It was one of those exploration trips around Kathmandu valley that Suraj Kunwar and I took in late 2008. Tired of our newsroom routine, we had decided to escape out of it and venture into rural Nepal that wasn’t very far from the capital city. [This is exactly the kind of traveling I miss in Delhi. There are no hills around.] On that particular day, we had left the city thinking about Kavre and its famous village Rabi Opi. A few weeks before, I had gone to a village in Kavre, on the opposite side of Rabi Opi, to cover a visit by a British minister for international development. The greenery and agricultural atmosphere had remained in my heart. Suraj, his Honda Shine and I reached Dhulikhel for a stoppage at a popular roadside coffee joint. The place served fresh coffee produced locally. From there, along with some additional cups of lassi, we looked down to survey the trail that separated from the Araniko Highway and went spiraling upward through small hills. They looked small. Near the coffee shop, we spotted a group of kids who were playing skipping game while their parents, the Tamangs of the village, were organizing a small puja ceremony to please the rain goddess if I remember it correctly. We spent an hour or so there, watching the ceremony, photographing the kids and cracking jokes with them.
We climbed down to the valley where farmers were busy in their rice fields. Some were weeding while others were looking after their buffaloes. One woman was bathing her buffaloes. Some men and women in a nearby Kharelthok village were drinking tea. We asked for milk at the shop. Unfortunately, that was not available at that time of the day. They sell the milk to dairy production companies early in the morning. Suraj and his bike were finding it tough to negotiate their way through the slippery road that went through fields. The unpaved trail was bumpy. At some points, water flowed through it. The potholes made traveling on it particularly risky. Soon we became the victims. Suraj and his Shine lost the balance. We all fell into the watery three feet down. No one was hurt in the process. A man from afar had seen the event live. He came to our rescue.
We climbed up to Rabi Opi village, stopped at tea shop and then continued climbing upward, towards Banepa. From there, as per the original plan, we should have headed back to Kathmandu. The plan got changed. Instead, we decided to go to Nepalthok, a famous town some 55 kilometers away. It was getting duskier but that didn’t stop us from traveling. Suraj had already done a trip on the BP Highway (Banepa-Bardibas) long time ago with Devendra Bhattarai and he was full of praise for the road. He fondly recalled that trip as he drove. On my part, I always wanted to travel that road as I hadn’t done that before. We reached Nepalthok at around 8:30 pm. There were no lodges there but a hotelier who primarily sold food to load carriers, bus drivers and other travelers agreed to provide us beds for the night. When we went upstairs, we saw beds neatly arranged on the floor.
[Here's a part of what I wrote in an article for that week's Koseli:
कोठामा छिर्नेवित्तिकै मलाई न्यूयोर्क टाइम्सको फेसनप्रधान परिशिष्ट स्टाइल म्यागेजिनको पन्ना पल्टाएजस्तो लागेको थियो ।
कोठा के, घरको पुरै दोस्रो तल्ला थियो त्यो जसको दाईने कुनामा खोस्टा थुप्रिएका थिए, देब्रेमा भकारी। बाँकी दुई कुनामा दुई डबल भुई–बिच्छ्यौना पल्टेका थिए। र, दाइनेपट्टीको ओछ्यानमा ऊ लमतन्न पल्टेको थियो अन्डरवेयरको सानदार विज्ञापन गर्दै। ढोकैमा उभिएको र हावासँग संघर्ष गरिरहेको धिपधिपे मैनको उज्यालोमा कट्टुको ब्रान्ड ठम्याउन माइनस वान प्वाईन्ट टु फाइभको चस्मा लगाउने मेरा आखालाई अप्ठेरो हुनु स्वभाविकै थियो। केही क्षणकै लागि सही मैले विश्वास गर्न चाहे ऊ केल्भिन क्लाईनको स्तरीय उत्पादन लगाइरहेको एउटा मोडल हो जो स्टाइल या त्यस्तै कुनै उत्कृष्ट म्यागेजिनमा छापिने विज्ञापनमा प्रयोग हुने फोटो खिचाउन कुनै एउटा डिजाइनर सेटमा उत्तानो परेर सुतिरहेको छ। थप पढ्न यहाँ कि्लक गरे हुन्छ ।]
In the morning next day we went to the dovan, the confluence of two famed rivers- Roshi Khola and Sunkoshi. From there, Roshi becomes Sunkoshi. That is also the bordering point for three districts: Kavre, Sindhuli and Ramechhap. There’s a Shiva temple a little down from the dovan, on the bank of Sunkoshi. We went there navigating the maze of sand, water, rice filed and bushes. Lord Shiv had become very kind to us. There was no one except a sage making us feel the God solely belonged to us. We could see fishermen on the other side of Sunkoshi trying out their luck with the swollen river.
The photographic focus of this entry are the kids we met on the roadside during our two-day journey. Their faces represent Nepal for what it truly is: a genuinely multi-ethnic and multicultural society that, at the end of the day, speaks the same language of humanity and of course Nepali. One may easily see the stamps of poverty in their eyes and cheeks but that doesn’t stop them from smiling. Some of them have already experienced a lot that only an adult is supposed to experience in some advanced societies but for them the life goes on. For them it is a beautiful blessing.
Related blogs (from my Helambu trip with Suraj):
And another exploration from around Kathmandu Valley
Here are more photos from the Kavre-Rabi Opi-Dhulikhel-Nepalthok trip!