Holy Chicken Byriani

By Monika Terfloth – Part 7 of 10 of the Mother in-law in Nepal and India series.

Day 5 – Ghandruk to Naya Pul

Ghandruk is as beautiful this morning as it was last night. However, we wake up complaining, stiff and sore. It is our final day of the trek and despite the whining, we are all feeling sad that today is the end. After two hours of steep decline at the beginning, the way will be broad, and thankfully, rather flat. We can walk in pairs more easily now and we take turns walking and talking with one another. This is the last opportunity for Maina and Indra, our two porters, to practice their English. Randy is thinking that perhaps he won’t go to India and remain in Nepal to explore on his own. From the beginning, he was never really excited about that part of our adventure. None of us minds if doesn’t come, so we shall see. We depart after a traditional breakfast, but this time offered with a cup of marsala tea made with water buffalo milk. It’s not my favourite having a distinctly barnyard flavour…perhaps an acquired taste?

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As we make our way downhill, a constant procession of people are walking in the opposite direction. Many are dressed in fine clothes and small children are dressed festively as well. Some people are carried uphill in a basket-chair on the backs of men. Since the chair faces rear-ward, we look back once they have passed to see who is in the basket. Invariably it is an aged Nepali man or woman, the odd one contentedly smoking or holding an umbrella for shade from the hot sun, others looking quite frail. They too want to be back with families in the villages for the climax of the Desain celebration which begins tomorrow. Women from the city in make-up with strings of beads over brightly colored saris wend their way up the pathway too. Many wear strappy heeled sandals, or plastic shoes to walk for many hours to their home village. They do not seem to find this a problem, rather skipping up the hills at times. I find this amazing as I look down at our own feet to see the heavy hiking boots that we all depend upon to keep us upright and to keep our ankles from wrenching. We pass through the middle of a village where clearly a sacrificial goat has just been slaughtered. Many people have gathered and there is a feeling of celebration in the air. A woman in the group smiling broadly, places a bright-eyed, adorable, but crying, child in my arms. I am rather taken aback as everyone gathers around giggling and coaching the little one to clasp together his wee hands and say ‘namaste’. He does and this brings more smiles and cheers from everyone. Donkey trains make their way steadily uphill as well. As they pass at a narrow stretch a few of us take a body blow from the side of a donkey laden with sacks. We step aside for a man with a Samsung refrigerator on his back followed by another with a bed and pillows.

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We arrive in Naya Pul in great spirits. High-fives all around, as we congratulate each other and express our gratitude for the caring and assistance of the three women who have worked so steadily and without complaint. Renuka is looking forward to going back to her home village for Desain. She plans to leave later today, along with her only sister. They will take a two-hour bus trip to Baglung, the nearest stop. There they will wait overnight before setting out on the two-day walk up and down and around the mountains to their family’s home. She is eager to be home to help with the preparations for the festival. We let her know that we have a son just a few years older than she and that we would be pleased if she would agree to an arranged marriage. She would love to meet Alfred, and will make her decision then : ) She, like so many more Nepali women, has work and her own income and is now in charge of her own destiny.

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We board the bus at Naya Pul and bump along back to Pokhara. On the way we see that in some villages the goat slaughter has begun. Groups of people have gathered along the roadside to divide the meat. In one place a blue plastic checked tablecloth lies along the roadside and heaped on it are nine piles of fresh red meat. The activity in the street heightens as we pass through Old Pokhara. Hundreds of people have gathered to barter and buy a goat for their own sacrifice. We arrive in Pokhara in the early afternoon and after a brief rest, head into the village for a hearty meal. As we walk, we see goats in every possible place… in the front seat of a car with horns tied to the door handle, tied onto the back of a motorcycle, tethered to a small patch of grass outside a doorway. We drop off a bag of clothes to be laundered and a small cheerful man comes out from a narrow passageway to greet us, his hand dripping with blood. Unphased he says “Line dried, pick up tomorrow between 12 and 2 o’clock” then offers to sell us a cold beer or anything else he might have in his small sidewalk stall. His goat has been slaughtered and he will have meat on the table for his family for the celebration.

After a hearty supper of dal bhat (lentil curry with rice) and a mug of thumba (a fermented millet drink) that is mildly intoxicating and leaves us giggling, we walk back to our guesthouse along the lakes now shining deep purple, in the dark past the rice padis flashing with blue fireflies. It has been a truly wonderful experience. Thank you for sharing it with me so far. I will have photos when I get back.

Thoughts?