TREKKING THROUGH NEPAL TO SPREAD A WORLD OF GOODS: DAY 2
We awake to the gentle coos of pigeons that were roosting above our heads in the dusty rafters of the small guesthouse. Warming up over a woodfire and a bitter cup of black tea in the cozy kitchen, we slowly shake off the sleeping bag stupor.
>>CATCH UP ON THE ADVENTURES OF DAY 1 OF THE TREK HERE<<
Pavement long in the past, we continue driving over increasingly rocky roads, passing ancient pagodas and heavily adorned Tibetan scrolls etched onto ancient crumbling stones that told stories of old. These roads have only existed some five years. Before this drive was a many day hike and now they serve the purpose of horizontal-abouts, guiding the flow of this new overland traffic.
Soon, we find ourselves socked in in a misty and mystical village as the dirt roadway, if you could call it that, softens and then transforms into a heavily rutted muddy pool of indeterminable depth. The squelching sound of stuck tires signals our stopping point and we hug all of the small shoulder that we can, waiting for another vehicle to lead the charge through the muddled path. An hour later we watch a “jeep”, an Indian-manufactured Mahindra with higher clearance than us and some 10 passengers crammed inside, punch through the muck with relative success. We follow suit, slipping and sliding semi sure footedly through the mire, only bottoming out once.
The slow switch backed descent into the valley views varied landscapes. After we drop below the cloud cover we enter a bamboo grove that abruptly changes into steep and stepped terraces. These terraces are comprised of ancient crumbling rock walls that held strong through the 2015 earthquakes unlike the newer rock dwellings found cracked and bulging all along the roadside. Five hours later, after a goose bump inducing, frame scraping, literally hanging off the edge of a 400 foot cliff-descent later, we arrive in Diple.
Diple, a village of sorts, more resembles an end of the road outpost banged together with rough sawn wood and without nails. It is the departure point for all goods, commercial, personal, or otherwise that enter this region of the Solu valley. Here is the end of the way for wheels, and the start of the “sole express”. Humans and horses, both of which are capable of porting extreme weights for long stretches, carry goods up steep mountainsides.
A beaming smile approaches us as we unpack and welcomes us to this country, this place, and this experience.
It’s Jhanak, dZi’s multitalented guide and aspiring Nepali actor. He is also a local from a village on the other side of the isolated valley and knows this area like the back of his hand. He and his family have traversed the many day journey betwixt Kathmandu and this valley on foot for generations.
An even wider smile–and another dZi branded Marmot jacket–follows him and we are introduced to Jitna, a cheerful cherubic Tulung Rai who exudes positivity. The Tulung Rai are an ethnic group from across the valley. Where we are, the people are predominantly Kulung Rai. The names sound similar but their culture and language are vastly different.
Accompanying them are three porters from Jhanak’s extended family who will accompany us and share their stories as well as the brunt of our load. The porters bundle our bags together and affix them to their forehead using assorted cords, their sandal clad feet slapping a regular rhythm on the dusty trail. The team then strikes off and up into the rapidly disappearing cloud cover.
Our trek starts off with a long taught tension bridge that spans the gap to the other side of the valley, and the villages that we will be exploring for the next 5 days. By tension bridge, we cross the paradoxically named Dudh Kosi, “milk river”, which due to being fed by glacial runoff from Everest and surrounding mountains is one of the bluest rivers our eyes have ever encountered. A brand new road is under construction here.
The first ever vehicle to reach the other side was recently towed across the raging river on a bamboo float by an old tractor, a sign of the changing times, and a blessing or a curse depending on whom you talk to.
Watching the tractor calibrated the crossing, as people look on and help. We share the bridge with locals, and then make way for a large herd of packhorses that cross the high hanging metal contraption with ease, heading back to saddle another load of construction or agricultural supplies.
At our first stop we chat about the milk river and the future facilitation of trade via the new road over lunch of thutpak, a brothy noodle soup. Our stateside acquired water filtration system turns the local tap water into potable liquid fuel and we fill our Nalgenes for the remainder of the day’s trek.
We summit via an increasingly steepening rocky staircase, amongst families that look as though they are on pilgrimages, pack horses, donkeys, and individuals carrying up rebar and concrete on their foreheads. The top of the trail is marked by a deurali, a rock bloom loosely resembling a cairn that passersby add to with rocks, leaves, or plants for good luck and safe travels.
At the deurali we encounter a band of shy but curious barefooted children, with twinkles in their eyes and naturally formed dreads in their hair. After sharing some high fives and English snippets with them, they stick to us like glue. They follow us for the next few hours as we wind through terraced fields, and test out portions of the the new roadway-in-progress, the aforementioned highway that will soon wind its way to these otherwise unreachable locales.
We pass two elderly and distinguished looking trees tied together by some weathered cord and are told of their introduction to the Hindu culture of Nepal many moons ago. The “male and female” trees are planted together during a wedding ceremony of sorts when they are tied together and start their growth in unison. All around these trees are seas of dragonflies, testing out the thermals coursing up from the Dudh Kosi and over the mountain range.
We are told that large congregations of these winged wondrous insects means impending rain, and this observation holds true. As drops began to fall we seek shelter in the home of Jahnak’s aunt– a beautiful stone and mud/dung (lipnu) home with well-grooved wooden beams. She serves us a sweet and salty tea and we relish in the delicious aroma of cool rain mixing with the hot earth. When we are caught in another squall further on we seek shelter in a small bodega, the offerings laid out in the trailside window. The owner happens to be the headmaster of one of the dZi constructed schools and invites us to visit tomorrow.
We round a corner to see the small village of Son Tang stretched out in a semi circle below us. The streets are unpaved paths and the doorways exhibit the colorful cheerfulness of Nepali mountain towns. Children and adults welcome us with salutations of Namaste from their homes.
We arrive, tired and exhilarated to the Silbatar Guest house where we are greeted with dal bhat, the classical rice dish of lentils, semi fermented greens and a soup, eaten with your hands and promised to furnish you with “24 hours of power.” With that dish and some local roxy moonshine warming our bellies we climb up to our tents and fall into a deep restful slumber made even better by the pitter-pattering of raindrops on the tent throughout the night.
>>CATCH UP ON THE ADVENTURES OF DAY 1 OF THE TREK HERE<<
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