Life in a village by the foot of the Himalayas
I promised you that I would translate this into English and here it is: This is a travel article I wrote for a newspaper several years ago, concerning daily life in a small village just outside Pokhara Lakeside, Nepal.
Pokhara – that’s where I’m located between sunrise and sunset these days. Where I’m at during the hours that we refer to as sleep, is somewhat unclear. I assume that I’m sleeping in the little stone house that I rent outside the city and outside the tourist area. But, as they say in Spanish:
Pregunta a las Mariposas (go and ask the butterflies).
Pokhara consist of two parts: Pokhara City and Pokhara Lakeside. The former consists of buildings of varying size and quality, intended for different purposes, while Lakeside has, ever since the first foreigner showed up (I believe it must have been just before seven o’clock), a whole lot of hotels and guesthouses. This means good opportunities to accommodate the many visitors of all nationalities, colors, shapes, sexes and sizes.
Many of the visitors here in Pokhara are returning from, or are on their way to, a hike in the Himalayas mountain range. There are many ways a person can choose to satisfy their adventurous sides here, among other things: go hiking, rock climbing, biking in the mountains, rafting, fishing, drinking, strip club, or my personal favorite: to pervert my mind with books while I watch the sun slowly slipping from one mountain to another – and then suddenly wondering what had become of the day (or lying in the hammock and read while I listen to the rain drumming on the roof).
After traveling for several months criss-cross India, it feels good to be here in Pokhara during the monsoon season (rainy season – a wonderful and lively time). I’ve spent too many nights at shabby hotels & guesthouses. I missed having a private kitchen and a house to be the master of, a place where you can follow your own habits (both good and bad?). As any traveler knows: guesthouses and hotels often provide you a small room with a bed and a desk. Sometimes a private bathroom, other times a shared bathroom.
At one of the guest houses here, it turned out that the owner rented out a large room to a French couple for 200 rupees per night, while he found it natural to demand 250 rupees for a small room in which I could rest my tired body. Haggling is a must, and many places you have to pay extra just because you are a tourist as some people are of the opinion that all tourists are rich… You’re likely to experience this in tourist areas, both here in Nepal and in India.
Anyway. A house is better and actually cheaper for me to live in. Some major cleanup was required upon moving in, because it was obvious that the previous tenants weren’t among the most sensitive when it comes to dirt and filth. Also the house has been vacant for some time. Let’s say that it didn’t look that pretty, and we’ll leave it at that! Three rooms of all sizes (small, medium and large), a kitchen and bathroom plus a veranda in front of the house where it is possible to enjoy breakfast while observing life in the small fishing pond / swimming pool and the butterflies that shamelessly copulate with the local fauna.
In the garden there’s, among other things, lemon grass, marijuana and other herbs and vegetation that I, because of my incompetence/ ignorance, cannot name.
Shortly after moving in, two Russians showed up looking for shelter. They wanted to spend some time in Nepal while they were waiting for all the countless travelers to once again gather their forces in Goa, India after the monsoon.
“Stay here while you wait,” I told them, and then we immediately set about transforming the dusty stone house into a livable, creative and tactical Headquarters (hereinafter referred to as HQ).
Headquarters – a rat’s nest
In HQ the days are spent cooking (fresh vegetables are bought at the market every day), reading, writing, guitar playing and production of oil paintings. Some time is also disappearing in less exciting, but nonetheless necessary, activities such as washing clothes and filling water tank. The latter is done by the help of a water hose system connected to the nearest stream, a system which is split between five houses in the neighborhood. Thus we cannot fill at any time, but must seize the moment when it’s our turn.
The Residents & the Non-lethal Rat Trap
So, HQ now consists of two Russians and a Norwegian man, and an unknown number of rats living in bamboo tubes that hold the ceiling. One of the rats has also redecorated the inside of the bamboo couch in the living room into a rat’s nest …
After discussing pests in general, and particularly the rat, we have decided to throw the rat out of the house using a non-lethal rat trap we found sprawled on the kitchen – probably another leftover from former tenants.
If this non-lethal rat trap is functioning properly, we will now be able to enforce the rat the harsh realities of the new house policies without causing physical damage. I will choose not to speculate too much about the mental stress the rat must go through by ending up as homeless, but it can certainly be argued that mental strain and reactions are likely to occur when the new reality of homelessness makes its entrance.
It’s still early in the rainy season, and the local farmers use their time planting rice, but as the rain will start falling with more intensity: faster, longer and more often, nature itself will make sure to keep the population of pests such as rats down.
How? By the use of another one of nature’s subtle creatures: A wonderful and beautiful creature which however, is little appreciated in various “holy” scriptures such as (among other texts) the Bible and the Qur’an, namely the snake. Rumors circulating among neighbors say that the snakes soon will occupy the kingdom, and personally I must say that I look forward to this with great joy! Like a small child who is waiting for the first snowfall, I wait in anticipation to catch the first snake of the year!
As the rain sets in, the nature explode with flowers and plants at a furious pace. When the flowers come the insects are not far behind, and with the insects comes the birds, and birds are good food for the snakes … And that’s how it develops!
