The following describes a semi-impulsive, entirely aimless trip on buses to the northwest of Surkhet. Into the mountains, with little knowledge or research into where our road would take us – and with even less desire to know our direction.
After a start that included a 2 hour wait for a bus and a 1 hour rest stop about 10 minutes out of Surkhet, we finally made it to this town. Only about 30 km from Surkhet. It took us about 2 hours of driving (an average of 10 mph) thanks to the slow driving on winding switchbacks. We chose this stop because we thought it’d be interesting to sleep on a mountain instead of by a river, and the sun was set to set within an hour or so. Of course, the children in the village swarmed, as did all the parents and adults (albeit about 30 seconds delayed). We bought firewood and trekked up a trail behind me. The firewood was tantalizingly poorly wrapped, and as I trekked up the trail I dropped a steady stream of logs that Nate and Jamie had to pick up.
Our dinner that night, on our makeshift campfire – absolutely delicious, well done to Nate : peppers, garlic, onions, mushrooms, and (mhmm) hot dogs.
Our sunrise view, though we had to lightly jog for about 10 minutes uphill to get to this view. I was out of water by the time we got to the top, but the view made me forget my thirst.
Layers of mountains on the first morning.
Jamie and Nate taking in the view from the top of our randomly chosen mountain.
Jamie walking back to the campfire after the sunrise. My new camera has a pretty amazing zoom.
Raggedy sal trees. I especially like the one second from the right. These trees are used for everything – the wood is used for 95% of timber construction, the leaves are woven together to make plates and bowls at some restaurants and street vendors – clothes are sometimes made from the leaves and small stems as well.
Marks/imprints from “blooming” on a cactus growing by the trail.
Boiling water for our coffee in the tin can from our dinner’s mushrooms. I’m pretty sure this is safe?
Total boss military insect – looking like he’s ready to pounce. Too bad for him, he’s smaller than my pinky fingernail.
My mosquito net had not been functioning well the past few nights, and was actually trapping mosquitoes in my net and forcing them to sup on my sweet O-negative blood all night long. Poor things.
We left the campsite and bought some chow-chow anda’s (Ramen cooked with egg) at the same town-center as the day previous. It was around 10:30 when we got down. A man who looked like the Nepali version of Paul Newman owned a restaurant and threw on some logs to boil our water, but it took him about 5 minutes to comprehend that we wanted eggs and ramen both, together.
Meanwhile, I held a baby goat for about 10 minutes and had a small photo shoot with it. Photos are with Nate. It seemed to enjoy my company.
After that, an surprisingly dedicated Nepali drunkard demanded our attention, and repeated endlessly : “I AM RAJENDRA SINGH. NEPAL IS MY COUNTRY. I AM INDIAN ARMY” followed by a very spastic salute. By his 10th go at the short English monologue and he proceeded to tell all around us that we were stupid foreigners.
The crowd of kids that gathered around look at themselves in a selfie (‘groupsie?’).
This was then followed by a very comfy bus ride:
These old trees are gnarled and demented looking, and they’re all along the roads up in the mountains (Nepal’s smaller ones, at least).
Dug out canoe. NBD. Too bad it’s flooded.
Per usual, the kids latch onto the foreigners and followed them. These guys followed us to the beach where we decided to take a midday swim in the Kharnali River (Nepal’s longest). We hiked about 10 minutes from the town of Dungeswar to this beach.
There’s a trend here.
It seems that..
have beards made from sand. This one is the best – symmetrical goatee and split mustache, lamp chops, and unibrow.
Gargantuan old tree along the beach that was hollow but appeared hollow from above. Nate has a good photo of me inside of it so you get a sense of scale, but you could easily have fit 6 people inside. My backpack is at least 2 feet tall – perhaps that gives a sense of scale.
An old stone running over a gate going into this temple. We’ll be putting a brick arch over the gate I’ve built at the land, and I’ve been trying to decide between a straight concentrically half-circle arch, or a more triangular shape like this one.
Sedimentary layered rocks taken from the Kharnali and on some sort of pedestal in front of the temple. I’ve never seen this before, and I have no idea what it means. Maybe the people who put them there don’t either.
Volleyball ‘court’ in front a sacred people tree on the temple grounds.
I can’t actually remember, but Nate was 95% sure this was the same tree coming down from above to grow around an older branch. I’m not sure, but I do know for sure that the viscous melting/dripping effect around the older branch is incredible – like melting chocolate.
