March 14 day 14 Kalopani to Tatopani
In the middle of the night, I was quietly awakened by cowbells, some cattle grazing next to the hotel. I’m getting used to those bells. You hear them in the strangest places– way out in the woods, or in a steep area where you expect nothing to be around, you suddenly hear the tinkle of a cowbell and there, in the most unlikely place, some cattle are grazing on what they can find. It is between seasons here just now– the stored hay is almost exhausted but the new grass has not quite come out, so all the animals are loose and foraging where they can. It is a stark contrast to the feed-lots in the USA, and so much more sensible. It was still raining this morning a little bit, but the temperatures were not bad and the water kept down the dust, so a long day walking on the road was not as bad as it could have been. On passing a guest house, I saw two brooms on a table, wet and shining in the rain. Brooms here are bundles of straw with very short handles. An extremely dusty place, people are constantly fighting it with these short brooms that can only be used by hunching over, close to the dust, and sweeping away. They often sprinkle the space in front of their house or business with water to hold down the dust they have just swept away. Not far from the brooms, I saw a man stripping bamboo. Now I’m down low enough for bamboo to flourish so, instead of willow wands from pollarded trees, they can strip, peel and flatten bamboo to make a lot of material including very large basket-woven sheets that make roofs for animal pens and sheds. As I got further down the valley the foliage changed so now there are orange and banana trees. The buildings shifted a bit as well, with some having flatter, slate roofs with interestingly articulated eaves all about. Will watch over the next days to see if that is a one-off aberration or part of a different style. Just below was Ghasa, a town with another military site like Jomson and a lot of buses parked ready for the trip up or down-river. On the way out, I passed a cluster of buildings where a large group of men were congregated in a courtyard with solemn faces. Near them a number of women were crowded in a small building moaning and crying. I don’t know funeral procedures here, but I felt as if I had intruded into the middle of a wake and made haste to move on. Moving down to the flatlands puts me further from the Buddhist world of the high Himalayas and into the Hindu section. I had another attempted conversation with a barefoot Hindu priest who was walking in the direction I had just passed. Once again I felt the difficulties of communication acutely as he wanted to say something I could not understand. Another signal that I was getting closer to a more settled area was a waterfall near Rupse Chahara. I could see the high falls at some distance as I walked, but on arriving I found a tour bus and several Land Rovers which had disgorged a host of tourists– Nepali and perhaps some from India–all dresses in bright clothes, laughing and waving at the sweaty American hiking through their photoshoot. I made it to Tatopani just after lunch, saw Kyle who was getting a shirt repaired at the local tailor, and went straight to the hot springs. After a cold Gorkha beer, I first washed in the area where the hot springs flowed through high pipes, then eased myself into the pool and soaked while the sky’s clouded and the rain began to fall. No matter, the water was nearly scalding, and I have never felt cleaner. A trip back up the hill to the Himalayan Inn for a room and a quiet late afternoon relaxing in what is now clearly a warmer climate. Tired but clean and happy.
T. Hugh Crawford