The day I met Pokhara Pete.

“I wish to pray for the passage of her soul as it rises to the radiant lights” – Pokhara Pete.

I had started my 18 day trek with 3 Nepali guy friends from Bhaktapur, after reaching our goal of Lake Tilicho they continued back the same route and I headed over Throng La Pass to complete the remainder of the Annapurna Circuit.  I had met Anja and Flo, two independent hikers, German and French, and we all decided to make a quick trek up and finish our journey with South Annapurna Basecamp (ABC).  On our way back down we crossed the main highway which most choose to end their trek by jumping on a crowded bus or jeep and riding back to Pokhara but not us! So we snaked our way down a less than traditional route by navigating small, un-mapped mountain trails and old washed out, overgrown roads until finally we came to rest our eyes on the little villages dotting the edges of the Seti River which feeds into Phewa Lake, the second largest lake in Nepal.

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Views of the Seti River as we came down into Pokhara Valley from the West

As long as the path stayed in the downward direction and remained heading east we trekked on hungry and ready for a lakeside community to gobble us up.  We walked through a few small villages where cars and buses could be seen and heard again.  We were surprised to find none of the places were open to serve us any food and here we had put off eating far too long and were just about on empty when we came into Pame, the village just a mile from Pokhara.  Flo was waving his arms out of the doorway of a place in complete celebration that he found us a Nepali woman who would cook us dal bhat and even tracked down some warm beers too.  We were officially done with the mountain trekking through the Annapurna Range.  After eating what I will call the worst dal bhat of the 3 months in Nepal we finished the walk to Pokhara alongside the lake.

 

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Our first views of Phewa Lake in Pokhara

Anja and I found the best little guesthouse tucked along the shore in what they refer to as ‘The Lakeside’ portion of Pokhara.  Although the city is one of the largest in the country this small quaint area along the water would never convince you of that.  The vibe is all about island time with tie-dye fabrics, hemp-made clothing and reggae music playing at the greasy little diners lined along the streets.

Our room at the guest house overlooked the lake and had been run by the same family for over 30 years for $6.00 a night. It had an attached bathroom, was safe and clean with a hot-‘ish’ shower depending on the time of day and if there was any sun since it was a direct sun-heated black tub on the roof rather than electric or gas water heater.  We said our goodbyes to Flo and exchanged information as he was rejoining his girlfriend waiting for him at a different guesthouse in Pokhara.

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Flo, Anja and I finishing up our trek together of Annapurna South Basecamp
Fresh Veggie Salad, followed by pizza and desser.....what no dal bhat!!
Fresh Veggie Salad, followed by pizza and dessert…..what no dal bhat!!

After the most refreshing fresh salad, a slice of amazing thin crust pizza and a ridiculously good brownie and ice cream dessert at ‘Godfathers Pizza’, which I highly recommend, we found ourselves walking the lakeside taking in the local sounds echoing across the lake.

We were drawn to the live music coming from a group of younger Nepali guys sitting at a really tiny tiki bar/hut with short little bamboo couches and a thatched floor overlooking the water.  They were playing all sorts of American covers and some memorable Nepali pop songs.  With no one else in sight we sat down and ordered a beer to enjoy the ambiance all to ourselves.  We met the guys and I only remember the one’s name, Bsan because I came to know him a bit better after taking a motorcycle ride later in my Pokhara stay.  That lovely ride resulted in my falling off the back of the bike on a steep, sharp corner heading down from seeing the World Peace Stuppa… another story for later.

That night the guys told us about a place to enjoy more music, beer and a game of pool called, ‘The Old Blues Bar’.  So, we conceded to following them and found ourselves playing a game of pool (on a snooker table) and having a beer.  I was sitting down at the table talking to Anja when a man who looked to be in his 60’s sat down at the bar close to our table.  He didn’t look to be all that healthy with a spindly and frail frame; he was at least 5’10”, thin and bony with a withdrawn look about him.  What made his sad appearance even more prominent was the deep set in look of confusion and pain all wrapped up into the furrowed skin between his eyes and sagging skin of his cheeks that drooped down near his jawline.  I have been told throughout my life that I am a very ’empathetic’ person,  I find myself wanting to get right down to the rawness and depth of a person rather than spend a lot of time on the surface level conversation.  This has also come to serve as a way to take the attention off of my own pain and problems and feel purposeful in letting someone vent and experience their own feelings while I tuck mine away for a bit.

 So, naturally, I felt the urge to motion the man over with a hand gesture and eye contact.  He stood up, stepped near and responded by saying, “I suppose I could join you but I’m not much for good company”. I was intrigued at that point by his simple response that begged the question of “Why?”  Anja and I introduced ourselves and he did the same telling us his name was Pete and then proceeding to say, “I just found out that my sister died”.  I think my heart actually dropped in my chest as I felt the instant depth of his sorrow no longer kept inside but a wound open and fresh on the outside.  Within hours he had heard that his closest sister, Sue, had died suddenly from a heart attack back in Australia where he was originally from.  He was distressed and in a state of numbness as he proceeded to explain she died on Friday the 13th of Nov. it had already been 5 days and due to some email issues he had only just found out via email from his family that day. The most difficult thing at the moment was that he would not be able to fly back home, to Australia, in time for her funeral. He would be leaving the following day and had his flight booked, so there he sat just feeling through one of the most painful things he would experience in life, the death of a sister, sitting at a bar with strangers.
He spent some time talking about her heart and soul and spirit, who she was and how she mattered to him. She was his oldest sister at 69 and he was 58, he had 3 other sisters and was just wanting to come up with the words to have his family say on his behalf at the funeral he wouldn’t make.  I offered to write down his words and feelings for him as he jumped from thought to thought and what he described next was a beautiful summary of what he wished, “I wish to pray for the passage of her soul as it rises to the radiant lights”.   He had said that when he closed his eyes this was what he saw and he wasn’t too sure what he believed when it came to God or other religions but he believed her spirit was truly beautiful and that he could visualize her rising up into the bright light above.  The whole night was quite touching to me as he proceeded to talk about how he also lost a best friend, Jeff, to suicide only a few years ago.  For those of you reading this who don’t know I also in the recent years lost 2 very close loved ones, my aunt Carrie to lung cancer at 54 yrs old and my brother-in-law, Jeff, at 43 yrs old to suicide.  We ended that night sitting by the lake on a piece of driftwood with a glass of wine and laughing about some truly beautiful and joyful moments and memories we carried of our loved ones.

Losing loved ones brought our hearts together on that night. The most spiritual and touching of moments are right under our noses wherever we are in life and it amazes me who and what walks in the door when I open it to those around me.  I am saying a prayer for Pokhara Pete today in hopes that he made it safely back home where he could be of comfort to his family and feel the comfort of his family that he needed. We are all in need of others during our life to listen, to express, to feel and share the joy and the sorrow of life’s amazing journey. The best advise I can give after this experience is to keep your heart open to others and their stories and moments of connection because you may not always see the opportunities to help or be a light for someone else if you are too busy looking down at your own stumbling feet.  Pete said he was grateful and felt truly blessed to have met me at that moment and been allowed to share feelings and tears when he otherwise would not have expressed himself so openly to others before. I am glad for that night and will remember it forever.

 

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