I awake to the crowing of roosters, the faint murmuring of the faraway river, and the rumblings of the gardener who is cheerfully chatting away to his plants that dot the peripheral of the property.
He is happy to show off all of the flowering bounty he cares for, a beautiful sight for sure but one that is pale in comparison to the impressive landscape that commands my attention; mountains meeting over ridges with white scars of landslides peppering their slopes. The thumbnail moon looks on as the sun slowly peeks its way over the range behind, engulfing the whole valley with its warming rays as snow capped peaks in the distance are briefly basked in a whitish golden glow. I stretch out my tired tendons as the light stretches over the valley, peering into the crevasses and ridges and finally reaching the fast flowing river below.
We break our fast with coffee, tea, and perfectly fried eggs graciously provided by local hens who frolic freely throughout the village. At this point we have established two group speeds, “moseying” and “rock-and-rolling”, and we start off the morning on a mosey that later evolves into a rolling rock.
This trail is equally beautiful as yesterday’s–pine groves cohabiting with bamboo stands with not a speck of plastic to be seen. The groves are peppered with rhododendron and wildflowers offset by terraced millet and wheat fields.
We meet up with members of the local NGO, and they lead us up to a new project: a community center being constructed with a budget of $500 USD. The beautiful plot of land was gifted by a generous community member and the labor is provided freely by similarly generous individuals. The result is a framework of roughly hewn wood, beautifully assembled and topped off with corrugated post-earthquake tin. We sit cross legged and talk about the area’s future involvement with dZi over a hot cup of tea. We say our goodbyes and walk back into the valley, amongst women toting large bamboo baskets on their foreheads that are brimming with organic goodness or containers of water, with one being ridden by a baby.
As we approach Cheskam, the architecture changes slightly. There is less development and the density of dwellings on the periphery of the town is much lower, although their paint jobs are much brighter and there is much more animal activity. A herd of buffalo is being led along by a stern-faced girl who looks as though she skipped her day’s kindergarten class. Chickens flit along the pathway, followed by fluffy confused chicks that barely skirt our footsteps. We are on the other side of the range, overlooking a new valley, with even more ancient-looking terraces unfolding down the steep sloped to the edge of the village.
We are welcomed with maalas, but not those of rhododendron that we have become accustomed to.
These maalas were crafted out of all of the village’s plastic, which is woven into mats and in this case beautiful faux flower garlands rather than being thrown away.
We are then offered a delicious lunch of–you guessed it–dhal baat, which has really lived up to its hype as the staple of all staple meals in Nepal.
To digest, we bust out the frisbee and start tossing it around amongst the group. Our sherpas have improved significantly, and are starting to throw with ease. Not so slowly, a significant portion of the community jumps in, men, women, and children alike. The next hour is full of laughter and progression, skills are mastered and momentarily forgotten, and the frisbee starts to fly closer to its mark. We set up our tents on the edge of the chaos that has unfolded in the large field at the center of the village. Kids are playing hopscotch, a makeshift form of cricket, adults are playing volleyball, and a group of all of the above are still tossing around the frisbee. I take out some rope from my bag and my mom and I fashion a jump rope, which quickly attracts the attention of all the children. We spend the next hour playing, a beautifully simplistic form of communication that transcends all linguistic barriers.
Throughout the time that we spent in the field with the sun slowly descending into the surrounding peaks, the only other interruptions were vibrant groups of colorfully-dressed women descending from the mountains, baskets laden with loads of freshly cut firewood to bring to their homes at the bottom of the valley. It felt like the long day had come to an end, and the tents were looking extra comfortable as the color drained from the surrounding landscape, but this was just the beginning. There was still a shaman to be seen, fortunes to be told, and chickens to be sacrificed. Stay tuned for the tales of the ritual and mysticism that filled the rest of our evening, coming soon!
Go back to days 1 – 4 here.
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