5.24.2017

Nepal: A Trekking To Hakula, Solukhumbu 7: Crying in Kathmandu

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Boudha, Kathamndu
End of the story. My last two days in Kathmandu are not interesting because we spent them doing absolutely nothing.  Yes, I wanted to go to Thamel looking for a bookshop, we had talked about eating a good pizza and going to the disco, but we just went to Boudha where I cried in public because Lalit and I couldn't understand each other about a very important matter. He was sorry and rather shocked but he couldn't even understand why I was crying, and that's a serious problem.
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Boudha, Kathamndu
In my last day in Nepal we made up - he didn't even understand that or why we had a fight - and we went to Thamel. 
We had a tea in a nice Korean Restaurant but I couldn't buy any book because we didn't understand each other on the concept of 'bookshop'. Finally I bought myself a gift, some beautiful earings and we went back to Kapan. 
I understand that we made an exception to the rule holding hands in the taxi all the way to the airport, that means one hour or more. 
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Kapan, Kathmandu
Then I took my backpack and went away alone, because inside the airport he couldn't come. A silky scarf around my neck. Not like a tourist, I thought, like a finacé.
He was supposed to come to Italy in July, but he couldn't get the visa because he has no money on his account. So what's next? I really don't know.

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Lalit and me at the Korean Restaurant

5.22.2017

Nepal: A Trekking To Hakula, Solukhumbu 6: to Kathmandu driving at night on (no)roads

