A Travellerspoint blog

Bus Ride to Bhutwal

Walking Haystacks

Walking Haystacks

Petrol blockade remains in full running force. Negotiations are standing still. The scant number of buses and jeeps able to run, become overcrowded, especially on market day. A large passenger jeep comes honking down the road notifying passengers of its arrival. Normally this jeep seats up to around 16 passengers on an average day. Today, my imagined “maximum total passenger” load, is broken many times. The jeep keeps honking despite over capacity, and continues to pick up one to two more passengers with each stop. Peak head count was 28 adults with 6 children inside, with about 10 more rooftop passengers.
The road is dusty. The jeep lurches with each pothole. Grateful the speed is slow enough that any sort of impact would not be’ too’ harmful. No major complaints noted. Again, the Nepalese show their strength in times of hardship. Such tight proximity on the bus could get out of hand if someone angered.
Desire to offer my seat to older woman hanging off the back of jeep, but wedged in so far that impossible to do. I close my eyes, take not so deep a breath due to dust, and attempt a zen moment. Sabita nods off next to me. She DOES tire on occasion. She protests later saying the jeep is like rocking a baby’s cradle.
I love this travel, despite all its discomforts. This is the travel norm for the majority. My life is blessed with so many expected comforts. Great teachings of patience, tolerance and compassion.

Posted by Shantitraveler 20:50 Archived in Nepal Tagged bus life rural rides nepal Comments (0)

Tal, Annapurna Circuit, Nepal

Enjoying the Art of Having Fun!

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Welcome sign to Tal: A heartly welcome to all visitors from the CPN (Communist Party of Nepal) Maoist Committee.

Just outside the village Kani, two young Tibetan girls feed a horse on a grassy green, laughing and playing as the horse grabs grass from their bunched hands. A Kani is the entrance gate to predominantly Tibetan villages on Nepal’s Annapurna circuit. These structures help ward off evil spirits, giving those that pass through, blessings for a safe journey.

The girl’s necks are adorned with coral and turquoise, both treasured by Tibetans. Coral is a gift from the ocean and is a reminder of our eternal foundation. Turquoise is seen as the sky stone and is known for its healing properties.

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A woman passes with sarong dress, a heavy colorful bag strapped across her forehead. A train of laden down horses with hollow, clinking bells pass under the white Chorton, a Buddhist shrine containing ancient relics. The two girls run away hand-in-hand leaving the horse to finish the greens from a metal pan and a water-filled bucket.

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Clicking walking sticks announce the arrival of a passing tourist with quick light steps and backpack.

One of the young girls return with a walking stick, followed closely by an older girl carrying a full thatched basket on her back, later seen clearing plates at the hotel restaurant. The second girl slowly follows up with an older man using a walking stick that matches his height.

A large tourist passes with two walking sticks accompanied by two Nepalese men. One is her guide, the other her laden down porter.

The woman of the hotel holds onto a small child in football style as she places a rotating sprinkler in a garden area filled with leafy greens. Sky above is cloudy and darkened, threatening rain. The two girls run off again hand-in-hand, snot running from the nose of the smaller.

Daylight turns to twilight. Surrounding mountains cast shadows on the village. A lone pony meanders slowly, grabbing at easily reachable greens. Manaslu Peak, 8156 meters Northeast of Tal, blows in cool wind. Thunder rumbles above. A hunched over villager passes, a loaded basket strapped across the forehead. Rain commences. Sprinkler continues its rounds.

Sign across from hotel states: Multi-purpose Nursery. ACAP, Annapurna Conservation Area Project. Plastic sheet covers the greenhouse. ACAP started in 1986 to achieve balance between nature conservation and socio-economic improvement in this natural, culturally rich region.

Beyond is a group of young men setting up a corrugated metal fence to pen in their herd of goats. Intrigued by the activity, the girls run over to join them.

In the hotel kitchen, a boy hacks away at bare chicken legs, hanging them high above the wood fire for cooking. “For dinner tomorrow”, he states. A horse runs into town like a wild-west scene. Large leafy green shrubs sit behind rider. Pace unwavering as they enter town.

