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Notes from a Wandering Daydreamer Life as it should be...

oh my buddah! (part 1)

NEPAL | Monday, 22 June 2009 | Views [980]

i have just had the most unexpected, surreal and amazing 36 hours of my life.
 
"The Beach" is a movie that seems to generate lots of opinions in people, neverless there is a line from the film that im sure many a traveler can testify to and is something that has stuck with me.
"We always try to do something different, but we always end up doing the same dam thing." Usually that same thing involves drinking ans taking mind altering substances and dancing on a beach.
It may have taken almost exactly two years, but i think that i may have just had that unique experience that everyone looks for.
Its hard to describe it all in words, so this may be a long blog - sorry - but i'll do my best!
 
It started pretty simply enough. On friday night Bima (the lady who runs the orphanage in kathmandu im living in for 2 weeks) asked me if i was interested in visiting her home village the following day with her, I jumped at the chance to get out of the city for a day, thinking it would make a nice daytrip. Her sons said that it was a few hours away, but i had no idea how far they really meant. So at 7am the next morning we headed off, me assuming that we would be back in time for dinner that night so the only things i had in my bag were my camera, a few hundred rupees and whatever else may have been lying in the bottom of the bag. After an hour by minivan through the suprising bustling streets of kathmandu for a saturday morning, we got to the bus stop on the side of the road where we met up with bima's uncle and had a quick breakfast of spicy potato and chickpeas, washed down with sweet chai. Tehn we squeezed into the back seat of the piublic bus for what would turn out to be a bone shattering 3 hour journey up and out of the valley on the worst roads i have ever been on. - any of you guys from cambodia reading this, yes it was worse than the road from the thai border to siem reap. also imagine that road winding around mountains, passing other busses on a road barely wide enough. - I soon began to get excited when i saw a bridge coming, as at least that meant a few seconds of a smooth ride! We nicknamed the bus "the jumping bus"
It was about this time while i was trying to chat with Bima between being thrown about the back seat she asked if i was ok with trekking. I said sure, i do it time to time. What I hadnt discovered until now that her village was a few hours treck from the last bus stop.
At this point I began to realise how unprepared I was for what i thought was going to be a day trip and how silly of me. I was wearing a shirt, shorts and a pair of old converse (not the ideal trekking outfit), also nobody knew where i was going (not even me!), for all i knew this could be maoist (communist party who until being elected to parliament recently were a rebel group) territory which we had been advised to avoid (I would soon discover just how maoist the area was) and to make it situation worse, the monsoon was by now overdue and had been threatening to arrive any day now. I prayed that it could wait another day or two!
Finally after 3 rough hours we arrived in a fairly small nondescript looking village and emerged from the bus, body still shaking. We were well and truly off the path, beaten or not....
Bima said she had to attend a quick meeting with a local organisation, but first we went to get some lunch. The first place we tried had no rice ready so while looking for another place we walked into a abandoned looking stone building. We headed upstairs and obviously judging the confusion on my face Bima told me that it was local maoist office. I think she is joking until she opens the door. There on the wall, amongst the hammer and sickles is a large banner, with portraits of none other than Marx, Lenin, Stalin and Chairman Mao watching over the office. Joining them is the picture of the maoist leader in his army fatigues.
 
Im not too sure what to make of it all and it seems a bit surreal and i wonder what i'm doing there, with the photos of many locals who have become martyrs for the maoist cause looking down on me from the surrounding walls.
Thankfully there is nobody else there, so I take a quick picture. A couple of young men soon enter but they seem friendly enough. one of them is even carrying a young baby. as they sit there reading ther papers and laughing i wonder what all this fear of the maoists is based on...
Me head back to another restaurant for some interesting spicy dal bhat. During lunch Bima calls me outside to show me that one of the leaders of the maoists, who is a local and is now their elected member of parliament has arrived and is being greeted by a large clapping crowd further down the road.
 
