After a 30 hour flight and two stop overs, I arrived in Kathmandu at 1130pm on the 3rd November. As I walked outside, unsure who I was meeting, I scanned the multiple signs unable to see my name. Sure enough two Nepali men approached me and I was off in a van uncertain of my destination. I was driven to the Himalayan Yoga Hotel where I met up with the NTR team and immediately headed out for some catch up drinks! What a fun way to spend my first night in Nepal after 30hours in transit. The night was spent dancing with the locals, dodging men on the dance floor and laughing with the girls, I felt relaxed, free and ready for the next 3 months.
We woke early to meet Kedar and Suresh, Lucy’s Nepali friends who she had organised NTR nurses to spend the next 5 days trekking and learning traditional instruments and staying in homestays. I felt welcomed and comfortable in their presence immediately and we quickly hurried into the bite size taxis and drove to the bus stop.
Tihar festival is otherwise known as Diwali festival meaning festival of light. It is a 5 day festival celebrating brothers and sisters. It is a time in the year when everyone stops their routine and takes time to travel back to their village to spend valuable time with family and loved ones. It was a privilege to spend this cherished time with two beautiful families and be included in the festivities.
At sunset we wandered through the streets, greeted by every child till we reached the top of a mountain to play some music. We had accumulated an extra 5 children who joined us for our first musical session. The sarengai, flute, drum and percussion sounds echoed from the mountain top. Perhaps not the most pleasant of sounds the valley had heard but the skill level was slowly developing.
After an exhausting bus ride and long day meeting so many new faces we retired to our sleeping pad on the top veranda of the clay house. Uncertain whether I would wake up on the ground beneath me I slowly drifted to sleep excited to wake for a sunrise trek. Peta and myself rose at sunrise and trekked with Suresh, Kedar and their niece Sabina, who quickly became our new best friend. Sabina was a pleasure to meet. Such an amazing young educated woman who we all wanted to take with us. She taught me a lot about Nepali history, culture and tradition and even things about Australian history I probably should have known.
An exhilarating morning hike led us to Gorkhanath temple, where we witnessed the priest smoking his morning pipe stoking the holy fire that has been burning for centuries. The pungent smell of fresh blood lingered in the air as devotees had made animal sacrifices to the goddess’s just days prior during Diwali festival. The simplicity of living life in a temple strikes me and I feel at ease climbing down the ancient stairs. Climbing down the stairs we stopped to find an imprint of a ladder on a rock on the side of the temple. We were explained a game. We had to follow the ladder using our finger while blinded in attempt to reach the top without trailing off the ladder. If we did we would go to heaven. I failed, along with my other unblessed companions.
We slowly meandered home to find to a relaxed Julia and Lucy basking in the sunshine on the front porch. Tihar festivities were soon to begin, so we happily helped Amma with preparing and crafting bowls made from leaves and straw. A skill Lucy mastered eagerly. The bowls are used to hold the coloured clay for applying the tika to the foreheads. This is the last day of the 5 day long Diwali festival and it is celebrated by sisters inviting their brothers over for a sumptuous meal which is followed by the tika ceremony. The whole ceremony signifies the duty of a brother to protect his sister as well as a sisters blessings for her brother to have a long and happy life. The sister applies the tika to the forehead of the brother and the exchange of gifts occurs. In this case jumpers and money. Amma, Suresh’s mother applied tika’s to our foreheads and we gave her some money. Lucy had also bought a few small gifts for the men and children, which they wore zealously.
After farewelling our newest family and Lucy, we started our supposed 5 hour trek to Kadar’s family village. Slowly meandering through the valley away from the relentless drone of the buses, the horns die down, the lush valley opens up and rural Nepali greets you with fresh air and life. Trekking in remote villages is not unfamiliar to me, but to experience the journey with a local who calls families 5 miles away his neighbour and friend was a very different experience. Stopping along the path for snacks in people’s kitchens and being entertained by men who appear old and immobile but yet can dance, move and climb mountains all day made for a unique trek.
Nine hours later, one river crossing in our undies, 10+ mountains conquered and a thousand laughs shared we made it to Liglikot. Arriving to Kedar’s by sunset was fortunate as I don’t think the daunting mountain climb would have been achievable in the dark. The friendliness and open hearted welcome from Kadar’s parents was so sweet. His humble home built by his father was a pleasure to spend the night in and we left wishing we had more time to spend there. After a delicious dinner his mother prepared, that we ate sitting around the kitchen floor, we had an early night and were asleep by 930pm. Not for long though! Woken from a deep sleep at 1130pm by the musical talents of the local village youth group, we reluctantly climbed out of bed into the freezing night to join in the fun. They had heard about us being at the house and Kadar’s return so they came to play us music in exchange for money. This wasn’t uncommon at this time of year, as during tihar festival the children on the streets play all night for houses and wait eagerly for anything in return. We slowly woke and my numb feet began to tap to the rhythm and beating of the drum. The same song repeated 20 or more times, a song we wouldn’t forget anytime in a hurry as it is the only tune we have heard the children and music groups play. The enthusiasm started to fade and the crisp fresh air took me back into a deep sleep while the children continued back down the hill playing to which ever house would wake and listen.
Far more touristy then we were used to, we treated ourselves to a few meals out with the boys and explored the village at sunset and sunrise. With not much else to do but watch people, eat and walk to a few temples and mountain peaks we left the small developing village and started the slow journey to Chitwan. The option to get the overcrowded local bus or a car for the 3 hour journey to the hospital was decided by the guys and to them a car seemed like the more logical answer. Unfazed either way we said our goodbyes and arranged to meet up in KTM and then departed for BPK hospital where Lucy was eagerly waiting our arrival so NTR could begin.