This photo reminds me of Aliens the movie. This is a little to the right of the last photo – it looks like the darker tree fell over but was then supported by the lighter tree. Really, the light tree looks like a parasite keeping the dark tree alive for its own sustenance. Hence, Alien reference.
A happy truck of chickens going over the roads. Yipee!
The band of children that gathered to watch us buy firewood from the local tea-shop owner. This purchase went much more smoothly than the one of the evening before.
The suspended bridge we crossed along to the camping spot. We’re building a bridge very similar to this one at the land.
We find a perfect beach for camping, and some dude paddles up in the dug-out canoe that we saw before! He starts offering us fish from the river. I oblige, and Nate and I go out into the water with him on the canoe. Nate’s canoe balance was less than satisfactory – several close calls occurred.
Our camping spot (notice the orange hammock in the background). Naturally we had two of the kids from earlier come with us.
Dipak – he looked exactly like Krishna Shahi (a kid in the KV Hostel), and was pretty friendly. This is a tree built from a stick and old tobacco packets. #inspired.
Our rigor mortis fish that we purchased for 150 Rupees from canoe-man. Jamie knew how to clean a fish. Nate and I looked on and made comments. I don’t think a fish is supposed to be locked in a curve like that. Anyone know? We survived, regardless.
The morning view. Nice sunbeams.
This weird apple-root was at the center of about a 1-hour game we played that 2nd morning. The morning before we had had a great session of throwing a ball around at the top of our mountain. This morning we threw it again, and when we found this root we started throwing the two objects at once, then three, then four (adding a glass jar of jam and an empty peanut butter jar). Yes. Four. It was a difficult challenge for three people, but we worked out a good technique. Three of the boys from the day before watched us, bewildered.
Before leaving Dungeswar, we decided to go up the river and coast down (through some pretty intense rapids, I will say). We had to hide our backpacks. This was my spot – meant for hiding.
Pretty striking young girl holding her younger brother. Both were drinking water out of old red bull cans.
Goodbye to Nate. He stayed back to do one more night along – Jamie and I had to return for working and a trip to Kathmandu, and my Mom (which necessitates a separate post that I should have done two weeks ago) was leaving within a week.
After leaving Nate, Jamie and I began the return to Surkhet. This was our ride (and our travel companions):
Strange behavior by our goat friend. I think he was thirsty. I was in no position to help him.
The driver was intense. We were stepped on repeatedly by a goat right next to us. Fortunately, all their poop and pee drained between the metal grating and down the side of the bus. I learned from previous trips that sitting on your sandals makes for a much more comfy ride. I put my backpack behind me and leaned back for a wonderful open-air trip through the foothills of the Himilayas. It wasn’t totally stress free through:
It was a difficult and slow process, but some of the goats eventually learned to compensate well for the high speed around bends.
A beautiful forest of sal that we went through about an hour left on the return trip. Don’t you want to just follow that road?
Scattered houses on the ride back.
This guy doesn’t get us. Or perhaps he gets us so well that he is completely bored by us.
Coming up to the valley of heaven (my mom and I came back a few days later and walked around). 45 minutes outside of Surkhet.
Valley of heaven. When we first passed it two days earlier I said that it looked like a lake could be in the middle (with all the houses scattered around the outside and essentially empty space between). I found out on the return trip that the name of the town is actually Odal Tal, meaning “Flat Lake.”
More valley of heaven. I’m slightly obsessed with it.
Maybe this is excessive. I already uploaded the photo, though.
Caught in a tough situation.
The last twenty minutes of the ride were slightly uphill, and the bus’ horsepower was insufficient for an adrenaline pumping ride:
The bus drove right by Kopila Valley on its return trip and dropped us off for a short walk home. I’ve slowly come to regard, and trip like this reinforce this perspective, that uncertainty should usually be sought, not avoided, especially when with friends. We took off from Surkhet with absolutely no plans, but having packed cooking equipment and other vitals, and 48 hours we returned with a month’s dose of adventure at a cost of $10 apiece for food and bus rides. Spontaneity and an occasional, deliberate aimlessness are key to remembering the excitement of life. At times I may have briefly forgotten this during the stress of the project, but trips like this and the philosophy of trips like this will always remain deeply imbedded within me.