Travels with the Beard – Nepal and Beyond

Our travels, chickens and surviving life

We Reach the Village

on March 17, 2013

The bus plunged down the steep track that had been gouged out of the mountain side & for 20 minutes or so slithered along on the red clay surface at walking pace, allowing us to take stock.
It was indeed a ‘new’ track, but the most astonishing thing was that alongside the new track a veritable village of new houses had sprung up.
For the most part they stood on newly created terraces which had already been planted with the new season’s crops, & millet and potatoes had already begun to grow. Not a bad effort so early at 7,000 ft. They looked lusciously green and healthy.
Goats stood about here and there pulling leaves from those trees that had survived the onslaught of man’s need to destroy, create, expand, & which still remained standing amongst the newly cut terraces. Water buffalo contemplated life from the shade of their newly built shelters, and chickens strolled here & there scratching for seeds.
We very quickly lost our bearings & were unable to work out which way the track was taking us, but we began to ascend the side of the valley more & more steeply, & the bus engine began to scream & screech with the effort. We staggered over the brow & plunged downwards once again. Then began a series of mind boggling, stomach lurching switchback turns as the bus stopped, & reversed at each one, skidding & skittering from side to side as it got going again.
We reached the bottom of an unfamiliar valley & began the steep climb up the other side. The track was no more than a matter of a foot or so wider than the spread of the bus wheels, & of course there were no safety barriers. We crawled slowly upwards. As we got higher the view became breathtaking, spectacular, and one that most humans could never grow tired of.
This valley was forested right up to its mountain tops, & the vast number of shades of green in the vegetation and trees shimmered in the sunlight and turned in the breeze.
We stared out the window at the roof of the world and tried not to look down.
The light was beginning to fade as we crawled through what we realised was the rhododendrum forest. It had just come into flower and the massive, gnarled rhododendrum trees were covered in wonderfully red blooms; truly a sight to behold. But I hadn’t always felt so affectionate towards them – this was the very forest we’d had to climb through on several occasions in order to reach or leave the village. Well, I should say that this was the forest that Tod & Kalyani had had to drag me through, and push me up the really steep parts!
Ha! I would never have to suffer that indignity again! Tod and I smiled.
And then suddenly we emerged from the forest & knew exactly where we were. Lohrimani was in sight.
Apart from half a dozen new houses the village of Lohrimani appeared mostly unchanged, & the bus pulled up outside Kalyani’s uncle’s shop, a small wooden shed packed with sacks of rice and herbs.
Wearily, very wearily, we got out, and were immediately swamped by villagers who had come from Salle to meet us, and wanted to say hello.
It was so very good to see them all again. This was what we had come half way round the world for.
Kalyani’s father, another couple of her uncles (don’t forget that Kalyani holds the world record for having the greatest number of aunts & uncles) and Molly & her son Buddha Llama who had been in our class.
They bundled us into the shop and made Nepali tea.
Molly hugged me so tightly that I couldn’t breathe, and we grinned at each other and shook our heads. She hadn’t changed in the last 2 years, but I couldn’t tell her that as I didn’t speak her language, and she couldn’t speak mine. But somehow that had never mattered to us, and we knew that we were friends, friends from vastly different backgrounds & cultures, but friends nevertheless.
Another of Kalyani’s uncles beckoned us outside & Kalyani’s father told us in pretty good English that we could ride to the village in a truck.
Deja Vu!! but this time I managed to scramble in with just a bit of help, and then Tod & I held on for grim death as we were thrown round in the front seat for 30 minutes.
At long last we were within sight of the village again.
I can’t tell you how good it was to finally climb down the steep path & stop in front of Kalyani’s parents’ house.
We looked around. In the dim remaining daylight Salle didn’t seem to have changed – the view out across the valley, the houses, the chicken huts….
Kalyani’s mother rushed out of the house & hugged us both. Grandfather came as fast as he could & hugged Tod again and again.
He grabbed my hand, touched my face, and hugged me too. I noticed he had lost the sight in an eye since we had last seen him, and I wondered if it was due to some simple problem that could easily be fixed if only he lived in some other country. But he still seemed to have retained his old vitality & sense of humour.
We were tired. The villagers had put our heavy rucksacks upstairs in Kalyani’s old room, and now they ushered us up the unstable ladder onto the wooden veranda, and into the room to eat.
Hard boiled eggs and chips – they had remembered!
Then they left us, and we heard them shushing each other and laughing as they closed the door on us.

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