Speaking of snakes. We spent two days to empty the green, smelly, algae-containing water from the small pond outside the house. (we estimated that it must have been something like 4000 liters in the pool?). We used two buckets with the strap tied to a rope:
1. Throw the bucket into the water,
2. let it sink,
3. pull it up,
4. empty bucket.
- … This process went on for a couple of days…
Then we repeated the operation from step 1. In other words, a rather repetitive operation, a kind of Zen Buddhist element in our everyday lives – not to be confused with sisyphus labour because, as you already know: a sisyphean task is known not to provide noticeable results.
During this process we found that a fish (yet more leftovers from previous tenants) and a family of six frogs (which most likely moved there voluntarily) were living in the pond. With the greatest care the fish was transferred into a bucket of water, while the frogs, with death anxiety and paranoia in their eyes, huddled in a corner of the concrete as we swept away the algae-rich muck from the bottom of the pool. The turbid from the bottom was used as soil for the herbs in the garden, and the fish was released back into the pond when we started to refill it with fresh mountain water via the irrigation system from the stream.
We actually spent more days filling the pool than we spent emptying it by hand; this was because of our already-mentioned limited access to water. On the other hand, it was less tiring to fill the pool. Yet, after only one night of refilling, there was enough water there to let the fish move back to his old home.
The Mysterious Case of The Missing Fish
When we got up the next morning, after having filled the pond sufficiently for the fish to move back in, shock & horror hit HQ as we discovered that four out of the six frogs, and the single fish had disappeared! What had happened?! Where did the fish go? Did it go at all? It could not swim anywhere! The nocturne disappearing act of the fish & the frogs immediately led to speculations that the notorious Maoists were involved in another kidnapping, and that we possibly would receive ransom demands during the following day. But, as the days went by and the demand for ransom didn’t appear, we drew the conclusion that the local population of snakes had taken advantage of the darkness of the night to carry out the kidnapping.
Because of the “nature” of the case it was also decided that legal actions regarding the disappearance would be futile, since we consider it almost impossible to obtain the necessary evidence needed to obtain an arrest warrant for the suspect from local authorities. However, with such an arrest warrant by hand, it would be difficult to locate the suspect (the serpent).
Of course we could, again, do as in Spain, “pregunta a Las Mariposas,” and perhaps they can come up with an answer on the whereabouts of our suspect. But if we are to judge based on the observations of the butterflies, it appears that they are constantly busy with the local fauna, and do not care much about the disappearances of neither fish nor frogs. Ignorance is bliss…
As I sit here in these beautiful, warm, rainy, sunny surroundings, and with the city with all its amenities and beautiful faces in relatively close proximity, I have to admit that the desire to return to Norway (a desire that had struck me on several occasions during my trip) is refreshingly absent. The new headquarters here in Nepal is so peaceful and beautiful that I sometimes think thoughts like:
Did the world cease to exist, or am I already dead?
Most likely there’s still things happening out there in the world somewhere, but because of lack of Internet, newspapers, radio and television – or rather my / our lack of interest in the purchase of it, combined with a lack of interest to seek out any bit of information about world politics, sports, television programs or similar information, I would dare to say that our mentality is now close to that of the butterflies: Ignorance is bliss.
Last time I tried to update myself on the news at some internet cafe, I discovered that big parts of the western world was running around being deeply concerned about some sick chickens – with the result that thousands of innocent poultry had to be put to death.
Apparently it was all triggered by a sick chicken in Turkey. Some five-year old kid fell sick from the infected chicken after having sucked on the chicken as if it were a pacifier or a lollipop or some like that. Of other news, I could draw the conclusion that the war on terror was still ongoing.
My only personal contribute to the “war on terror” consisted of a combined rowing / hike to the Peace Temple of Pokhara. The temple is located on the south side of the lake. Phewa Lake is the most important lake in Nepal and it dominates Pokhara similarly to the dominating view of Macchapucchre.
The Buddhist Peace temple (this is a type of building called ‘stupa’) was built in the 1990s by the Japanese, and it is a great place to see the whole lake and the snowcapped Himalayan peaks of Annapurna and Macchapucchre.
There’s buddhist gold decorations on four sides of the temple and all of them are lighted at night, thus creating a beautiful glow where the temple is peacefully placed on the small summit. Another temple in the area, dedicated to the Hindu goddess Barahi can be found in the middle of Phewa Lake – accessible by boat.
As mentioned, our HQ is located outside the city, and it may therefore be appropriate to conclude with a quotation from the Bible “revelations” (Revelation 22:15):
But outside the city are the perverts
See you on the outside!
P.S. All images in this case is taken with a lousy compact camera and then scanned at low resolution. I’m very sorry about this.
If you want to see the area in high-resolution, I strongly recommend that you go there for a visit! Or: you can enjoy these photos from my friend & world traveller Jeff Philip (photo credits for the following pictures: Jeff Philip)
- Les denne artikkelen på norsk – Read this article in Norwegian (cardinalguzman.wordpress.com)
- Naked in New York (cardinalguzman.wordpress.com)
- More travel reports from cardinalguzman.wordpress.com