We were introduced to our 2 local guides Hemu and Bipen. Bipen is the brother of one of our last guides from 2018 and all the guides come from the villages we visit. They have an amazing knowledge of their area, wildlife, flora and fauna and are lovely and charming with it. The walk started the next day, up to the viewpoint of 2,500 metres. We could just see the peaks above the clouds. The first 100 steps steal your lungs but then it gets better.
We then walked to a village called Gonap. They have refurbed the simple accommodation and now have en-suite bathrooms. All the villages have a guesthouse with 3 twin rooms, a lounge with a dining table and comfy armchairs.
We were greeted with a drink of juice and later ate a simple dinner of organic vegetable curry, chipatis and daal. Because the monsoon has just finished (mostly) the mountains can be shrouded in mist, and were, so the next morning we got up early, 5.30 before sunrise and went to the village viewpoint to see the majestic Himalayas.
We climbed up to the viewpoint again in the evening and a huge thunderstorm passed over and we sheltered in a hut for an hour, all good fun.
After breakfast we walked in the forest, passing villagers taking their animals to graze amongst the trees. Cows, oxen and goats led by brightly dressed young village women.
The plants along the paths are beautiful, Himalayan balsam, turmeric growing everywhere with big fronds of red flowers, no wonder all the early botanists came here. Delicate plants with tiny flowers everywhere in the banks.
The scenery, rolling hills and mist clad mountains. The pictures really don’t do it justice. The smell of the pine trees and pine needles crunching underfoot, on the narrow forest paths the clean fresh air is a real treat for the lungs like a spring clean. It took us all a while to get used to the thin air and steep climbs but it was worth it!
Lunch and dinner is always the same. Organically grown local vegetables from the village, chipati or puri, rice and daal. Simple healthy food. Omelettes and porridge for breakfast, as much as you can eat.
After lunch we went on a village walk. Passing burgeoning sweet lime, and lemon trees and many different crops including towering marijuana plants which they use in many different ways. The stems for making rope, the seed to add to food ( it makes a very interesting chutney) and for next years crop and of course they make hashish from the plant tops. The pungent smell was intoxicating as you passed through them down the many village paths.
They also grow cabbage, sweetcorn, cucumbers, chillis, potatoes and many other vegetables. They are very self sufficient. Dahlias and other well known plants grow like weeds it’s amazing.
There are always lots of baby goats and animals to cuddle on the way.
The villagers are shy, friendly, hard working people especially the women who appear to do most of the hard work. It’s a very natural organic way of life and a real community although most of the young people leave to work in the big cities especially if they have had any education.
We went in a primary school which had only 3 young children..
Its the village walks in the afternoon which we really enjoy the most. Observing village life unfurling , women carrying enormous bundles of feed for the animals freshly cut from the fields. Washing clothes and caring for their children, milking the animals which live below the houses while the menfolk seem to sit about chatting…
The next morning we walked to the next village about a 3 hour walk and our main rucksacks were there before we were, we only carry our small bags.
Speaking to an ex soldier he wanted to know how old we were and our jobs he asked us what we thought his age was. He was 70 but looked a lot older, gnarly and bent double, it’s a hard life. He thought I was 45, I’ll love him forever!
There was a guy mixing paint from pine resin, which they collect in the forest, they just add colour which was a lovely mauve.
We had to check for leeches on our next walk as the land was still wet and we were crossing streams. We had salt sprinkled on our boots and socks by our guides. Stopping occasionally to pick them off, they still got in our boots and socks, yuk! Ingrid had one between her fingers and was huge…nasty things.
Another big thunderstorm came growling through the mountains you can feel it deep in your abdomen, the intense rain made the air taste amazing. Loved the hammering of the rain on the tin roofs. Good time to read my book.
We had another forest walk, monkeys, black faced langurs bouncing through the trees collecting and eating mushrooms which are prolific. The white mushrooms are poisonous to humans but our guides were picking the yellow oyster looking mushrooms for their lunch or the tasty pakoras they serve us every afternoon after our walk.
We saw griffin vultures and black eagles, woodpeckers and lots of colourful birds. There are barking deer, wild goats all a good meal for the local leopards which also take the local village dogs. Porcupine quills litter the paths.
We walked around the village. We met Mr Singh the carpenter who brought all his woodworking tools out to show Chris.
We then carried on around the village and looked at all the veggies, you really could grow anything here. We spoke to 3 women and took their photos and the shy children eventually came out with their mum. One of the women invited us to her house for tea. Lots of photo opportunities. Everyone is happy to have their photo taken.
The next day a gruelling 5 hour walk to the next village Risal. The walk up was hard enough but the walk down was more than challenging, 9 kilometres in total. One of our guides Bipen suddenly clutched his middle and cried out in intense pain, we had to ring the hospital and we were fortunately 30 minutes from a road so he could be taken to see a Doctor by taxi. We had to carry on without him and were all worried about him.
The path was all broken up and was slippy from the rain and rock strewn, everyone slipped at some point. It was daunting and made everyone jittery and quiet. We were all delighted to get to Risal and to a warm welcome from the friendly villagers. Better still we found out Bipen was ok and had been treated for food poisoning and was there to greet us.