Sunday, January 20: This morning I wake up to a room that feels like a walk-in refrigerator. On top of that, there is no electricity in the Pokhara View Garden Hotel. I walk out on the balcony, where the sun is shining and it’s actually a lot warmer than in my room. There, in front of me, are the gorgeous Himalayas: the Annapurna & Manaslu Ranges and one fin of the double-finned Machhapuchhre, nicknamed “Fishtailed.” There are no clouds or pollution obscuring this morning’s view. The snow-capped peaks loom in the distance, a sharp contrast to the tropical valley of Pokhara, with its colorful buildings and its abundance of bright red poinsettia and orange trumpet vines.
After admiring the view for a bit, I throw on some clothes and go down to the front desk to inquire about the electricity. The guy who is always at reception tells me there won’t be any electricity for a while, probably until around 1:00 this afternoon. I’m flabbergasted. What? Why not?
He explains patiently that there’s a schedule put out by the Nepal Electricity Authority, but the hotel doesn’t have the current schedule so he can’t tell me for sure when the electricity will be back on. Apparently the NEA does what is called load shedding: cutting off the electric current on certain lines when the demand becomes greater than the supply. Rumor has it that this load shedding occurs throughout the country in a rolling fashion for about 14 hours a day every day!! (I’m not sure about the number of hours because I hear different things from different people.)
I find this so odd, because in Kathmandu Airport, there are signs spaced equidistant along the Arrivals corridor spelling out little-known facts about Nepal. One of the facts I distinctly remember goes something like this: Nepal is second only to Brazil for its water resources. Isn’t that great for hydroelectricity? Later, after I google this, I find Nepal is not even on the top-9 list of water-rich countries. Brazil is in fact #1, but the Russian Federation is second. Canada is #3, the U.S. is #7 and India is #9 (FAO: Water-rich countries).
I guess I didn’t notice this electricity problem in Kathmandu because at Kathmandu Guest House they have a generator, and most businesses in the tourist area of Thamel must have generators too. Obviously, Pokhara View Garden Hotel is more of a budget operation, and there is no electricity to be had. They have a generator, but they only turn it on at certain times of day. The guy at reception assures me I can take a shower because there is hot water (I guess that must be heated by generator), but I tell him I can’t wash my hair unless I can use a hair dryer. Believe me, no one wants to see my hair when it air-dries! He tells me maybe I should try back at around 1:00.
I figure I will go ahead and eat my breakfast and go for a walk around the town. Maybe I’ll do some shopping. I am supposed to go the World Peace Pagoda after 1:00 with a guide, so I have the morning just to wander. I do just that. I walk around the town taking pictures and enjoying the views of the Annapurna Range and “Fishtailed” and Phewa Lake and the colorful, funky shops. I buy a few totally unnecessary things: a pretty embroidered bag, some hiking pants, a bunch of books, a necklace and a top, all for about 9,000 Nepali Rupees, or over $100!! I always say when I travel I am not going to buy ANYTHING, yet here I go again! There are so many cool things to buy in Nepal’s enticing shops, I can’t help myself.
I go back to the hotel to check on the electricity and to drop off my purchases, but still there is no power. When I look at the Himalayas off the balcony again, I see them in a different light.
So I walk back to town, where I find the Love Kush Restaurant, which advertises pumpkin soup. A bowl of hot soup sounds very good, so I enjoy that along with some garlic toast.
Everywhere I go, I greet Nepalis with “Namaste.” I also learned the word for “Thank you” today: “Danyaybat.” I keep getting tongue-tied and forget the syllables every time I try to say it. I’m terrible with languages. Isn’t that sad for someone who teaches second languages to people?
After lunch I return to the hotel to find the power is now on, but my guide has arrived and it’s time to go to the World Peace Pagoda. I guess there will be no shower for me until tonight. 😦