Wednesday, 8 March 2017

A Mountain Walk from Bandipur

Back to the sweet shop for breakfast, more puri with aloo curry for me and an apple pancake for Michael. Plus donuts for the road. Today we have decided to walk to the next village. We are already 1000 feet up a hillside and Ramkot, where we are heading, is of similar altitude, but the pathway there is not straight or level.

 For the first half of the route we are hugging the hillside on a dry orange dusty track, climbing then descending repeatedly. There are some other tourists on the path, so we stop to let them pass so we can enjoy the peace, thinking our pace must be slower, but then they stop just ahead and we pass them again. They have a guide with them and we hear him insisting they take rests in the shade and drink plenty of water.

 There are some vultures flying ahead and there is some talk of whether we would prefer to be a whale or a bird. I opt for bird while Michael decides on sperm whale. We pass a tiny village which is essentially a couple of wooden houses. The children outside point the way to Ramkot after initially asking for money and chocolate. A couple are walking the other way, explaining that they can't find the track, but we press on and come to some wide terraces where the track does appear to disappear. We walk along the terraces in search of the onward trail, and then a little Nepali woman starts shouting from the area we have just left. After making our way back to her, she tells us we were heading towards the jungle and then shows us the path that was partially hidden from sight. She then disappears down it, making easy work of the high steps in her flimsy plastic shoes and loaded down with all sorts of supplies, no doubt.

By this time the rest of the tourists have caught up with us, and we all descend the many steep steps that we will have to climb back up later. There is some discussion as to whether we should continue, as the sun is hot and we only brought a couple of donuts with us, but we press on and soon leave the other group behind resting under a tree. The wide dry orange path soon change to rocky narrow and edged with vegetation. I soon spot a small tarantula being dragged along by a large black wasp. I initially thought it was the other way round, but Michael is so able to drag up facts about the interaction we are witnessing, and I learn the fate of this poor eight legged beast.

Onwards further more ups and downs, and all the while with the stunning view of the terraced Nepali hills. Another rest in the shade of a tree, then another push uphill, then we finally see the village appear in the distance, a small cluster of slate roofed houses perched on the side of the hill. As we get closer we pass a very young boy with a small herd of goats coming the other way. We get a shy namaste and have a brief stand off with a couple of goats, then we have a final decent into Ramkot.

We feel like we have entered a different world and gone back in time, and my description won't do this place justice. There no vehicles in Ramkot, and therefore no roads, just narrow pathways bordered with rough bamboo fences. Goats and chickens run free, and in more than one shed we see tethered buffalo or cows. There are vegetables being grown in gardens, and lots of corn being dried in racks overhead. We pass lots of people; I guess they must be used to the daily quota of tourists trekking from Bandipur, but it still feels like we are intruding somewhere we shouldn't be. Not that we aren't made to feel welcome; everyone says namaste, some want to know where we are from, and l many point us onwards to the mountain view hotel.

We follow the signs and the path, which seems to turn into a dry stream bed, and then over the brow of a hill and a woman tending her patch of land points us on, and then we finally reach our destination.

The Mountain View Hotel is a small collection of concrete buildings close to a drop off, and there are probably mountain views on a clear day, but we just get to admire the rolling terraced hills. Michael gets us some water and a Fanta, both understandably over priced as someone will have had to carry them in on their backs. We sit at a little table under a wooden gazebo that reminds me of the one we got married in and prepare for the walk back.

One more bottle of water for the journey, and we retrace our steps through the village. This time actually noticing the traditional tribal round house that we walked past. We also pass the other group as we leave, and reassure them that they are almost there.
The walk out is hard; we are hot and tired, and I have forgotten just how many ups and downs there were. In the distance we can see smoke rising from where we think Bandipur village is. As we get closer we can see that lots of fires have been started on the hillside, for what purpose we are not sure, as there is just scrub and it's not where the crops are being grown. Maybe these are just controlled fires to prevent wild fires, as the land is incredibly dry. Legs aching, we climb the last big hill and then get the welcoming sight of Bandipur below us. A long decent, being rained on by ash and soot, and then we immediately stop at the sweet shop and restaurant to recuperate and replace some lost fuel. Chowmein for Michael and a samosa chat for me, and of course a couple of donuts. Michael's was his for a starter, and I have mine for dessert.