4-7 February 2013 Peter and I went to two hilly districts east of Kathmandu. Dolakha and Ramechhap. Business trip. One has to cross five rivers- Indrawati, Balephi, Sunkoshi, Tamakoshi (three times) and Khimti Khola- to reach Manthali, the district headquarter of Ramechhap. It Khandichaur, we paddled at Sunkoshi river for about 20 mins.
From Manthali, we drove to a place called Sanghutaar (sanghu= bridge, taar=a chunk of plain land) in a recently built, unpaved, super dusty and winter-only road. Sanghutaar is a 70-year-old small bazaar located right at the bank of Likhu Khola that separates Ramechhap from Okhaldhunga.
I was visiting this place after about 24 years. I was born and grew up in a village not very far from here (about five hours of walk). I have known Likhu Khola since my childhood days. I have seen the Khola in its good times and bad times- swollen, brown, wild and scary in monsoon and slim, white and feeble in winter. Once I swam across the river. (It was more walking than actual swimming.)
Today I was touching the Likhu Khola water after many years. I was rafting on its water.
My earliest memories of Sanghutaar are that of a busy town on a Saturday. Sanghutaar used to host a haat bazaar on Saturdays (I think the tradition continues to this day). Sanghutaar, back then, felt like a huge town with a lot of commercial activities. This time around the place looked like a small sleepy town with a few dozen mud and stone houses. I was there on a weekday. So no haatbazaar.
A big group of curious kids and a few adult onlookers gathered at the bank and on a suspension bridge as we unpacked a raft and went into the water of Likhu. It felt like half of the town had gathered to watch us paddle. It felt good to have a satisfying number of audience. Fifteen minutes of paddling in Sunkoshi the other day had instilled some confidence in me. Likhu is smaller than Sunkoshi. It was easy and it went well.
We returned to Kathmandu via Sailung hill that lies between Ramechap and Dolakha districts. We also passed by a hill opposite to the famous Doramba village. Doramba is a beautiful and clean settlement that sits above terraced fields. In August 2003 the village came to the national consciousness as it witnessed a cold-blooded massacre of 17 Maoist guerillas and cadres and two non-Maoist civilian father and son by Nepal Army soldiers. Today the village is trying to attract both domestic and international tourists. Doramba offers visitors an opportunity to experience the village by staying in some homes whose owners are trained in hospitality.
Peter and I looked at the village from afar- from a hilltop covered by rhododendron trees. We were standing only a few meters away from the massacre site which is about 5kms away from the village. Those people were arrested, blindfolded, handcuffed and made to walk to this point to be shot dead. The Maoists later built a memorial park at the site. The park now looked deserted.
In October 2011 Suraj and I had gone to Doramba to spend a night there and talk to villagers about the massacre. That trip was part of our motorcycle adventure that took us to several villages in Sindhuli, Ramechhap, Dolakha and Kavrepalanchwok (where we went to home of Maina Sunar, a 15-year-old girl, who was captured and killed by soldiers in an army barrack near her home). That was also part of my trip of conflict affected areas like Rolpa and Rukum.
Sailung hill- prayer flags
Sailung hill- a view of the Himalayas
Not far from Doramba village is Sailung hill. A 20 minutes hike from the road and you are at the hilltop (3146 meters). This time we were lucky to have an excellent view of the Himalayas from atop the hill. Last time Suraj and I were not so lucky as clouds had covered the Sailung hill. We could barely see each other from a distane of about 200 meters. (A photo from that trip, just below Sailung hill.)
Here’s Peter’s entry: PACKRAFTING NEPAL: THE LUNCH HOUR SESSIONS