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It's a sunny morning
The sun shines when I wake up, and the view is clear toward the mountains, glaring for the recent snow. After breakfast we get a formal farwel with more scarves and more flower garlands. 
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The Women Unity
More pictures are taken and when we leave it's about 10 am. It's definitely hot and I'd like to take off all those stuff around my neck, but Lalit says we have to keep it as long as we are in the village. So, stoically, I carry on while villagers come out their homes to say good-bye or just rise their heads from the field to look at us curiously. The path is almost flat here or slightly downhill, in the shadow of Rhododendrons and oaks. The scarves find their place in the backpack, while we hang the garlands on a tree, according to the Kiranti worship of Nature.
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Farwell
The way down is always easier, isn't it? but those guys are walking in trainers and flip-flops! I feel vaguely ridicolous in my mountain boots. "Ok, you can!" I say incredulous pointing to Niraj's slippers. "Ah yes" Lalit says "Nepali people can all. I remember the time when there was nothing: no shoes, no clothes, no school books, and we used to go bare feet on those paths." We can already see the Dudh Khosi, the bridge, the shepherds' hut. "Hurry up, I call the jeep". 
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My garlands
It's midday when we get on board. A hot, dusty, risky travel is about to start. "We don't sleep in Salleri. We go directly to Kathmandu". But I don't know what that means and even if I have an idea of the distance and of the (no)roads conditions, I can't understand what we are going to face. At the moment I just want to pee, but somebody is taking a long shower in the loo... "We wait. When we start we don't stop for three, four hours." 
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On the roads
We start. I sit in front with the first driver, Lalit, Niraj, his friend and the second driver sit behind. Our backpacks are in the big boot with some packages... and some cheap travelers. They don't go to Kathmandu, just take a lift to another village or home. We are full loaded now, still we stop to take in an old woman and her grandson, both carrying heavy bags. Even more squeezed, siting one on the lap of the other, incredibly some room has been made for the old woman, while the kid has found a place on the roof. In my privileged front seat I feel unconfortable.
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...when we meet others
The (no)road is so bad that I need to firmly hang to the grip to avoid hitting my head agaist the ceiling. It's a no-stop bumping. We never go faster than 40 km/h, often way slower, so slow that the many people walking on foot and carrying huge loads look at least as fast.
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Lower terracing
The (no)road is narrow and when we meet another vehicle we have to drive on the edge of rocky precipitous cliffs. Often the engine stops when the (no)road gets steep and the driver must be fast to pull the brake. Then he turns the engine on, lets the brake and goes full gas, while rocks are projected everywhere from under the slipping wheels. Am I the only one holding my breath? Are they really used? do you GET used to this? Niraj frankly doesn't look well: he has put a cotton mask over his nose to avoid breathing the dust and stares ahead with empty eyes. The rest, sqeezed and clumped, seems fine.
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This is a bar
A few times we stop to eat by guesthouses and small restaurants: noodles soup, momo, more soup... I eat nothing: I'm not hungry and in such a drive I prefer to stay light, so I just nibble a energy-bar or pick some dried fruits. In Salleri we drop everybody, Niraj and his friend included. We clean our backpack from the dust and put them with us inside the jeep. Lalit has barely slept last night so now he's very tired. I sit behind with him, he stretches his legs on my knees, put his head on the backpack and immediately falls asleep. From here the road is better, even paved! 
