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This post will be my last for Nepal week. From my travel journal on September 17, 2009:
We woke up early and got a rickety old bus to Pokhara this morning. There was a ceremony performed on our bus before we headed out.
Wreaths of flowers were hung on the hood and incense was burned. People splashed some liquid on the bus and then threw petals and some red dust on the bus too. The windows were wrapped in colorful ribbons which obstructed the view. I assumed it was all for our safety and it worked because eight hours later we were in Pokhara safe and sound.
From my travel journal on September 18, 2009:
We woke up early and walked down the lazy main road. We had breakfast at one of the many cafes amidst the shops and watched the absence of hustle and bustle making this town very different from where we’d just come. After getting a bite, we rented a paddle boat and had our go on [Fewa] Lake. Rhi isn’t too adept at paddling so it took awhile for us to get the hang of it… and each other’s rhythm.
We made it across the lake and took a short hike up to Shanti Stupa also known as the World Peace Pagoda as the sign directing us up the path indicated. The foundation for this stupa was laid in 1973 and through some discrepancies with the local government wasn’t able to be completed until 1992. The location allows for a great view of the surrounding area.
From my travel journal on September 20, 2009:
Yesterday was spent renting bikes, going to Devil’s Falls and meandering around the small town watching the cows own the streets, people sitting in doorways while it was too hot to go out, and hippies with dreads slowly go wherever it is they wanted to go. We spent the past couple of evenings in Blues Bar with Samundra and Suresh playing pool and talking but today we’ve decided to go rafting and head for the border with India. Our guide for the day on the river was Maili. We rafted for three hours with Maili yelling “power” to get us going every couple of minutes but with five girls our power wasn’t really enough. Rhiannon fell in once and Maili hoisted her back in safely. The excitement really came after we finished though.
We had been told that after the rafting trip buses would be waiting to take us but what they really meant was that we’d have to hitch a ride on a passing bus and hope that one came that was going where we wanted to go. Unfortunately, a bus going our direction never came. Maili and Dapendra, another guide, offered to take us back up to their village and they’d get a tent and sleeping bags for us to sleep by the river until the next morning. With no other viable options, we agreed.
If you’re heading to Pokhara, check out the Shangri-La Village Pokhara for an exquisite stay with amazing views of the Himalayan Mountain range. Another great place to check out would be the Pavilions Himalays, a simple chic hotel with all of the amenities. Have yourself a great stay in this amazing country.
They don’t live in what would be considered a town, it’s 20 houses or so where the guides live and some families stay. One house was set up as a makeshift “restaurant” to serve people/guides coming back from a long day. When we arrived we were fed panfried peanuts with spicy goodness, cucumbers and other side dishes and assuming it was our dinner we filled up. A couple hours later after we’d set up the tents, Maili and Dapendra walked us back to the house for more. We ate curry with rice and water buffalo. We weren’t so hungry anymore, but they were offering and the locals seemed keen on us being well taken care of.
Maili and Dapendra helped us set up a tent and we made a fire near the river we’d rafted on during the day. I was surprised when Maili told me this was the first time anyone had been left behind and couldn’t find a bus. I apologized for the inconvenience but he said he was happy if we were happy and now he’d have a great story to tell other people. The evening was spent talking with him and finding so many things in common with a Nepali man that grew up in the Annapurna mountains was stunning.
Rhi and I went to sleep in the tent while Maili and Dapendra slept outside. I woke up early the next morning and helped Maili pump up the rafts for another day out on the river. We watched as the mist rolled in over the river. It was bittersweet to say goodbye to such caring, genuinely nice and hospitable people.
When I think of Nepal today, I still think of Maili and he and his village is probably one of the biggest reasons I would go back if I had the chance, the time and the money.
To make a connection with someone that grew up a world away but still finding things in common was eye opening and to find a whole village of people that took us in, fed us and housed us when they didn’t have to but when we were lost with no where else to go was stunning in a way that is almost indescribable.
The news and media and wars and whatever else we become inundated with would have us believe hatred exists in every corner of the globe and there is nothing else but time and again when I have traveled I haven’t found this to be the case.
In the end, I said, “goodbye” to Maili and so wanted to give him something but didn’t know what. I handed him a W10,000 bill from Korea that I had in my pocket. I told him it wasn’t much but if he made it to Pokhara or Kathmandu, he could probably exchange it for a fairly good amount of Nepali money and hopefully that would pay for at least the food that we’d eaten. He told me that he didn’t want to exchange it, he would keep it as a reminder of the time two girls couldn’t catch a bus, stayed in his village and were happy and so he was happy.
I believe he really meant that, too.