Up a mountain lost in time............Bandipur

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October 10th 2012
Published: October 14th 2012
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10th-11th Oct ’12 Bandipur

After saying our goodbyes to the staff at the Hotel Orchid we began the 3 hour journey up to Bandipur, which basically retraced the bus journey to Pokhara with a quick stop at a truck stop for Bikram to get some food. He had been up driving since 7am before he picked us up and was starving poor guy.

The truck stop was interesting, how he managed to weave his little car in between all these hulking trucks was truly impressive. All the truckers were eating from metal plates with big dollops of various curries and rice all scooped up with their fingers. I didn’t even attempt the loo here!

Once we were nearly in Dumre there was a side road which we took winding up the mountain side, bizarrely we passed an arboretum on the way up which seemed a strange thing to come across essentially in the middle of nowhere!

We arrived at the top of the mountain ridge and could see the village spread out along it. According to the guide book visiting Bandipur was like stepping back in time a couple of hundred years so we were really looking forward to this.

At the entrance to the village there is a low stone barrier which prevents any traffic entering which was great! However there was evidence immediately of the way things are changing as at least two huge new hotels were being built there.

We followed Bikram down into the village and the houses were fabulous, all intricately carved wooden doors, balconies and windows. The buildings themselves were three stories generally with the ground level containing some form of a shop and made from small red bricks, there were flowers everywhere and dogs lying out basking in the sun!

Every other house seemed to be offering some form of accommodation or food and the tables and umbrellas out in the street seemed an odd contrast to the other wordliness of the place. The main area is known as the bazaar and there were a couple of shrines and a large wooden village hall/libray/community service building in the centre. Children ran about ringing temple bells and playing, while older children in their smart school uniforms were walking back and forth either going to or coming back from school.

We hadn’t pre-arranged any accommodation but everyone assured us there would be plenty, even though the Lonely Planet only listed about 7 places and it was high season. Once again Bikram came through, ok he probably gets a kick back but he had called ahead to The Old Inn – a traditional Newari house, which had been way out of our price range and managed to negotiatate a room at half price for us and so we had a splurge and took it.

The building was gorgeous, a maze of little wooden staircases, landings and rooms. Our room overlooked the main bazaar and had 2 hard lumpy single beds. The toilets and shower room were shared and the best I can say is they weren’t the worst we have had! However one loo wouldn’t flush and then the loo roll ran out and wasn’t replaced!! There was a nice big courtyard at the back for people who were on full board or half board to eat at and a rooftop area where you could sit and gaze out at the valley and the views. The hotel really is full of character and there are lots of old artifacts, old furniture and pictures throughout the place which make it really interesting.

We went out to explore the village and walking its narrow streets you could tell how prosperous it once was when it was an important stop on the trade route between Tibet and Nepal. However the building of the bypass highway means this is no longer the case and a lot of the buildings fell into disrepair. There has been a major effort though to restore the houses and to try and promote Bandipur as a tourist destination. Major in Nepalese terms rather than western ones.

There seems to be a real mix of ethnicity here again I guess due to the past trading influence and people have very different facial features, some of the children clearly have some European blood also. The class system can also been seen in action with some of the clearly poorest members of the village doing back breaking hard labour – women mainly, bent double under huge baskets held on by a head strap, full of rubble or soil that is being cleared. A lot of children are very well dressed and other run around with bare feet, raggy trousers with holes in them and

contrasts and contradictions!
ill-fitting tops. When they tried to join in and play marbles they were shooed away or just ignored.

The ladies also were very distinctly different styles of dress, some have saris, some shalwaar kameez, some skirts, blouses and red scarves. Some of the ladies have different nose piercings with big hoops through them.

We wandered around back streets and up small paths, passing small houses, shrines and a temple. Everywhere people were sitting in small groups chatting and children were playing marbles! This seems to be the in thing to do and they are obviously highly prized!!

The views were fantastic, over green hills, paddy fields, ridges and the high mountains in the background – sadly they were mainly covered by clouds again.

We even encountered the ‘village idiot’ (sounds awful I know but I don’t know how else to phrase it) he wandered about pinching cigarette ends and pretending to smoke them.

The meal that night was not so good! The menus look pretty good (if all the same) and I tried the ‘lemon chicken’ which was a murky coloured curry containing meat of some unknown species!! The local dogs all sat around our

Our room
table (out in the street) with mournful puppy dog eyes until a man chased them away!

The local girls were all promenading up and down the length of the bazaar and the lads mooched around pretending not to watch them!

However tonight turned out to be film night for the village and a big screen was set up by the temple at one end of the street, everyone came out when it was dark and sat or stood watching. They must have shown about 10 films!

Once they finished everyone drifted off and then we heard scuffling and a few shouts, we looked out of the window and a fight was going on outside our hotel! A man with a metal bar was hitting another one and chasing him about, Howard reckons a woman was involved, ha ha. It was really surprising to see a fight as no one even shouts normally in Nepal. So quite an eventful night!

The next morning we were woken up at 7.30am by the village starting up – again I would have expected it to be much earlier so that was a bonus. Howard wouldn’t get up though (to trek)

as he hadn’t got much sleep during the night, amazingly I had slept really well.

Once we did get up we had breakfast at one of the little cafes that has wifi (again strangely at odds with the old world feel of the rest of the village). We watched the children going off to school and different ones returning.

