Monday, January 16, 2012

Pokhara, day 1; Fewa Tal, hidden in the mist

The only reason anyone travels all the way to Pokhara is because of the Annapurna Mountain range.

Fewa Tal, Nepal's second largest lake, is just a few minutes walking from the guesthouse and I'd heard you can see the peaks reflected in the water on a calm day.

I've almost always been luck in my travels in that space and time (and weather) worked out well for me, but no this time. The morning was certainly calm, but the sky was so overcast, you'd never know there were some of the world's most spectacular mountains looming above.

Without the anticipated Himalayan reflection, the lake wasn't such a big deal, but there was something in it that caught my attention. Just off the shore from the dock were several wooden boats submerged in the shallow water. I couldn't tell if they were being stored down there (maybe the wood was being cured? usually that's done first...) or if they'd sunk. I've never heard of boats being kept under water, though, so I also wondered if last year's monsoon had done the job, or something. They looked like perfectly good boats, though, and in one of the poorest countries of the world, I was surprised they'd be left to waste.

I continued down the dirt road into the quiet, relatively peaceful town, which felt all the more serene after a couple of months in Indian. It was still early, but shops were open, mostly little one roomed stores selling trekking/camping gear, hand made clothing, and Buddhist art. I found a bookstore where the man recommended I buy the Dalai Lama's My Land and My People, a 1962 autobiography. The clerk told me it was a very important book and that all elementary school children read it as part of their curriculum. I also bought Shopping for Buddha's, a journalist's account of his search for the "perfect" Buddha statue in the suburbs of Kathmandu, and an index of Hindu and Buddhist gods, Buddhas, and Boddhisattvas, so I would have an idea of what I was looking at when I made my own search for a little bronze Buddha, once I made it to Kathmandu.

I was planning on leaving for Kathmandu tomorrow, but it would be heart wrenching to leave without seeing the mountains.

On the way back, I searched out a recommended German bakery and cafe, filled with Western travelers, that had great big, slightly stale, but still tasty cinnamon rolls. I haven't had a cinnamon roll in a long time and it was a pleasant surprise to find one here.

Close to the guesthouse, I dropped into the Internet cafe to check email/Facebook and decided to give Durga a call, since I wasn't sure what to do with myself without the mountains I was hoping to see. She said she was still at school but would be free later so I should call her back. I went back to the guesthouse, wrapped myself up in the warm cashmere blanket I'd picked up in Pushkar, and spent the next couple of hours at the table in the courtyard reading the Ramayana.

When I walked back to the Internet cafe, owner eagerly waved me in from the window. He had a huge grin on his face and told me, "Your girlfriend came looking for you!"

"My girlfriend? Who's my girlfriend?"

"She didn't tell her name, but you called her from here, so she called back and asked for the address and came to find you."

"Durga? Really she came here? When?"

"Not long after you called, she came looking for you. She waited here a long time to see if you would come by. She's very beautiful. You should marry her!"

Then his young employee chimed in, "Yes, she is a very beautiful Nepalese girl. You must marry her!"

"I just met her yesterday, on the bus. I don't know if I want to marry her!"

The owner continued, "When a Nepalese girl comes looking for you, she's yours. You must marry her! She came here looking for you, she picked you. She's a very beautiful girl, you should marry her!"

I began to wonder if the man was her uncle or something, then made the awkward task of calling her back with both of them eagerly listening to every word. She'd was already at home doing her homework, and I apologized that she came but didn't see me. We made plans to meet the next day, though, and said goodbye.

I listened to the guys heckle and persuade me for a little while longer, then went down to the lake to take a few deep breaths. Walking back up the path to the guesthouse, the misty sky cleared just enough to show a single peak hovering in the sky, struggling to glow a pale pink in the evening light. It stayed for a few moments, then disappeared.

Here's an image from an online trekking service to show what I'm not seeing over the lake:

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