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Men at work
I keep taking pictures as far as I can, then my camera's battery dies and the day light starts fading. Lalit sleeps and he's lovely to see. I think he isn't very confortable because he can't stretch his legs completely, but he's so in debt of sleep that he would sleep anywhere! The road is good, we are flying at 60 km/h, even faster. The air is fresh and finally we can open the window because there is no dust. 
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2015 earthquake destroyed many houses
Unfortunately it lasts few: the road is often interrupted due to works or slides and we are forced to take unpaved deviations. 8 hours driving already. How many kms have we covered? hard to say. Google maps says it's 267 kms from Salleri to Kathmandu 'by the fastest way'. But we have dinner in Katari, so we take a different road, and Google maps gives 398 kms by this one... I suspect they are more.
Image may contain: outdoorIn Katari the drivers suggest we are better to sleep. We are eating dal bhat in a crowded restaurant, siting outside in the heat. No tourists here, just locals. It's New Years Eve in Nepal and we are on the road... I don't want to sleep here. "How far is Kathmandu?", "About four hours. We arrive at midnight". I stupidly stamp my feet: "Let's go to Kathmandu! I want to go to Kathmandu!" ...and we go to Kathmandu, directly, in the dark of (no) roads without lighting nor signals, often interrupted and almost always unpaved. 
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This is our jeep
I'm thrilled at first, then I realise we are mad. These roads are dangerous even in the day light, Nepali media report every day of people killed in jeeps' crashes... Ok, let's stay positive as Lalit would say. The drivers are good and they look in control. They got an extra pay for the night drive so their morale is high: "Kathmandu! Kathandu!" is our motto already. Loud music on, we fly at night...
Image may contain: 1 person, outdoor and natureA brusque hard braking. We stop. There is a soldier in the middle of the road and a metal barrier. He comes close and look inside the car pointing a torch. "Where do you come from?" he asks. "Solukhumbu", "We can't pass. This road is forbiden after 8 pm". WHAT?! The drivers get off and walk with the soldier, they stop, they talk. After a long time, maybe one hour, Lalit yawns and stretches his arms: "I'll talk with him" he says. I'm left alone, wondering whether we'll get to Kathmandu or we'll sleep here inside the car... "I told him: We must pass because my client has got her flight back to Italy tomorrow morning very early. We must get to Kathmandu tonight." ...and in the end we are allowed to pass.
Relieved and galvanised by the unespected victory, we speed up on the perfectly paved road. "Kathmandu! Kathmandu!" And for a while it works. 
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Nele
Then suddenly a brusque hard braking again. Lalit wakes up and looks around with sleepy eyes. The road, perfectly paved, is cut in the middle and half of it has collapsed! The drivers get off, quietly walk on the residual half, seem to ponder over the opportunity to drive on it, come back, lean on the guardrail and light a cigarette. In the deep dark night, somewhere in Nepal. Not a word. They get in and drive back... and I see a worker sleeping under a parked bulldozer. Ok. No panic. We take a dity road and after a while we even meet another car. Weird to say, this (no)road leads to the main road to Kathmandu. 
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Lalit is trying t
Image may contain: sky, mountain, house, outdoor and natureWe arrive at 3 am. There is no traffic on the ring road and Kapan looks a different place with all the shops shut down and no stands in the empty streets. The jeep stops and we get off. A thousand dogs start barking! We pay, we take our backpacks and we stagger home...