A distant horseman runs a smalls pony back and forth over the flat landscape surrounding Tal. Long ago this was the bottom of a lake, or Tal in Nepali. The rider states he has traveled to Malaysia for employment for four years. “Malaysia is more free country. Nepal, no free. Men free, but women not. Problem if women move around, but not for man”. He trains the small pony for discipline.

Later in day, fascination is seen in the young girls eyes when viewing a digital rerun of their twilight play.

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Posted by Shantitraveler 18:34 Archived in Nepal Tagged trek himalayas circuit nepal annapurna Comments (0)

Little shop by the beach

The Art of Entrepreneurship

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At the far end of the beach sits a small twelve-foot by twelve-foot bamboo framed, thatched roof hut. A shop countertop extends in front, protected overhead by a rusting, corrugated metal rooftop serving as a protective awning against the bright sun and the seasonal monsoonal downpour. A wooden shelving unit stands to one side, its legs dug into the sand. Opening hours commence around 9 am. One and two liter mineral water bottles are neatly arranged daily, following the right angles of the countertop. Plastic jars filled with an assortment of candy and bubblegum are placed at the counter’s end. One plastic jar is filled with a mix of open cigarette packs. Single cigarettes are sold, as a full pack’s price is prohibitive. Strings of one and two rupee packets of shampoo, paan (Indian chewing tobacco) and laundry soap are draped over a rope in front. Businesses cater to the affordability of necessities. Homemade caramelized, peanut snacks cut into 1 x 1 inch squares fill a jar, selling for one rupee a piece. The jars are restocked at the start of each day and meticulously positioned into their daily, designated locations.
Husband of shopkeeper takes an empty plastic sand bag, walks about 20 feet away, fills the sandbag and empties the bag in front of the counter. The light colored sand is spread evenly over a patch of dark dirt for aesthetics. Finished with his ten-minute task, a break is taken and a local cake is consumed for refreshment. His wife continues with the stocking of the shelves and jars.
Once the shop is prepared for the day’s business, a Puga (prayer offering to the gods) is performed inside the shop and completed when the shopkeeper sprinkles water around the perimeter of the small shop. Incense is lit and waved around. The first customer of the day will set the promise for good luck and fortune for the remainder of the day.
As permanent and longstanding as the shop appears, a few days following, a complete remodeling takes place. Sweet jars and water bottles are replaced with Rajasthani puppets, Lord Shiva T- shirts, Indian textiles and jewelry. The high tourist season, commencing soon, pushes a change in merchandise for an anticipated hopeful, increase in business sales. The rusty old roof is replaced with a shiny new one. The couple shouts out to all potential buyers, “New shop, open today!”. Funding for the new shop items comes from an invested, outside source.
The shopkeeper’s children, who are bused daily to a private English-speaking school, do their homework at the shop. They assist communications with the foreign tourists who pass two-week holidays on the white sandy beaches of southern Kerala, India.
Behind the shop sits several local huts despite the tourist-ladened beachfront. Lives are carried out, mostly undisturbed, on this far corner of the beach. The cluster of huts goes unnoticed by the passing, sunburned foreigners. Focus is on the many beachfront restaurants, which boast fresh seafood caught daily by the local fisherman. Fish are caught by traditional nets, which are pulled in by two lines of men, in a more than two-hour process early morning on the beach. Most tourists are still dreaming during the big catch.

