It all started to go wrong when a moment of sheer impulse led me to jump into the murky lake.
Together with two girlfriends, I had been travelling around Nepal for a month or so, and, finally back in Pokhara after a grueling Annapurna trek, plus a suicidal bout of amoebic dysentery, I decided it was time to give my miserable body a break.
Spreading down a warm, lush valley to the Phewa Tal Lake, Pokhara, with its unobstructed views of the Machhapuchhre (fish-tail) summit, is the number one place to chill out in Nepal.
‘And this is exactly what I plan to do’
I snigger convincingly to myself, as I close my eyes and picture myself gliding along the lovely lake, dressed in nothing but a skimpy sarong, basking in the sun and catching up on some serious Marian Keyes reading.
Down at the water’s edge, the sign reads:
‘Dungaa (rowing boats) – rent from here, best price in Pokhara. RS130 for 1 hour, Rs400 for whole day’
Oozing with self-confidence, I move towards the little man at the boat-hire stand, and mastering my newly-discovered haggling talent, I recite my mantra:
‘Four-hundred rupees, too much. Give me good price.’
Sure enough, I manage to squeeze the price down to a shamelessly cheap Rs300 (around 4 US$) for a dungaa for the whole day.
Looking like refugees clinging on to precious belongings for dear life, we walk to the lake’s edge laden with a picnic lunch from Pumpernickel bakery (a selection of the freshest, softest bread, a handful of buttery chocolate-chip cookies and a dozen or so still-piping-hot cinnamon rolls,) some reading material, sun block, a hat, sunshades and more. Ignoring the rude glares and giggles coming from a group of local teenage boys who watch in amusement, we struggle to step into the ridiculously small, unstable red and blue wooden Dungaa. After a few tense moments of balance and equilibrium testing, the exact spot where each of us would sit and not dare budge for the whole trip is found - one wrong move would tip us, together with our precious picnic lunches, into the murky lake – not on the agenda.