Today we hired a guide – who’s name is Raju – and had a soft pleasant adventure. Funnily enough the day unfolded as anticipated. A guide isn’t required for this short walk but we felt like contributing a little to local employment and one always discovers wonderful gems of information from guides.
We took a small boat across the lake. Believe it or not, Raju, Marianne and I were required to wear life jackets. Even more surprising, they were in good condition. A boat man rowed us along from his seat at the back. There were several other boats out on the water doing much the same thing. This is a typical Pokhara outing for Nepalis and tourists alike. Once on the other side, our life jackets were stowed back on the boat, the boat man rowed back to Pokhara and we hiked for just under an hour up to a Peace Stupa/Pagoda built by the Japanese. According to the sign, the Japanese have set out to build 100 such monuments around the world in response to the devastation of Hiroshima. Presumably with the goal that such an event is never repeated.
I was a bit disappointed as it is not a very attractive Stupa. A somewhat clumsy, straight sided, tall, circular dome topped structure which lacks the curving grace and dimensional balance of traditional Nepali Stupas. On a clear day its hilltop location would command a phenomenal view across the lake and beyond Pokhara to the mighty Annapurna peaks.
Today wasn’t clear. It was sunny and very warm where we were, but the mountains remained shrouded in cloud. We spent a relaxing couple of hours at a small restaurant near-by the stupa awaiting potential clearing but in vane.
While we waited for the view, Raju told us of his experiences during the April 2015 earthquakes. He was at Everest Base Camp during the first powerful shaking and his story is compelling. For four days his family had no idea if he was alive or dead. They feared dead. He was uninjured but was witness to much of the mayhem during the actual quakes and in the immediate aftermath. He described having to sit on the ground and brace himself with his arms and legs to avoid being knocked flat. He described the massive roar and blinding snow cloud of the avalanches that swept through the base camp. Eventually he evacuated himself and his shocked client down to Lukla for flights to Kathmandu. They walked through the night at one point as there was no place to sleep. Injured people need all bed spaces available as they were moved down to lower elevations. When they finally arrived in Kathmandu he was further horrified by the destruction there. Until he saw the fallen destroyed buildings he’d been unaware Kathmandu had also been damaged because communications had been down. The emotion in Raju’s voice as he described what he encountered is still quite raw.
Every personal account I hear about that terrible time fills me with respect for the resilience of those who endured. Of course the conversation also turned to the delays in rebuilding which are due to political discord and corruption.
Upon our return to our comfortable deck we cracked a cold beer and are now sipping while watching another electrical storm take place around us. Right on schedule here comes the hail, slamming down and bouncing a foot or more off the ground! There is a strong wind accompanying today’s storm so we are going to have to retreat indoors.
These storms have been creating havoc and destroying crops. Young rice and wheat plants have been smashed. Poor farmers! There seems to be a never ending litany of troubles facing this little country.