Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Pokhara, day 3; World Peace Pagoda, bat cave

    January 18th, 2008

I woke up today to a third day of imprisonment in the thick mist, that finally extinguished any hope of witnessing the Annapurna range. In the guesthouse office, I finally booked my bus ticket to Kathmandu. I asked about getting a ticket on the overnight bus, but he said it was safer to travel during daylight, since there are occasional incidences of bandits creating roadblocks at night and robbing passengers. *Gulp* "Okay, morning bus is good!"

I walked down the road, trying to will the mist away, but its determination out did mine. A friend of mine had asked if I could find him a Dalai Lama casting and I'd noticed an interesting sculpture inside a little shop, so I went in to get a closer look but it wasn't a Dalai Lama.

When Durga finished class, she came to meet me once more with the same friend she'd been with when I first met her. I told her I'd be leaving the next morning and she wished I would stay longer, but whatever it was that had me in motion wasn't easing its grip.

We took a taxi up to the World Peace Pagoda on the ridge over-looking the lake. The Pagoa is a Buddhist  stupa, funded by the Japanese Buddhist community and a part of the world-wide collection of peace pagodas started with those in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. They are, "designed to provide a focus for people of all races and creeds, and to help unite them in their search for world peace."

The Lonely Planet makes specific mention of the amazing view of the Annapurna Mountains from the stupa, but all I saw above the lake was light-diffusing cloud. My disappointment was partially relieved by some interesting views of the steep, terraced slopes on the way back down the mountain.

From there, we drove quite a ways north, actually passed Pokhara, to a famous bat cave. A guide lead us down into the cave, which would have been pitch dark if not for our lanterns, and eventually into a huge cavern where he aimed his light up towards the ceiling to reveal thousands of bats hanging from the rock. We continued following him along a steep, difficult path leading up to a back exit in the cave. Part way up, there was a small, flat area where popped open the flash on my camera and fired a few shots. The bats were right at eye level and I ended up with a couple great shots of them clinging between the mini stalagmite. Just above was a small formation that locals revere as an image of Baby Ganesha. It wasn't too amazing, but cute enough... From there, we squeezed through a tiny crack of an opening, and back on ground, though it would have been much easily to just go back out the way we came in. Poor Durga bumped her head on the way out and left a bit of a scrape on her head.

Back at lakeside Pokhara, we had dinner together at one of the nice restaurants along the stretch. Durga had a test the next day she had to study for, so we said goodbye shortly after eating. We'd not likely ever see each other again, but I hope made we would. Not feeling like going back to the guesthouse yet, I walked down the road, not sure where I was going, but where ever the road would lead me.

It ended up leading me to a familiar looking sign, well the word on the sign was familiar, anyway, "Arirang", an ancient Korean word that's forgotten its own meaning somewhere through the ages but continues to survive through Korea's most beloved folk song. I ordered a dish of bulgogi, out of comfort more than hunger, and as I enjoyed it, the owner, an older Korean woman, came to ask if I was eating the Korean food well. When I answered in Korean that it was very delicious, she lit right up and went over to fetch her husband to meet me. I'm sure I'm not the only English teacher who made it to Pokhara after teaching in Korea, but I might be one of the few who found their way into a Korean restaurant... He pulled a chair up beside his own in front of the wood stove and invite me to sit. I was able to follow a simple conversation with him, as we shared the warmth of the fire, and he appreciated my what I had to say about my time in Korea. He and his wife came to Pokhara a long time ago and fell in love with the place. In just a couple days, I could see why. If I'd been able to see the mountains, I just might not be leaving either! He told me that in Nepal the same species of "ma", a sort of wild, white yam, as in Korea grows and that it was in season. He asked the waitress to bring a few over he put them in the wood fire to cook. He said in the chilly weather they would boost my immune system and make me healthy and as quickly as we ate them he added more to the flame. Sitting with him, I was reminded of the warmth and caring that endears me to Korea, despite all the other headaches I've endured there. The strange thing was, I didn't understand everything he said, but I understood more than what I knew on any other day. It's interesting how human connections have the ability to transcend language. We sat for a while, soaking in the fire, then I made my way back through the chilly, moist night air.

I set my alarm for 5am, a little heavy with thoughts of staying, but excited for the road to Kathmandu in the morning.

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