Jane Wilson-Howarth

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Admiring Swallowtails

Thursday, 23 November 2017
Last week I was privileged to have the chance to travel out of the Kathmandu Valley and into the Middle Hills in the district of Gorkha. I went with staff of PHASE Nepal, an excellent charity working hard to support health care provision and also encourage improvements in agriculture and education. We set out early in two vehicles and negotiated the congested streets, picked up eight sacks of garlic cloves and began the long slow descent from Thankot along Kathmandu’s main supply route, which is only two lanes wide. The uphill lane is frequently blocked by steaming overheated old trucks that fail to cope with the climb. There was plenty for time for chitchat and banter in various traffic jams but the time passed pleasantly. I was able to enjoy advice from the Buddha and titter over a bus claiming to be a Semi Seliper100% non-stop.
 
A man asked Lord Buddha, I want happiness. Lord Buddha said, First remove...
 
On the road leaving the Kathmandu Valley, eventually going south

The drive took about eight-hours, four of which were on tarmac – albeit pot-holed and broken tarmac – and four on dirt tracks when we were followed by a pall of fine rust-coloured dust.
Finally, we drove into the small riverside market place at Soti at about 700m above sea level (Kathmandu is at 1400m) and checked into the ABD Guesthouse, the ABC standing for Affertable Beautiful Clean and offering a potter and STD service. Am I alone in recalling that STD used to stand for sexually transmitted disease rather than subscriber trunk dialling – i.e. a long distance phone connection?
The ABC was great; there was no hot water but the rooms were indeed clean and the beds comfortable. Three of us – all GPs from the UK – were allotted one room; ours had Keep drink alcohol on our door and our neighbours, puzzlingly, were asked Plz saddle outside.
The ABC had one of those charmingly misspelt menus offering:
Tost Fry Egg
Scrembled Eggs
Trekking Musly Milk
Porriedge Milk Bana
Mix Fry Macaroni
Apple Filter
Rice Putting
Hot Chock Late
Red Ball energy drink
 
Their rice dal and vegetable curry was delicious and we felt well-prepared for the walk next day to the first clinic in the village of Manbu. The first kilometre or so was a stroll along the rushing Budhi Gandaki, then it was over a bouncy suspension bridge and the start of the climb up and away from the river. PHASE, with the charity People in Need, have been rebuilding footpaths so this initial ascent was via recently renovated stone steps. The path took us steeply up and up through superb forest alive with birds and huge butterflies. I stopped many times to catch my breath on the pretext of admiring a swallowtail or a birdwing. Other travellers and also mule trains came by.
After about four hours we walked into the neat village of Manbu, perched on an alp at about 1700m above sea level. The terraces were being harvested of millet and the community looked to be thriving as did their chickens, oxen, buffaloes and goats. Children greeted us with ‘Namaste’ or ‘Give me one chock late!’
Prem chuckled when he heard the kids and said that when he was a schoolboy his teacher told him to say ‘Give me one pen’ to any foreigner he met. It was only years later that he discovered it wasn’t a greeting but a request for a gift. 
 
The Budhi Gandaki at 700m; note the man mining sand for home rebuilding 
 
Crossing the Budhi Gandaki near Soti
 
Looking back to the bridge over the Budhi Gandaki near Soti en route for Manbu

I've posted more about my week in the Middle Hills here: Village clinics. For more of my photos take a look at Instagram @wilson.howarth and to read about the good work PHASE does click PHASE.
Posted: 23/11/2017 09:29:01 by Global Administrator | with 0 comments



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