Saturday, January 19: This afternoon, I meet a young guide named Krishna who takes me on a stroll through part of the town and along the shore of Phewa Tal (Phewa Lake).
The legend of the lake is that it covers what was once a prosperous valley. A beggar woman was scorned by most of the inhabitants, except for one sympathetic woman. The beggar warned the woman of an impending flood, and as the woman and her family climbed to higher ground, torrents of water poured into the valley and submerged it. The beggar happened to be the goddess Barahi Bhagwati. The woman’s descendents settled along the new lake and built an island shrine to the goddess called Tal Barahi.
Of course, there is a geological story behind the lake too. The entire Pokhara Valley was submerged about 200,000 years ago when the fast-rising Mahabharat Ridge dammed up the Seti River. Eventually a deeper outlet was eroded by the Seti River, leaving Phewa Tal and several smaller lakes. The Pardi Dam was built in 1967, providing irrigation and electricity (sometimes) to the valley (Rough Guide to Nepal).
Krishna is an amiable & easy-going young man who tells me he’s neither Buddhist nor Hindu, but Christian, a minority in Nepal. He points out birds along the way, and when we get to the lake, we walk silently, watching the paragliders ride the wind down to the lakeshore from Sarangkot. We see ox and water buffalo and white egrets amongst the waterlogged water hyacinths.
Because the watershed is steep and fast changing, large amounts of sediment are carried down into the lake, which settle out, forming a delta that covers the western third of the lake. Water hyacinths started appearing along the lake edge a decade ago and keep spreading. Locals organize clean-up sessions in order to keep the water hyacinths from taking over.
We come across a Nepali movie being filmed. It’s called Kale and is scheduled to be released in January 2014, about a year from now. A skimpily-clad man sits in a canoe on the lake being filmed. He reminds me of Daniel Day-Lewis in Braveheart, from what I can see from a small cliff above the shore.
We meet a famous Nepali actor hanging out on his motorcycle at the top of a small cliff; with a large grin he asks jokingly if I think he’s handsome. I’m taken aback and smile. “Oh yes! Of course!” I say, though he’s certainly NOT handsome. He’s actually a little scary-looking. He says he plays a fighter in the movie. His name is Sagar Ansari and he has been in other movies, including Kalapani, which he says I can buy in a DVD shop. Then he agrees to pose with me in front of the movie poster glued to the hood of their filming truck.
As we continue walking back toward the center of town, we see a beautiful girl has joined the Braveheart actor. She’s dressed in a bright pink dress and strikes a romantic pose in the bow of the boat. Krishna tells me the girl is Miss Nepal. I’m not really sure who that is, as Wikipedia says there are currently three Miss Nepals. The Current Hidden Treasure Miss Nepal titleholders are: Shristi Shrestha as Miss Nepal World 2012, Nagma Shrestha as Miss Nepal Earth 2012, and Subeksha Khadka as Miss Nepal International 2012.
After that bit of excitement, we leisurely stroll back toward town as the sky grows increasingly ominous. As we approach town, we hear thunder and raindrops start dropping around us like prickly needles. I tell Krishna I will see him tomorrow for another walk, and I dash into Moondance for a drink and a light dinner. It’s Happy Hour, so I get a free slice of pizza with a reduced-price Everest Beer. Santana’s 1970 rendition of “Oye Como Va” plays on the sound system, while outdoors, cows moo at full decibel as they leisurely saunter by. A motorcycle pulls another motorcycle by rope past the restaurant as torrents of rain pour from a sky smudged with charcoal.
I sit next to a fireplace where the staff is trying to get a fire going, but it isn’t really taking and isn’t putting out much heat. I decide to linger longer, in hopes of getting warmer, and order some delicious bruschetta with feta on top.
I sit in the restaurant until the storm passes, and then I walk back to the hotel, where I try to get comfortable in my room, which has no heat. Luckily there are extra blankets in the cupboard, which I pile on top of myself. I feel like I’m sleeping under a heavy coat of armor; I can hardly move because of the weight of all the blankets. I don’t even want to get out of bed to use the bathroom or brush my teeth, it’s so cold.
I poke my head out from under the covers just enough to read my book, What I Loved, on my Kindle. The story is becoming increasingly disturbing as Bill & Violet’s son, Mark, compulsively lies about everything in his life, yet is so charming, everyone believes everything he says. Mark, who was the friend of Leo & Erica’s son Matthew before he died, not only lies, but gets involved with an artist named Teddy Grimes, who creates horribly violent art filled with maiming and mayhem, as a statement about pop culture’s fascination with horror films. What’s doubly disturbing is this artist’s creation of a myth about himself as a violent murderer in order to get publicity for himself and his art. Reality and myth and art are getting all tangled up in this book, which I find very unsettling.
When I can’t take more of this story, I turn on the TV and watch episode after episode of the American TV series I’ve heard a lot about: Homeland, but have never seen. I get caught up in several episodes and in the midst of the second one, at about 1 a.m., the electricity goes out and I have to face a long night ahead trying to sleep in the ice-cold room.