Holy Machhapuchhare!

By Monika Terfloth – Part 6 of 10 of the Mother in-law in Nepal and India Series.

Day 4 Tadapani to Ghandruk

We are up early again this morning still smiling and remembering the music and dancing from yesterday evening and beautiful Machhapuchhare (Fishtail Mountain) is clearly in view. It is about 6:30 when we pull on our smelly, damp, cold clothes that have not dried overnight. Actually, it doesn’t take long to dry them while wearing them but the smell lingers on. I am told that I smell particularly bad, and I think they mean it. I haven’t brought much clothing and no raincoat, opting instead for a black garbage bag. It’s done fine so far. Atop Poon Hill it became a shawl around my shoulders and kept out the cold wind. Slit up one side it became a cape that adequately covered my head and day pack to keep out the showers yesterday afternoon. Again this morning we look forward to the promise of warmth in the dining room; to once again slip our legs under the benches and gather the heavy, woolen blankets draped from the table’s edge, around us.

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Still smiling, each of us have placed in front of us a toasty Tibetan Bread, warm deep-fried and the size of a dinner plate; local honey that tastes of flowers, a boiled egg and a cup of steaming spiced milk tea. Each day has been a feast for the eyes as well as well as the mouth; the lush green of jungle and rice padis, flowers of every color, amazing mountains, hand-laid stone beneath our feet forming an endless stretch of pathways and stairs. It seems I have gone on and on about that. However, Tlell tells me I have not said enough about the people. I will try.

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The preparations of Deshain are continuing. Everything in the house must be scrubbed clean. Today, it seems that everyone is doing this. As we pass through the villages, the communal water tap is invariably busy as women and children gather to talk and share the task of washing up. Huge copper and brass pots blackened with deposits from the wood fires are brought to the washing area along with a bowl of ash from the cooking fire. The ash is scooped by hand and used to scour the pots inside and out. A young woman squats alongside the path on one side a stack of blackened pots and on her other side are those that have been made shiny again, all sparkling in the morning sunshine. There is plenty of water from the mountains at this time of year, running clear and cold across and along the pathways and bubbling from gaps in stone walls, down through the rice padis and to the river valley far below. Children play at the edge of steep bluffs and peek out of doorways offering a shy smile and ‘namaste’ as we pass by. Occasionally they ask for sweets (“mithai”?) We answer “chhaina “ (sorry, none to give) but they don’t seem to care. Thick brightly colored blankets are hung out to air on the stone walls and we look down on grey slate rooftops decorated with all sorts of laundry.

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We reach the Gurung village of Ghandruk early. It has only been a four-hour trek today. Again it has been mostly downhill which has proven to be just as challenging as the uphill. Randy’s knee is okay, but the stones are wet, and we all slip and fall at least once today. Maina, Indra and Renuka?…not even a near miss. We meet many people laden with baskets of goods, and heavy sacks. They seem to float both up and down the stairs, no matter their age.

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We have time in Ghandruk to walk through the village and to visit the small museum and the monastery. We share laughs with workman who are repairing the pathways by hand. Rex is wearing his new bangra and this seems to be quite amusing. He looks even more Nepali now with this large bag of woven nettle-fibre slung over both shoulders. He also speaks Nepali which at first confusing and then also amusing. These pathways are the lifeline. We observe a very sick man being carried downhill. He is tied into chair-like basket with a sling for the man’s feet and padded support for his head.

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The basket-chair is carried on another man’s back. A dozen other people follow behind. “It is the only way” Renuka says, “Everything must be carried in and out”. She expects they will have to carry the sick man out to Naya Pul since the health centre in Ghandruk is closed. We walk out to the community health centre later in the afternoon. A small whitewashed brick building perched on the edge of a bottomless gorge. Next to it is a helipad with the ‘H’ clearly marked in white, flat, square stones. None could afford the helicopter trip out for this man. I entertain thoughts of returning to work in this village one day.

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Perhaps?

Thoughts?