Thursday, February 7, 2013

Namsaling, Nepal

It's been since Dec 2008 that T and I were in Namsaling together. We have been trying for years to get back, visit our Nepali families and friends. With his PhD finished, and my scheduled work trip, we finally found the perfect time for both of us to take a short vacation to eastern Nepal.

View of Namsaling, bordered on three sides by rivers, taken from Ilam.
Nepal (about the size of Arkansas), rises sharply from 230 feet at it's lowest point to 29,035 at the tip of Mount Everest, in just 124 miles from south to north! This makes this "hills" huge from top to bottom, roads difficult to navigate, hair-pinning their way up steep, washed out slopes, and makes hiking long and arduous. Namsaling is a small village in the hilly region of far eastern Nepal, just 8km (as the crow flies) from the border of India and coated with vast tea fields in all directions (Namsaling and neighboring Ilam have similar geography and geology to Darjeeling, India, famous for their tea).

Crossing the Mai Khola
To get to Namsaling from Kathmandu (I'll skip the part about getting to Kathmandu!), it is a 1 hour flight to Bhadrupur in the very southeast corner of the country. From there, a jeep ride climbs quickly into the hills, a 4-5 hour drive to the municipality of Ilam. From the town of Ilam, it is another 5-6 hour hike to Namsaling, down the steep foot path more than 3,280 vertical feet to the Mai Khola (Mai River) below. Now in the dry season, the Mai Khola is flowing steadily but low. During the summer monsoon, the roars through the valley, white with glacial runoff [there is actually a river in Nepal called Dood Khola, which means Milk River].

Looking down the river valley as we begin our climb up to Sukrabare.
From Mai Khola, we cross a cable foot bridge and start the steep ascent up to Namsaling. We are technically in Namsaling Village Development Committee (VDC), but we are heading all the way up to Sukrabare Bazaar, just high as the descent we just made. The hike is always fun, or at least for those of us who like hiking, but no matter how you time it, it's always sunny (and hot) on the climb up from the river.

No one knows we're on our way to Sukrabare, it's a surprise. They only know that people are coming and a room will be needed for a few days. We are greeted with happy shouts and hugs when we arrive, our families happy to see us again after so many years. It strange how in five years, things are exactly the same, yet different. I don't know why I expected more to have changed, perhaps it's our society's way of constantly moving, seeking change, adding new things. But in Namsaling, it's comforting to know the small hand mirror is still perched on the shelf, that Friday momos (dumplings) are still made for the market, and that the daily routines of chiya (tea) and onda (eggs) in the morning are still followed.

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