For the past 10 days we have been hiking in the Himalaya’s with little to no internet or connection with the outside world, it was amazing but we have fallen quite behind on the blog. We’ll try and update you all with what we’ve been up to as soon as possible. First stop- Chitwan National Park.
The journey to Chitwan was very different to any of the trips we had made to date. Instead of looking out at shanty towns and dusty streets, we were looking out at incredible views of the Himalaya’s. The downside of this however was that the roads were ridiculously bumpy and winding. After 5 hours we started to drive through Chitwan National Park where we were surrounded by rice fields and thatched cottages. When we arrived at the Barauli Community Homestay, we were warmly welcomed by some of the local women dressed in their traditional Tharu outfits. They put a red dot on each of our heads, gave us each a flower chain and some delicious homemade mango juice.
We then got lead to where we would be spending the following two nights. The rooms were super cute little huts with thatched roof’s. Inside they were very basic, no air-con or fan, concrete floor, cold shower, but it would do the job!
After a quick game of volleyball we headed out for a bicycle ride to see a bit more of the park. We rode down to the river to watch the sunset, but mother nature had other ideas. All of a sudden the heavens opened and it started pouring rain. We found shelter in a bicycle shed just in time before the hail started. The hail was not like the hail we get at home- it was huge! I’m so glad we didn’t get caught on our bikes in it.
When the rain and hail finally cleared up we cycled back to the homestay and had dinner that was made by the local women, it was delicious. That night we learned more about the homestay and how important it is for the community. Women in most areas of Nepal are unfortunately seen as second class citizens. This starts from when they are children, boys are sent to private schools and will almost always finish their education, where as girls are sent to local schools but will usually never finish and instead stay at home and help their mothers cook, clean and run the farm. When they get married and have children they stay at home and run the household while their husband earns the wage. The Barauli Community Homestay is run by the women of the household allowing them to earn an income to supplement their farming. So a really nice project that we were delighted to be a part of.
The following morning we went out for a walk with one of the locals and learned more about the local community. Throughout the village, there were tiny cottages made with bamboo and mud, with thatched roof’s. In complete contrast to this, some houses were huge and were painted really bright colours. Our local guide told us that most families will start off with a little cottage and when the son of the family is old enough, he will go and work abroad and send home money for his parents to build a bigger and better house. Most houses had little sheds beside them with cows, hens, goats and other farm animals, surrounded by rice or corn fields.
For the afternoon we had the option of going out on a safari around Chitwan National Park, but this didn’t quite fit in with our backpacking budget, so we opt’d to take out the bicycles again in the hope that we would get a bit luckier with the weather. We cycled outside of the village where all you could see was rice fields for miles. This really great and was another opportunity to see more of the community and get a feel for rural Nepalese life.
That evening, some of the local women dressed up in their local Tharu outfits and performed traditional dances for us. The dances were very different to what we had seen before. They used really long sticks and beat them together in time with the traditional music. For a couple of the dance’s they had clay flower pots on their heads while dancing. For the last dance they dragged us out of our seats to join them, needless to say we were not very good!
After their performance we had a traditional Nepalese dinner- Dhal Bhat. This was the first of many Dhal Bhats to come. Nepalese people eat these for lunch and dinner almost every day. It is a big plate with rice, a papad (papadum), lentil soup, a vegetable curry, a spicy radish paste and a green veg of some sort, usually spinach. The best thing about this dish is that you can eat as much as you like, they will come around with more and more, until you are stuffed.
After food it was an early night ready for another bumpy bus journey to our next destination, Polkara.
Róisin & Bernard