Later after lunch we head up a small hilly path past wild coffee bushes to discover the meeting has already begun. The small room is full of people sitting around the walls, including one young american girl. We probably look equally suprised to see eachother. Information packs are handed out to all, including me, despite the fact it is printed in nepali. However from one sheet I manage to gather that it is something to do with the International Labour Organisation. Whatever that may be...
A few obviously important people get introduced, including Bima and they all get a round of applause. Then it's around the circle to introduce yourself (all in nepali). It gets to my turn. I manage to Say hello, my name and that I am a volunteer from Australia. I feel proud.
Next a lady comes around presenting silk scarves to people who must be VIPs or have done something special. Amanda the American is from the ILO so she is presented with one, then they turn to me and place one over my neck. I thank them politley, yet feeling quilty about recieving it. I dont even know what this meeting is about!
For the next few hours people give long speeches and I do my best to not look bored and like I have no idea what it going on. Two men speak for over an hour each. During these long speeches many people come in and out of the room. One man who is obviously very very important enters. Everyone stops to say hello and shake his hand. He gets to me.... When in rome.......
Later my boredom is broken by the serving of chai and buscuits. By the time the meeting ends it is almost 4pm. It is too late to get back to Kathmandu. It seems like this is going to be an overnight journey.
I chat to Amanda who is a law student from Vermont, interning in Nepal for the summer. She too had no idea what was said in the meeting, but it was about indigenous rights. She seems to find it funny when my answer to the question of what I am doing there is " I honestly have no idea..." She also informs me that she ahs been told there is a strike tomorrow (very frequent in nepal) and buses may not berunning. could this turn into a 3 day trip??
 
Things now go from strange to surreal. As we are walking down the hill back into town we come upon a circle of men sitting and talking in the shade of some ruinded buildings. One or two are from the meeting. I am invited to sit down and the very important man from the meeting asks me a few questions about my time in nepal. I'm then informed that he was the maoist leader I saw being welcomed earlier.
As we head down into town together it is obvious he is a very important, popular and well known man. Everyone wants to say hello and there is much hand shaking and back slapping. (no kissing of babies here) There is also a bit of attention towards me. Who is this strange westerner with bad dreadlocks? And WHAT is he doing hanging about with our MP?  (I wish i knew too!) I'm then ushered into a small cafe where bottles of fanta are produced. I cant help but laugh on the inside at the situation. In a tiny rural village and the local maoist leader (who seem to be rather unpopular outside rural nepal) has just bought me a fanta.
 
But no time to dwell on that, as soon it's backoutside to meet more people and take some photos (me being the cameraman, so i will post them up soon). I begin to worry as its nearly 5pm and we still have a few hours treck ahead of us. After failing to find a lift we head out of town and cross a small stream and then cross the valley on one of the many fantastic suspension bridges found all over nepal.
We hope to hitch a ride on a passing car but we are out of luck. only a motorbike passes out. However the walk is easygoing and the scenery amazing. If it were not for the powerlines we could easily have stepped back in time. Below us the blue river runs shallow and fast, with many small terraces lining the banks as farmers toil the land with ox.Along the road and opposite valley are many traditional stone or wattle and daub traditional buildings. Children play on the road, women pass us with grat baskets full of cut grass and men lead cows or buffalo along or watch their goats graze on the steep sides of the road.All around us on all sides are steep lush green hills, increasing ion height. Beyond you can sense the mighty himalays looming above us, all but shrouded in the monsoon clouds. I look at then nervously. they look ready to busrt at any time.
After an hour we manage to hitch a ride on a passing truck, despite the reluctance of the driver. My sheer joy at sitting down vanishes the moment we start moving as i am reminded how rough the road is - something you dont notice when you are walking.
By 6:30 we reach the end of the road - literally. In the last village of any size we buy a few mini torches and head up the hill as the light slowly begins to fade.
 
We cross another bridge and pass a big digger, buillding the road up the hill, carving out a path from the vegitation. Locals stand around to watch the progress and kids ride on the machine like a ride in sideshow alley. As we headed up the rough track I fully appreciated how silly this situation was, but also realised i had no other option but to keep going. Up up and up, to the gumpa on the very tip of the hill which was our destination.
 
Now that i hopefully have you intrigued, I have to end it now as I have to go and pick the children up from school. However I will finish it off tomorrow. Will we make it to the gumpa? (well i obviously made it back to kathmandu!)
 

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