NEPAL: PLAYING IN POKHARA
Each morning we walk along Lake Phewa in Pokhara, perhaps the only place we found in Asia, since Mongolia, where you can walk and almost be alone. Only once did we get mobbed, by a large group of tourists from India.
“Let me take photo!” We don’t understand at first. They want to take photos with us, we guess because we are westerners. Soon, young men mob Mare and I, posing while switching cameras, and then wanting to hold our hands. As soon as we begin to worry about “mob mentality,” the episode ends and we are back to tranquility.
It is more peaceful out on the lake. Row a boat around an Island that holds the Hindu temple, Varahi Mandir, or along the green shores. The lake is calm, reflecting jungle hills and cloudy skies.
Hyacinths grow like mad, and on certain days, community volunteers drag them onto shore, in an endless attempt to thin out the green and keep the lake clear.
At the Tashi Palkhel Tibetan refugee camp, we watch and listen to monks chanting during their 45-day retreat.
Tibetan children attend school here…thanks to freedom funds from Austria, which made this refugee town possible. This is as close to Tibet as you can get, you bet, without actually going there.
Time to Paraglide, baby! We must wait for word from the Annapurna Paragliding Company to tell if the updraft is safe to glide.
Okay, we’re on…after a jeep ride to the top of a 4,300 foot hill, the Bulgarian pilots finally talk. “Run, and keep running,” my pilot says. “That’s all you have to do. Like in a cartoon, keep your legs moving and run in the air right off the cliff. I will do everything else.” Okay, I got it.
He straps me in, we wait for a headwind, and then, “Run! Run! Run!” Moments later, we be airborne, high above the top of the hill! This feels similar to the dream we all have, of flying…also the drag of wind in the glider while you run feels like you are pulling a plow, similar to that dream when you try to run, and your feet will not move.
Sit and soar over the jungle covered hilltop. Look down on the lake and the town. I keep watching for Mare, but there are many gliders up here. Pilot and I land after about 30 minutes, a perfect amount of time for me not to get bored. Where is Mare?
Mare finally lands, and I cheer her on. She has mud on her knees and shoulder. “We crashed on take-off!” She says. “I ran, and it started feeling really weird, and I’m not sure, but suddenly I was on the ground and the pilot was on top of me. He was mad! He yelled at me, ‘Why did you stop? Sit over there! Just sit while I lay everything out again.’ I told him that maybe I shouldn’t do this? He ignored me, and muttered under his breath about how he is too young to die.”
Next time, they get off the ground and fly. “Now I will get paid, and accumulate wealth like you Americans. I have got to get out of this country,” the pilot says to Mare…who is not sure what that is all about. We are all glad that she lives to tell.
So…we do most everything there is to do in this wonderful, laid-back town of Pokhara. The surrounding Himalayas continue to call us, though, and we want to return during the month of March, when the skies are blue. We could enjoy a longer trek, in a different area of the highest mountains on earth.
For now, we shall prepare for the twisty, eight-hour bus ride back to Kathmandu. Thank you, Abundant Universe. Namaste. Ron Mitchell