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Nepal - Asia

Nepal
Village Trek

 




by Solange Hando
· personal page ·

 


‘Chiya, Didi? You like tea?’

Som, my Nepalese guide of many years, knows me well. The lodge is cosy and warm, with flasks glowing on the shelves, salted tea, butter tea, milk tea, lemon tea. I settle for the latter under the inquisitive glare of the resident goat. Blackened pots bubble in the hearth, chicken heads and scraps of buffalo meat hang from the rafters.

‘Only five days walk to my native village,’ babbles Som, ‘and we will meet older sister.’

Turning its back on the Everest trail, the Solu Khumbu nestles down valley, off the beaten track. Mint and violets grow among blue pines and as we climb through scattered villages with no beginning or end, we find wild strawberries, monkeys, a 'white snake' flying across the path and luminous terraces chiselled out of the earth.

Progress is delightfully slow. Som knows everyone, the lady on a week’s hike to Paphlu to phone her son , the boy monks preparing to master the sacred horns, by blowing bubbles in plastic bowls. the pretty Sherpani who gives us lumps of mashed potato drying in the yard, the lama, the cowherd, the 'walking haystack', the schoolchildren who will deliver the letters we brought from relatives in Kathmandu.

‘White lady’, the word spreads fast. We are invited in smoky homes and all day long, plied with tea and potatoes straight from the embers. In Bitakarga, the whole village comes to greet us. Cold nettle soup is passed around and soon the party is on, singing and dancing under the stars. Two days later it’s a wedding and another potato feast. The groom is 26, the bride 12, a sad little thing who will be whizzed away to Kathmandu next morning. Her grandfather, who claims to be 101, watches from his bed in the corner, mumbling as he spins a rag prayer wheel.

Most nights, we stay in people’s homes. ‘Can we cook on your fire?’ asks Som, ‘can we rest here tonight?’ Everyone sleeps on benches, head to toe along the walls.

‘Som, help!’

I wake up with a start. A huge shadow lurks at my feet, groaning in the dark. Can’t find my torch, Som jumps to the rescue.

‘Didi,’ he giggles, ‘it’s only the buffalo tied to your bed. Keeps him safe after dark!’ I dive into my sleeping bag and return to uneasy dreams.

Dawn comes in shades of pink and gold and at a humble 3000 metres, the trail winds through open land, past chortens and mani walls and tall flags which scatter their prayers to the wind.

‘The apple tree, Didi, look. I planted it when I was a boy.’ The tree is in full bloom and Som twitters like a bird. His native house has long gone but he has built a shrine for his parents and hung ram’s horns in his Kathmandu home to honour his father who was a shepherd.

We plan to stop mid-afternoon but news travel fast. A little boy comes running down the hill: ‘Please, Uncle, come and stay with us tonight. My Mother is so happy.’ The child picks up my bag and gambols like a goat. His is the last house in Dzughe at the top of the trail.

Maita has not seen her brother for four years. Wearing her coral necklace and best nose ring, she offers many ‘Namaste’ and beams at my photos of Som’s wife and children. Later we have a feast, with meat in the curry pot and much laughing and hugging and sharing of news. We stay up late, gazing into the fire, wishing the evening would never end. The sky is full of stars and now and then, the haunting sound of a bamboo flute echoes in the valley. But that night, the buffalo stays out in the field.

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(c) Solange Hando - worldwide rights reserved
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This article was published in
The Holiday Magazine

 

 

 

 

 


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