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Posted by Shantitraveler 17:47 Archived in India Tagged beaches india kerala kovalum Comments (0)

Sunset hours in Nepali village

the art of community

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Dal plants with little yellow buds cover the field out front. The field gradually slopes into the buffalo watering hole. Goats bleat loudly nearby, at times screaming. Bicycles and motorcycles pass on the gravel road, loaded with up to four passengers. Children are seated on the rear of bikes, on mother’s laps or wedged between the handlebars and driver. A red tractor putters loudly down the dirt road loaded with sand and kicking up more as it passes. Flowing sari scarves trail behind bikes.
A cluster of puffy clouds lie over the distant hills merging with the transitional colored sky. A crying child’s voice is heard in the distance. A little boy with a red sweater nears the goats while a woman in a blue sari shouts out, following closely behind.
Three young children play together on the grassy slope surrounding the pond, chasing each other up and down with intermittent song. Playtime pauses briefly on the small bridge overlooking the pond, heads hang over, looking down. Soon the trio is off running again. The goats scramble awkwardly up the hill with three kids in tote, then run loose onto the road. The red-sweatered little boy attempts to grab them unsuccessfully.
The puffy clouds slowly fade from sight with the setting sun.
One lone boy on the far side of the pond throws rocks at two lazily, swimming ducks. An elderly woman slowly walks with a large pile of greens atop her head, dinner for the milk-producing family buffalo. A handful of hunched over villagers head home from a day out in the field, weighted down with huge loads of hay.
A chugging bus honks its arrival at the village, a storm of dust catching up with it as it pauses to drop off passengers. Two boys on the road make swatting attempts at each other. A third one attempts intervention. A bike sits nearby. The smallest of the boys peddles away on the seat-less bike while another jumps on the backside.
Two school-uniformed clad boys pass, one throwing a notebook repeatedly into the air. A child squats on a rooftop of a house and pees. Distant voices float across the darkened pond from the households of the single road village. Dusk settles in.

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Posted by Shantitraveler 23:48 Archived in Nepal Tagged sunset village countryside bicycle nepal buffalo Comments (0)

Kathmandu Bus Station

Refining the Art of Patience

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Men stand with arms crossed outside the row of parked buses at Kathmandu’s Gongabu Bus Station. The occasional figure smokes a cigarette. Time pass.

Buses toot their horns for departure, leaving a long trail of beeps as they leave, to beckon any straggling, potential passenger. The ‘conductor’, usually an older boy, hangs out the side door. One hand grips above the inside door frame, the other waves, while he shouts out the bus’s destination, as it inches its way out of the bus park. During the trip the conductor must also collect fares, retrieve luggage atop, pay toll fees, etc.

Heads stick out singly and in pairs in parked buses, quietly watching the slow-motion activity. On the bumper of one bus a sticker reads ‘WE WANT PEACE’. For a period of over ten years, the Maoist Rebel group slowly took control of the rural areas of Nepal eventually becoming a legitimate part of the government in the year 2006. Over 12,000 people died and over 100,000 were displaced during this decade of conflict.

Another two buses have the slogan, PLEASE HONK HORN, painted on the backside. Horns are the preferred method to inform other drivers of overtaking on the twisting Nepali roads.

Large plastic sheets cover personal belongings and cartons loaded high atop buses in case of rainfall. The bus tops also serve as an overflow, passenger section for the often, overcrowded buses.

Piles of brick lay scattered around a partially built, future bus stall site. Curbs serve as benches for waiting passengers. Food stalls sell last minute snacks of chips, cigarettes, mango flavored drinks and chocolate. Baseball caps adorn many young men’s heads. Older men’s head are covered with the traditional dhaka topi hat. A mother holds a child forward with no pants on, to pee near the construction site. Another child screams from inside a bus.

Solo foreign travelers meet up and hang at the rear of a bus sharing stories of their independent travels. Many other upgraded options are available for tourists in Kathmandu, but local travel hits the heart of Nepal and is very budget friendly.

A young boy approaches the group of westerners asking for a few rupees for food. Looks are exchanged amongst the travelers with this common request. One digs into a pocket and drops a few rupees into the open palm. The boy tries his luck with the others, but is unsuccessful.

On the dashboard of all buses sits statues of Hindu deities, adorned with dusty, plastic flowers, providing safety and protection on the road.

The bus starts to toot its readiness for departure. Still have at least half hour to kill.

Posted by Shantitraveler 22:25 Archived in Nepal Tagged bus station kathmandu Comments (0)

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