.......................TO BE CONTINUED.................

See also Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4 and Part 5.Image may contain: tree, sky, outdoor and natureImage may contain: outdoor and natureImage may contain: sky, outdoor and natureImage may contain: sky, tree, cloud, outdoor and nature

5.18.2017

Nepal: A Trekking To Hakula, Solukhumbu 5: where I learn to make Chapati, Momo and a few Nepali words

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Himalyan peaks from Hakula
Under the blanket in my confortable bed I'm not completely asleep yet, not because of the new place, as I'm used to sleep everywhere, but because of the many new experiences of the day, included a recent clumsy kiss. But I'm tired and about to sink in my dreams when suddenly a loud rumbling makes the building shake! 
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The kitchen
At first I think it's a earthquake, then I heard the pourring rain: it's violently washing the village. 
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Making chapati
It's fine. I believe that here I'm safe, and I fall asleep. "I didn't sleep well tonight" Lalit says the next morning "The rainstorm... " And now I know I wasn't that safe. In Nepal a lighthing can easily set fire to a house and destroy it in few minutes. Lighting rods are not in use and the steep precipitous slopes of those mountains work as a perfect trap.
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Cooking chapati :)
Anyway I'm alive, and Lalit decides to make me a chapati. I follow him to the kitchen, that's a small building a part, organised just like the one you can see in the Pokhara Mountain Museum: a stone flat surface and a metal trivet, some mattings on the floor, a kettle, a few pans, some bowls. He puts some sticks under the trivet and and lights their extremities in a way I had noticed also in the Annapurna trekking. 
The fire makes a lot of smoke that quickly fills the kitchen, there is no chimney, only some opening in the wall (see the pictures), and Lalit doesn't want me to stay there. Stubborn European, I don't move. "How don't you cry?!" he exclaims after a while, very surprised. "I'm a reporter." I say "I'm used to suffer." 
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The kitchen has some opening for the smoke
He's kneading rice flour and water in a bowl to make many small ball. Then he rolls them one by one using as a 'mattarello' the same metal tube he blew in to fan the fire. 
Five almost round chapatis are ready to be cooked! He puts them one by one in a pans with a little oil, waits and spins them like omelettes.
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The first chapati is ready
I eat my chapati with chocolate cream (from Italy) and local honey, rough and tasty, while sipping a warm mint tea. 
In spite of the huge rainstorm all is dry but the beautiful mountains are partially hidden by white wet clouds. 
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A traditional house
From here you can easily reach the Mera Peak (6,476 m) and other great trekking aims, included the Tengboche monastery area. We are indeed just out the Sagarmatha National Park and that could also be an alternative, less touristic route to the Everest base camp.
"Let's go visiting the village!" I say grasping my camera. Several houses are scattered on the terracing slopes of the mountain, bigger or smaller, painted in white and blue or red, with metal sheet coverings or straw roofs. 
There is a Christian church, but the most of the villagers believe in the traditional Kiranti religion. Lalit and I agree that everybody should be free to worship their god(s) how they prefer, but we are both perplexed about the convenience of proselitism... 
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Another kitchen
"You don't burn your deads, do you?", "No, we don't. When a person die he or she gets buried... there."  Lalit answers pointing to an uncultivated stretch of land. No tombs, no symbols, not even a fence. Back to the nature we belong to, growing grass and flowers from our flash, in the cold caress of the wind.  I like. "We'll see the rest after lunch" because it's definitely time to eat dal bhat.
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Mattings are made by the family itself
I'm feeling strange today. I'm about to cry and I don't know why. In the afternoon we visit some houses and everywhere we are offered food, tea or coffee. We get in, sit on bench, Lalit introduces me but I don't understand a word, they talk a little and then we leave. People are all absolutely friendly and I try to eat to please them, but it isn't easy. "You'll get shocked when you'll come to Italy and see how few I eat". Listening to their conversation isn't boring, I grab a few words that they repeat often and I ask for the meaning, so I learn that 'ohhh!' means yes and 'ohina' means no, 'la la la!' means 'I agree!'. 
Momo for dinner is a very interesting perspective! Lalit's sisters are already at work and we join them in the kitchen. One girl is preparing the dough - the same like for chapati - while the other one is cutting vegetables and meat in very small pieaces for the filling. 
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Momo
There is also a little girl that Lalit considers as his step-sister, and they are pasionately discussing about her name. "It isn't right. We must find another name for her.", "Why not? it's HER name. May be she likes it...", "That isn't a Rai name. Here we are all Rai, she has to stay here with us so she need a Rai name.", "But why has she got that name? I mean... there is a reason I suppose...". 
They go on preparing momo and discussing, I try to collaborate. My first and only momo is definitely ugly but I can improve. 
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Those are used to carry stones for building
As far as names, I defiantly say: "My name is not a Rai name, so what? would you change it too? find me a Rai name!"  ...and after a short consultation they do: "Gorimpool. It means 'White Flower'. Since then I'm Gorimpool and the women of the village are very amused. 
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Lalit plays fooball with Sanu
At this point my morale is high and I have no problem when Lalit announces that he's going with his father to a political meeting tonight. "I'll return very late. You don't get bored ok?" For dinner I eat our wonderful momos, looking each one attentively to see if I can spot mine, exciting the hilarity of the whole family. 
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Kids at work
After dinner other women come and we have a lot of fun. Lalit's sisters and brothers can speak English but his mother and the rest only know their own language and Nepali, but we understand each other with gestures and a lot of laughing. 
Image may contain: plant, flower, outdoor and natureThen I ask them to teach me some Nepali words and start indicating a part of my body: "How do you say this?"... 'aka' means eye, 'naak' means nose, 'much' means mouth, 'daat' means teeth... 
Rai women use to wear a beautiful headscarf arranged in a very elegant way. They teach me how and I try. I feel no difference between me and them, we are just a bunch of women enjoying each other before we go to sleep.
We had a great time together and no I didn't get bored. 
On my confortable bed I fall immediately asleep, but I wake up in the middle of the night and I have to pee. That means I have to put my jacket on, to wear my boots and to turn on my head-lamp because the loo is relatively far...
Hakula is completely silent. No lights, no noise, nobody in sight. The sky is totally dark, but clear and densely starred. Amazed, I forget about my pee. I turn off the head-lamp, I'm just here and now. I feel a perfect joy...

