticket – just before my stop. My face was all red while I tried to explain that I got lost and thus I was travelling just with the airport ticket. Anyway, he turned out to be nice and I didn’t get a fine for travelling with a random ticket. Well, it wasn’t that bad anyway; I got to see some of the countryside after all.

It was a perfect weather for cycling and I spent a lot of time doing that in the city. One day we also decided to cycle to Zaanse Schans (just a bit outside of the city) with some of Emma’s friends and it was a pretty cool trip. I couldn’t believe how well cycle paths were developed and it was such a pleasure to cycle there. Zaanse Schans was really touristy, but hey it’s not the worst thing ever. I loved playing with chicken, eating cheese and taking photos of windmills – a perfect little escape from Amsterdam.

The trip back to the airport was quite an experience as well. Apparently sometimes they close the lines going directly there (for some regular maintenance works) and at some point you have to leave the train and get the bus. But you can imagine how many people there are in the train and they don’t always make sure they have enough buses at the same time. I got lucky to get a bus quickly, as I was following a flight attendant – she’d clearly been in this situation before and knew how to go about it.

Anyway, Amsterdam is so much more than what people usually imagine. Go, visit and get the best out of it!