Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Into the Hills, Bhachchek in Gorkha District (Nepal 2017-14)

We rode in a minivan west out of the Kathmandu valley on the winding, rutted, bumpy Kathmandu-Pokkhara highway. The road is choked with truck traffic because this is the major supply route for goods and petroleum products imported from India. All fuel used in Kathmandu is trucked in, which, as you can imagine, leads to miserable traffic jams on the twisty mountain roads and nasty diesel emissions along the way.
We lunched (dahl baht of course) in Anbu Khaireni, a bustling commercial town in Gorkha District. We had been following the Trisuli river downstream. We saw groups in kayaks and rafts, but the high levels of pollution and sewage dumping would make me dubious of the pleasures of rafting this waterway. In Anbu Khaireni, we switched from the comfortable minivan to hard-riding Mahindra Bolero jeeps.
After a few hours pounding uphill, it was time for tea break in Amppipal, a dusty little town in the foothills in the Gorkha District. There is a hospital in the town operated by a German NGO.
Finally, we reached our destination, the village of Bhachchek at 1790 m (5,900 ft) elevation. Tourists are uncommon here; the local folks were unfailingly friendly but thought we were a bit odd. Children especially found us fascinating. The streets are packed mud. I would hate to be here in the wet season.
A surprising number of small shops line the streets. They sell beer and goods from India, such as plastic ware, tools, biscuits, clothing, cooking oil, and simple cosmetics.
From what we could tell, many of the goods come up the mountain in wagons pulled by these sturdy Mahindra tractors. The wagons do not have suspension (just rubber tires), and as a result, they clang and bang noisily.
Dusk usually meant darkness and extra chickens taking their evening constitutional before heading for the roost. Some days featured a few hours of mains electricity, some days none. One night I woke up with a light shining in my face because the power had started up.
We stayed in these little cabins. The lady who ran the place cooked heroically for us, but we could tell she was unfamiliar with tourists. For example, if we wanted extra tea or eggs, she often had to send a boy to a nearby shop to fetch a package. The shower water was cold, but a large wood-fired boiling pot was set up near the huts. The toilets were rough (surprise...). My hut was the one on the very left, behind a white shirt on the line. Just beyond the corrugated metal barrier was a chicken coop. The rooster made his 04:00 noises, followed by clucking and scratching. The country life....

The black and white photographs are from Ilford Delta 100 film exposed in a Leica IIIC camera with 5cm f/2.0 Summitar lens (both from 1949). The last picture is from a Nexus 4 mobile.

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