A chance meeting in Kathmandu with Bhupal, a teacher from the far east of Nepal back in May of this year, and I’m off to stay in his village with his family. The journey begins with an hour long flight from Kathmandu to Bhojpur in an 18-seater twin otter plane…and the first time I’ve ever landed in a field! I suspect that I’m one of the few non-Nepalis to land at Bhojpur, given the amount of staring…and I’m pleased to see Bhupal waiting for me having walked to the airport to meet me. Just the small matter of a day’s walk to his village, plus an overnight stay somewhere en route…!
There is a ‘bus’ to Bhojpur from the airport, which is a covered pick up truck. The journey is relentlessly uphill before we reach the end of the road, and the walk begins. But first I need to wait outside the local prison whilst Bhupal visits someone inside…and my first reminder (if I needed it), that I’m in unfamiliar territory! It’s difficult to look inconspicuous as the only white European as I wait for Bhupal to return. A local police officer is keen to know where I’m going, why I’m here and who I’m with…It’s self evident that Bhupal is the key, both literal and metaphorical to opening up doors.
And so the real journey begins on foot past innumerable small houses and settlements, before our first stop after about three hours for tea and a rest. We’ve joined up with a couple of Sherpa women, who have been walking with us for the past hour or so. The ease with which they walked uphill even more remarkable because they are only wearing flip-flops, and yet they seem to glide effortlessly.
Bagkhor, like the majority of places here is a Sherpa settlement. It goes without saying that there is no electricity, and the stove that the tea is brewed on is wood fired. The smell of woodsmoke and the hot sweet tea are a welcome respite, but we still have a couple more hours of walking to do. The path has continued to rise inexorably and the temperature is beginning to drop as we continue to walk in darkness. Once again a reminder that the journey would have been virtually impossible alone. (There is a tendency for people to travel together as night falls in order to reduce the likelihood of getting lost or getting into difficulties…although it seems to me that both Bhupal and the two Sherpa women knew every inch of the way.
Finally arriving at a Hattikharkar, where food, tea, and raksi are welcome, and at 8pm I’m ready for bed…and a 5.30 start the following morning.
To be continued…..