The weather was much better today — some showers in the morning and light drizzle in the evening, but the afternoon was quite clear. I took advantage of this and walked to the World Peace Pagoda at the top of a hill on the other side of Fewa Lake.
First I needed to charge my camera batteries, as I had forgotten to charge them overnight. Conveniently it rained while I camped in my room through the rest of the morning, waiting for the batteries to charge.
Just before noon the sky cleared and I ventured out in the direction of the steep hill where I could see the Peace Pagoda in the distance. I asked directions of a few locals along the way, and following their advice I eventually crossed a wooden suspension bridge over the Pardi Khola (river) then began the ascent by climbing some stone steps to the right at the end of the bridge.
The trail began as a wide road, but there were no signs (in English or any other language) indicating the direction of the pagoda. I eventually asked a young man who also appeared to be a tourist but it turned out he was a local Nepali just taking his wife and young children on a Saturday walk in the direction of the Pagoda. He showed me the way up a steep hill into the heavily wooded hillside and I followed them on the trail for a while. They were going quite slowly since the children could not walk very fast, so after some time I overtook them and followed the clearly established path for another half hour or so.
Then I got a bit lost. There were a few forks in the trail and eventually I took one! However that path eventually became less conspicuous as it disappeared into the underbrush, so I retraced my steps back to the main trail, which no longer seemed to be ascending. I reasoned that the pagoda was at the top of the hill so I needed a trail that was ascending. I tried a few other offshoots that were clearly ascending but they also seemed to disappear into the underbrush.
I again retraced my steps and wondered what to do next. For the last half hour I had encountered no other tourists and only a few Nepalis (who did not speak any English) — there was a man fishing at a small pond and some elderly women in traditional clothing who seemed to be foraging. I decided the only option was to return to the main trail in hopes of finding someone who could provide me with some guidance on which direction to go. Otherwise I would have to return to the city without attaining my goal of reaching the pagoda.
As I was trudging back through the underbrush — lo! there appeared before me two young American guys who were also seeking the pagoda. I reviewed with them my various explorations up to this point, and as we were discussing which direction to try next, one of them (Antonio) spotted the pagoda through the trees, a few hundred yards to our right and further up. Somehow Antonio beat a path through what vaguely appeared to be a trail through the trees and underbrush and got us onto a ridge on which there was a path heading straight for the pagoda.
There was a small restaurant at the base of the pagoda and we stopped to rest and chat for a while. I learned more about my trail companions. They had met in university and were recent grads; Antonio was living in Kathmandu and Gus was visiting him after spending a few months in India.
Antonio was from Catskill, NY, and was spending a year in Kathmandu working as what he called a “catalyst” at a local school. He was helping the children with their English studies and informally teaching them Spanish as well.
Gus was traveling the world for a year while working on a fellowship of the same duration. Specifically he was researching the social impacts of dams throughout the world, and among other things documenting his findings in a blog (riversolitaire.wordpress.com).
I asked whether he would be researching the Three Gorges Dam in China, variously called the “worlds most powerful dam,” as well as “an environmental catastrophe” and “a model for disaster.” It has even been alleged that the dam has slowed the earth’s rotation (so if it seems like your days just keep getting longer and longer: blame the Chinese). Gus said that he had been advised not to attempt to research the dam, much less document his findings, due to several factors, such as Chinese censorship, Chinese citizens’ likely reluctance to talk about the project for fear they may be punished for doing so, and not least, the risk that he himself could face “trouble” with the Chinese authorities.
After 20 minutes or so they left to ascend to the pagoda further uphill, while I waited for some momos I had ordered (I clearly was developing an addiction to momos — I needed mo! and mo! momo!).
After consuming the momos I made my way up the stairs to the pagoda, which was built by a Japanese monastic organization in 1992. The sky was a bit hazy but there was still a great view of Fewa Tal and Pokhara City down below. I also got a better view of the paragliders sailing around in the currents above the hill behind Pokhara.
On the way back down I again had some trouble finding the correct trail but eventually made it to the bottom of the hill, only in a different place from where I started. All around me were rice paddies and the smell of livestock was so strong that I began to enter an altered mental state. However with the help of some locals I finally made it back to the main road and back into the city.