The village idiot had already collected a handful of tab ends and made himself a smoking fan, bless him. People were arriving with stacks of crates on their backs suspended from the head strap, chickens were being brought in carried along by their feet or wings and boxes of live chicks were being moved about.

Then a group of young lads appeared carrying amplifiers, a mixing desk and scaffolding – concert tonight perhaps?

So as it hadn’t actually reached scorching hot yet we set off for a walk, up along the ridge leading out of the village and over the hills to a neighbouring village. We were overtaken (now there’s a surprise) by 3 english men (from Aldershot and Farnham) one of whom lives up here now and several sherpas laden with all their paragliding gear. We chatted to the men while the sherpas wizzed on up ahead!

The walk is supposed to be a 4 hour round trip but as it took us 1 hour just to scale the ridge and then we were knackered with sweat pouring off us we decided not to bother doing the other 6 miles!! So we just walked along the other side of the mountain for a short way so we could see the views and then turned back! The photos are great though it looks as if we must have hiked for hours and hours to be in the middle of nowhere so perhaps I should have missed the truth bit out!

Once back down in the village we stopped at this white washed almost classical Italian style looking building which had never the less clearly been there for generations and had a well earned drink!

Then as it was dusk, tonight’s entertainment started, once again in the same spot down by the temple. The young lads we saw this morning took to the stage and after a lot of talking by a couple of trendy looking announcers the music started. Once again the village turned out and we went along to see what was going on. There was a large banner behind the band announcing ‘concert’! It also said it was an out reach Christian mission and the music really reminded me of Jacqui’s church but there weren’t any hands in the air.

The crowd came and went, they clearly enjoyed the music but when the sermons took place they wandered off, it must be hard preaching to a Buddhist and Hindu crowd.

We decided to go and get some food and tea tonight was at a different café and stacks better, it was incredible to watch the process. We ordered and then the owner walked across the street to the market stall and came back with potatoes, onions, tomatoes and peppers. Then went back again and came back with the chicken, I guess you can’t get much fresher than that! And it all tasted delicious!

The concert was still taking place and there seemed to be some folk dancing which got rapturous applause and even some comedy sketches. We walked back down again and by now the band were playing what I guess were pop songs, the crowd were going nuts, dancing, leaping about, cheering and waving and the atmosphere was great.

It all wound down by about 8pm and everyone drifted home to bed. There were no fights tonight!

12th Oct ’12 Bandipur to Kathmandu

Our last morning and as we sat having breakfast watching village life start up again we were actually quite sad to be going. It really was like stepping back in time but with the startling odd modern contrasts like wifi and mobile phones! The local boys were all out playing marbles in earnest and the trail of goods were arriving. It was a great experience and I reckon you could quite easily pass several weeks here, adapting to the slower rhythms’ of life. One English man we kept seeing I reckon had done just that, he was older, with long grey hair, dressed in local clothes and just seemed to while away the days within the village, the local children all knew him and would sit chatting with him.

We had arranged our transport to Kathmandu through the hotel and before we left were presented with little hand made bags and the owner walked with us to the rickety old bus

Film night
and waved us off.

The small bus was packed to the rafters and I was given the last seat which involved navigating my way to the back, getting a reluctant French couple to pick up their rucksack so I could get past (no way would my legs get over it!!) and squeezing in between a couple of locals. Howard and the other couple from our hotel had to stand and as more people were picked up on the way down the hill got increasingly squashed. We were joking about what activity we would miss in the village that night and much to our surprise were told the Prime Minister was visiting!!

At the bottom of the hill there were lots of army people around and in Dumre the police were out in force directing traffic in their white gloves and generally bossing people around. It was apparent they were trying to clear the streets as much as possible and people were collecting up the rubbish.

Groups of ladies in matching saris with flowers were all gathering in excited groups and I reckon they were part of the welcoming committee. We were just hoping the buses from Pokhara would arrive before the PM did incase they stopped the traffic!

We waited for about an hour, watching lots of other buses pass us by before our one arrived, it was really tempting not to just hope on one of the others especially when the cheeky lads hanging out the door were trying to entice us in.

However we were eventually once more on the road again and slowly made our way up the valley. There was one stop for lunch and then we crawled on again. It seemed a never ending journey and there were clouds of dust coming in the windows from all the traffic which was a bit of a nightmare but 7 hours after setting off from Bandipur we finally made it back to Kathmandu.

Getting off that bus was a short lived relief as once more we were plunged back into the chaos, noise and traffic! Lots of people tried to lure us into their hotels but we plodded on making our way to the Hotel Himalaya which we had booked for our final 4 nights here.

We spotted the sign for the hotel and walked down a short very narrow alley to reach it, the buildings are so tall and so close you can just about touch both sides! The staff in the hotel were really welcoming and although room was still being cleaned (?) we were happy to be here.

Some how and I have no idea why we were given a free upgrade to a ‘suite’ again in the loosest sense of the word. We were warned we may have to move the next day though. So we have a bedroom with a double bed, a fridge and a sitting area leading into a single bedroom and a bathroom! And air conditioning which works when the power is actually on!!

The hotel also has a rooftop restaurant which is a nice bonus but is 7 flights up and as the power goes off whenever it feels like it using the lift is a bit of a gamble, so once again my legs are getting a good work out.

That night I was knackered and slept like a log!

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