By Monika Terfloth – Part 5 of 10 of the Mother in-law in Nepal and India Series.
Day 3 Ghorapani to Tadapani
We awake at 4am and in the darkness and head for Poon Hill. Six of us instead of seven this time. In the lead this time is Renuka. Maina has decided to remain at the teahouse having climbed Poon Hill before. It is a climb of 1.5 km almost straight up, and is expected to take an hour. It does take all of that and it is an arduous climb in the dark. The stone pathway is wet from the nights rain. Our glasses steam up and Randy takes a fall uphill slamming down on one knee.
Fortunately nothing serious. It is misty at the top, still half dark. We are among the first to arrive and gradually more trekkers come until there are about 60 of us, all quietly awaiting the sunrise over the Anapurnas. Slowly the sky begins to glow golden, and we are rewarded with gorgeous rays of morning sunshine on the snow covered mountains. We are standing on the hill in awe, well above the clouds that rained on our rooftop through the night.
After a quick breakfast near the oil-drum stove, we depart…falling easily into our ‘trekking order’ and into the Nepali jungle with endless stands of rhododendron trees, dark green and resting until they bloom again next spring. The jungle floor seems similar to our westcoast rain forest. Exotic, lacey ferns make the carpet and here and there are small woodland violets in purple, yellow and pink. Vines and dormant orchids with their fat leathery leaves drape down from the mossy tree trunks. Again accessible only on foot, we walk, bound for the village of Tadapani, which will be our stop for tonight. The footpath is dirt, which means leeches and we carefully check one another at every water break. How on earth did one get into my armpit? The path changes back to flat, carefully laid stone as we near the several small villages in the jungle openings on the way. We continue to marvel at the amazing amount of work that must have gone into these paths over the centuries. We brush against shoulder high, brilliant red canna lilies and hibiscus of every color, chartreuse green rice and millet grow at eye level as we pass along the stone walls that shape the terraced padis. The rice is not yet ripe, harvest is usually in July and October. The fall harvest is often near festival time, but Desain is early this year and the rice is not yet ready.
Today we have descended from 3200 m to 2600m and thighs and calves feel like jelly. This afternoon I passed the gorge of my recurring nightmare. It was at least 1000m deep and falling sharply from the side of the footpath. My head swam, but I did not fall over the side! I am here to greet another day.
We reach Tadapani in the late afternoon. Home for the night is another humble and cozy guesthouse. It has been raining and we hope for another oil-drum stove against which to warm ourselves. Instead, we find a smaller dining hall with a long wooden table that nearly takes up half the room. Heavy woolen blankets hang down from all sides of the table. Around the table are wooden benches covered with rugs. As we sit to share a pot of milk tea we lift the blankets to bring our legs under the table noticing that it is very warm under the table. It turns out there is a coal burning stove under there! What a great idea! Can we do this in Canada? While sharing tea, we learn that there will be a performance in the dining room that evening. The village women’s group will dance and sing to raise funds for their village projects. Women in these remote villages have been gathering to discuss and solve community problems ie: sanitation, schooling for their children, health, etc. and with the money they raise they are able to become more independent and improve the quality of life for their village.
After supper, the long wooden table is pushed to one side and women in their deeply colored long skirts and wrapped in woolen shawls, arrive in ones and twos. Long, shiny hair is smoothed away from each glowing face and a thick black braid hangs down each back. They spread blankets on the floor and sit in a close group smiling and nodding to those in the room. There is a moment of recognition as we see a familiar face. There is the woman who prepared our lunch when we stopped at a village earlier today. We are astonished to see her here. Renuka tells us that she has walked from that village, in the dark along the same narrow path by which we had come here and past the ‘gorge of my recurring nightmare’. "About one half hour" Renuka responds when we ask how long it would have taken her. That stretch took us more than three times that long.
One at a time the women get up to dance a traditional Nepali dance. Along with a drum and a tambourine, the accomp
ying music is the clear voices of the chorus of women seated on the floor. The men of the village and the male porters have gathered opposite side of the room. A contest begins. The men are clearly enjoying the performance and challenge the women to a duel. Back and forth they sing, each side teasing the other. Then the men get up and begin to dance as well. It has been wonderful to see the involvement of the men in rural family life. Fathers and grandfathers tend to the children as easily as their mothers. At the end of the dancing two women circulate the room, draping each of us with a garland of local wildflowers. We return to our simple rooms, cover ourselves with the slightly damp futon-type blankets, fully clothed beneath the covers. It is cold tonight in the mountains.