Vacation Time. Pokhara.
I admit to a reluctance to follow the same path as every other tourist in the country, but the option my dreaming and adventurous side was shouting about would have been exhausting in its own right (I’ll tell you about Mustang some other time), and there is a good yoga retreat for K, so we scheduled a week in Pokhara.
Pokhara is on Lake Fewa (or Phewa) a couple hundred kilometers west of Kathmandu. It takes 7-8 hours on the local bus, though in my experience so far these estimates are always overly optimistic. After our three days on buses to and from Manakamana, and ~17 hours to and from Chitwan National Park, the prospect of that much time crammed in some beefy dude’s armpit (that’s not just a figure of speech, I spent four hours wedged in there last time) was not exactly relaxing, and this volunteering gig has been rather economical thus far, so we opted for luxury and flew out. We passed over the 7-8 hour bus zone in half an hour, and they even gave us little bags of peanuts!
(Another factor was our desire for good views of the Himalaya, but the monsoon clouds stayed with us, though the canyons, caves, and crevasses of cloud were in themselves a delight. I hope I never get used to that beauty. And holy shit, the first person to see that (Wilbur/Orville Wright?) must have had a religious experience of it.)
The domestic terminal in Kathmandu airport is a modest-sized echoing hall of coughs, untended children, and the inevitable thin muddy footprints on the bathroom floor. (I will never understand the amount of missing that goes on in public bathrooms. It’s really not that difficult, guys). It is more authentically chaotic than the international terminal, but luckily on a smaller, manageable scale. They never did check our IDs, the less than alert X-ray guard waved me through when I told him I had already put my bag through the machine (I had), and apparently only one of the 8 airlines has access to the PA system, as everyone else just shouts their boarding announcements.
K was worried that the morbidly obese mountain of a man in mourning white behind us would unbalance the plane. The wee Indian lad in front of me dropped just over half his peanuts and left an impressive scatter of garbage behind, and the older woman in the deep blue sari behind and to the left of us kept her eyes closed the entire flight, her lips moving nonstop in quiet prayer.
On landing we waded through the taxista’s and asked the guards where the local bus into town stopped. That’s not really fair of us since we will be gone in 2 minutes, and the guards live here with the cabbies, so they pretended not to understand the question while the taxi drivers shouted that there is no local bus and that it doesn’t come for two more hours. I kept walking and one young guard silently pointed the way out to K.
Pokhara is like a psychologically healthier version of Thamel, the notorious tourist district of Kathmandu. It has great restaurants, bargain lodging by the dozen, and souvenir stores aplenty, but without the sick intensity, desperation, and aggression of the city of millions.
I believe the beneficial effects of nature on the human animal are so obvious and numerous as to be undebatable. That people are healthier, happier, and more whole when they spend at least a substantial amount of time outside of cities is an axiom in my mind. There is a lake here, and the stability and thoughtfulness of water is an important peer for the human mind, and across the lake is thick preserved jungle; the color plant-green is a key nutrient for the psyche.
K is ensconced in her four day yoga retreat, and I have begun a strict regimen of eating whenever I damn well feel like it. The monsoon is heavy lately, but my hostel has a garden and the sound is a benediction. Life is good.