............TO BE CONTINUED....
SEE ALSO PART 1, PART 2, 
PART 3 and PART 4. .. 
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My bed room

5.15.2017

Nepal: A Trekking To Hakula, Solukhumbu 4: Across the Dudh Kosi and up to the village

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The bridge on the Dudh  Kosi
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Lalit, donkeys and me about to cross the river
The early morning has everywhere soft pink fingers to paint the sky and a golden light to enchant the traveler. After a good breakfast we start our trekking descending to the bridge on the Dudh Kosi river, Lalit, Niraj and me. There is some traffic! a long parade of donkeys carryng cement sacks... We speed up to cross the river first but I must take a picture here: Dudh Kosi is the highest river in terms of elevation as it "originates from the high-altitude areas of Mt Everest (8848 metres)". We are here about 1000 m so it has already made a lot of its way, still a part of its water is melted snow from the highest mountain in the world! 
Fortunately my bottle is filled with this fresh good water, because from here the path gets steep and the sun is already hot. "We climb for two hours maybe, we cross the jungla there" Lalit says pointing to the green patch on the top of the mountain "then it's flat until my village". 
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The first farms
We start climbing on a narrow path passing through small villages and farms. Here in 2015 the earthquake hit hard and people are building new houses or fixing the old ones. We cross the terraced fields of corn and millet on steep stone stairs. 
A larger 'road' is under costruction - dusty wound in the slopes of the mountain - but we follow the old path that's like a steep shortcut.
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Buiding a new house after the earthquake
"It takes me 45 minutes when I'm on my own" Lalit says while I drink my last sip of water siting in the shadow. I look down in the valley: the path is almost vertical so I can see the river, the bridge, the guesthouse too, the road for Waku and the farms we passed, with their straw roof.
Up we go and we get into the jungle, in the welcome shadow of the trees. Rhododendrons are blooming - red, pink and rosy - soft large flowers on the dark lucid green of the leaves. In Italy this is a small bush, in Nepal it's a tree and there are forests of Rhododendrons! 
This is not a touristic area, there are no lodges or guesthouses here, but the mountain is not wild and deserted, as people live in villages and isolated houses scattered in the steep slopes, all cultivated by tidy terracings. Subsistence farming is the most common occupation, but some houses also work as family lodges and emporium. By one of these houses we stop to eat something and to fill my bottle. 
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Up we go
The flat section is not that flat, but not that steep too. We are now by the other side of the mountain and soon we arrive to the village: several houses built in stone and wood among terracing fields. Lalit's home is the last one, two buildings facing an empty yard where many people are waiting for us.
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Blooming Rhododendrons (Pic by Lalit Rai)
I'm not prepared for this! Not only his family, but also a large delegation of the village Women Unity is there to welcome us. One by one they come to me, first, and to Lalit, then, saying 'Namaste' [Hello!] with their hand palms joined, and put a silk scarf or a flowers garland around our necks! 
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Arriving to the village
It's really a great welcome. I can't stop smiling watching their beautiful faces, kind and so friendly. Lalit's family, his father, his mother, his sisters and his bothers immediately adopt me. Later we are going to dance and more people will come, but now it's time to eat dal bhat and to take a restoring hot shower.

The family sleep in one of the two building, while the other one, newer, is a kind of a public house, with a guestroom - where I drop my backpack, and a large dinning room with a table and a bench where Lalit's father attend to neverlasting meeting with his fellow villagers, mostly men but also some women, because he's a bit a social leader and a candidate in the next local polls.
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Say cheese!
There is also a very good 'toilet': two buildings, one for the lavatory and one for the shower. In the last one there is as usual a plastic tub full of cold water, but Lalit comes from the kitchen with a big kettle of hot water. what a luxury! then the temperature of the air is not too cold in spite we are at about 2.000 m. I wonder how is it in winter, when here there is the snow... 
Lalit's father and mother don't speak English, but they try to comunicate anyway and are absolutely lovely. I give them my gifts from Italy: a typical Florentin tray and a book with many beautiful pictures of Florence.
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Let's play that madal!
His sisters and bothers had the chance to study: the girls have a degree, the boys are in the college and can hold a conversation. One of the sisters is a nurse in the Waku hospital, another one is employed in a Bank in Salleri. The family has made incredible sacrifices to allow them all to study and to get a good job, that's especially imporant for women, whose life is going to be very hard otherwise. 
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Let's dance!
A small crowd gathered in the yard, women, children but also a few men. Lalit holds a short speech, explaining that I comes from Italy as a guest and a friend, and that together we'll try to support the projects of development of the village. 
We bought a madal as a gift for the Women Unity and he solemnly hands it over to the WU leader.
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With Lalit's parents 
And it's finally time to play, to sing and to dance! Those women are very good at it, but I do my best. I'm very happy and a little tired. It's dark. I stop dancing and sit beside Lalit who's playing the madal. 
The women are dancing in a circle of people holding their smartphones to light up the scene! That's Nepal, a country of contrasts.
We take a lot of pictures of course, happy and playful like children. Then we go to sleep because tomorrow is a work day...

...........MORE TO COME....

SEE ALSO PART 1, PART 2 and PART 3.