Welcome back to our blog. This entry is in English again, so as to be readable to all the people from Nepal (and other countries) who have expressed interest and are following the tour.
Our driver, Kumar, gave up ten minutes from Dadagaun village, in the province of Baluwapati, the location of our workshop. He stopped the car, took a good look at the mud-covered track ahead of us, then informed us that we’d have to walk the rest of the way. We were too amazed by the breathtaking view of the Himalayas to do any complaining. We hadn’t seen the mountainrange since our incoming flight – the polluted air of Kathmandu never allowed the view. Now they rose before us, majestic in their sheer massiveness.
We’re no longer in the flatlands of Morang, but in the mountains of Kabre. On our second tour, this time in the region heavily affected by the 2015 earthquake – a large percentage of the houses have collapsed and been replaced by thin-walled huts. Our first stop saw us giving a workshop to 15 children in a new community theatre that was built after the quake. Our second stop, on the same day, took us to Raniban village, reachable only via a crumbling dirt track.
Around two hundred and fifty children and adults were gathered by the time I, Yubaraj and Anita Bertolami arrived. We had been picked up by a couple of motorbike-driving village folk, us carrying our equipment somehow on the back seat while trying to grab onto the driver’s shoulder as we drove down the mud-covered lane. Anita Fricker was on the lead bike, so by the time the rest of us had recovered from the experience and climbed the last steps, most of the school was already gathered around our stage.
The crowd was quieter than in the plains, but they still laughed at our foolishness, particularly in love with the two women of the show. Afterwards, we played music for them before being invited for tea in one of the small houses. The place was full of beautiful, aged faces gathered around the two wooden tables, served by a strong lady behind a small counter, her big hands easily capable of crushing our tiny teacups.
We all had the desire to stretch our legs: that, combined with our unwillingness to sit on a motorbike again, saw us walking back to Dadagaun, a good forty minutes on foot. Along the way Yubaraj chatted to the locals, Anita showed her instrument to some farmers, and children yelled joyfully from the hills.
In a surprise twist, we suddenly found ourselves in the most luxurious accommodation so far. Here, where people are, perhaps, economically worse off than anywhere else we’ve played – while around us, the locals live in corrugated iron huts, old women walk barefoot, and the roads have never seen concrete – here our beds are in a hotel built for Westerners. The villagers of Dadagaun organised the place at a highly reduced rate, and without much choice, we’ve found ourselves with hot water, soft beds and a view directly to the snow caps. This area is favoured by tourists – further up sits Nagarkot, a village packed with hotels and souvenir shops, from which eager Westerners can experience a form of Nepal that we have seen little of.
The next day the workshop didn’t happen – the kids only asked their teacher’s permission at the time we were to begin, so by the time they had walked up and down to the school, Yubaraj had already organised us a show. Luckily for our workshop participants, the show was at their school. We played in the yard with our backs to a small cliff. The children respond beautifully, and once the show was over they had great fun playing with us one-to-one. I’m sure, for the workshop tomorrow, they’ll appear in large numbers…
We walked an hour to Nagarkot for the second performance, being treated to an amazing view for our efforts, the mountains so close, you could see the details. The closer we got to the village, the more hotels lined the street, one more impressive than the next – there were even security guards at some gates. In the town we saw the first tourists of our trip, decked out in hiking gear and sunglasses.
The place itself seemed mainly to consist of shops and hotels, so it was with some surprise that we discovered the school to be one of the poorest on our tour: made mostly of battered corrugated iron around a small yard. The three hundred children were happy to see us, though, and laughed eagerly at the jokes. Even the women school teachers roared with joy when something went wrong.
On the way back, we took a bus… Probably that choice was the most dangerous of our whole stay in Nepal! It had begun to rain by the time we boarded. With seats for perhaps seventy people, it held at least twice as many, plus crates of soda and canisters of liquid gas. This fully laden vehicle then proceed to drive down a track that Kumar, our driver, would have refused to even look at on a map, let alone place a pair of wheels on. It was like a cross country race for a construction vehicle, done with a passenger bus. Every corner invited us to drop hundreds of metres, every bump threatened to turn us over. At a speed of maybe ten kilometres an hour, the bus slid and tore it’s way through the mud and down the mountainside. When we finally managed to untangle ourselves from the mass of limbs inside the bus, and escape into the open, we all breathed a sigh of relief.
Ps: due to the bad internet connection here, pictures will be added at a later date.