WHERE : Bhojpur District, Nepal WHEN : mid-January 2016 OBJECTIVE : Solo Trek to Kot Village from Dharan City DISTANCE : Unknown. Seven Days' Walking to arrive CLASSIFICATION : Walks, Wheels (Bus)
Mongolia lies behind me. Ramdi, too. I spend my days with friends and family as I see fit. For some reason I still can’t fathom, I’m not driven to pull out my wing and fly. Otherwise, things are Pokhara-normal. I’m settled in.
During our afternoon chats, Pramod tells me Aamaa often asks about me during their regular phone calls, wondering when I’ll be back in Kot. I don’t have a great answer. It has now been nearly two years, and I do have a loose plan to visit in April—for the anniversary of the earthquake. I’m hoping to trek solo through the Middle Hills, photographing my way back to Pokhara. This will likely be a six- to seven-week undertaking.
I wonder if I’m up to the challenge.
I’m in excellent physical shape (though Mongol vodka may have done some damage to my liver); my conversational Nepali is beyond adequate for direction-asking, emergencies, and standard gossip; my confidence is justifiably high. Perhaps an impromptu dress rehearsal for the main event?
Two days later I’m on the night bus to Dharan, with a sketchy map from Pramod and minimal gear. By “map” I mean a few village names scribbled on a scrap of notebook paper in Nepali, a river or two sketched in. Nothing hinting at scale or attempting to indicate direction. “This is the Nepali way,” he assures me—walk from village to village, asking at each for directions to the next. Food and a bed will always be available (he says, in reassuring tones) because this is how Nepalis get around. By foot. Without a certain level of hospitality, this way of traveling is simply impossible. (This tradition also dominates the Mongolian Steppe, and for the same reason.)
The bus rolls into the Dharan station just after six a.m., I drink a chai with a fellow passenger, grab a microbus to the edge of town, and start walking.
My route, as per Pramod’s slip of magical paper:
Chatara – Barahachhetra
Barahachhetra – Simle
Simle – Ghoretar
Ghoretar – Mane Bhanjyang
Mane Bhanjyang (stay an extra night due to weather)
Mane Bhanjyang – Dalgaun
Dalgaun – KOT
Seven days and many stories later I show up unannounced at the Shrestha family home in Kot, beaming. Behind me lies a string of new friends in villages throughout the Bhojpur hills; ahead of me eight days with my family right here in Kot. Right here, at home.
What else need I say here, other than…
February 3, 2016
The Band in this case consists of Shrejowal, Alisha, and Ujwal Shrestha, along with The Transglobalist. We have made a habit now of taking a silly group photo every time I arrive. These three (brother, sister, and cousin respectively) are the foundation of my Kot experience, and I love them as my own family. To me they will always be Caesar, the Blue-eyed Devil, and Monkey Boy–people who treated me as a (strange, incomprehensible, uninformed) brother from Day One, and who have kept me laughing ever since. The button below is to an unedited video walkthrough of their living area, during my very first visit to Kot Village.