Overnight stay with a Nepalese family by Robert Fear
Early in the afternoon I stopped off at another village called Suikhem, This is a sort of crossroads of whether to continue west or go over the hills to the north-west and towards the Annapurna range.
I sat for a while with a few Australians and drank a couple of teas while considering what action to take next. A couple of young boys came up to me and asked where I wanted to go. I was still undecided but let them lead me up the hill towards Dhampus.
We climbed up a very steep hill which they took in their stride but I was really struggling and we made several stops because I needed a rest. The boys didn’t, they take this route to school every day. On the way we met countless other children who were all very inquisitive and I felt rather like an old sage or grandfather sitting under a tree in the shade surrounded by them.
They have been spoilt a lot, obviously by tourists, and were constantly asking for biscuits or money. I eventually gave them a packet of biscuits but refused to give them any money. They were all very friendly and acted very nicely to me.
We eventually arrived in the village of Astam where the two young boys lived. One of them offered to take me back to stay with his family for the night. As my legs were very tired and I was suffering a little from the heat I agreed and was subsequently very happy that I did as I enjoyed true Nepalese hospitality for the first time.
The family of eight people live in a small one-room house with a verandah outside. Their house is perched on the hillside, overlooking the valley which I walked today.
After being a little nervous at first the family became really friendly towards me and although they haven’t got much, they share everything they have. Tonight I’ve said I can sleep on the verandah and I will pay them some money towards the food and place to sleep they have given me.
Shortly after arriving the weather changed quite dramatically and the thunderstorms set in again. We went inside for a while and one of the boy’s sisters made some wheatbread over the small fire, which was very tasty.
I keep forgetting the boy’s name but he is nice and does most of the translating as rest of the family don’t speak any English. He is only ten years old but they seem to concentrate a lot here on teaching the children good English.
The house is very primitive and small but it is really ‘home’ to these people and they’ve opened their arms to me. There is a grandmother, mother & father (who I’ve seen once, he is busy working despite the rain), four sisters (one only a couple of weeks old) and the boy.
I spent most of the afternoon sitting around talking to the boy and some of his friends, also teaching them a little more English which was quite amusing. I am feeling the effects of today and a few of my muscles are aching from the exertions, the top of my legs especially which is painful.
As the afternoon wore on it got quite cold as the clouds twirled around the hilltops, sometimes cutting off all visibility, so I changed into my warmer clothes. When the clouds do clear there are some very beautiful views from here. One can also see towards the Annapurnas which is spectacular to say the least.
I had a Nepalese dinner of rice and dahl which was surprisingly good, although they gave me so much that I was unable to finish it despite the urgings of the whole family. As it was starting to get dark there were some very heavy electrical storms which were a little frightening perched here on a hillside. However, the house is very solid and everything has been built for a purpose.
We had a paraffin lamp between us and chatted for a while in a limited fashion. The father also asked if I liked to smoke, to which he produced a chillum and I my hashish. We had a good smoke although I am still not used to smoking from a chillum, a technique I’ll have to learn properly soon.
After some more talking the whole family went to sleep at 9-00 p.m. They had made me a bed of straw mats on the floor and with my sleeping bag on top it was very comfortable.
Woke up at 6-00 a.m. by which time the women had already been up and working for a couple of hours; especially the eldest sister who is 15 and takes on a lot of the workload, carrying things, cooking & cleaning. As with many of the younger girls she is still very beautiful although with all this strenuous work that will change.
One can see that from the mother who has now borne five children and is not very well, she looks haggard from all the strain. The whole family have proved to be very nice to me and have said they like me. The feeling is mutual, they are very close and loving family held together by their poverty admittedly but also by that very closeness and caring for each other.
Before I left we sorted out how much I should pay them for the food and stay. It worked out to R15 but as I only had R20 and they had no change I gave them a small bit extra as well. After saying goodbye to the family (the father told me that he wants me to marry his daughter!) the boy took my pack and led me to the top of the nearby hillside and pointed out Dhampus. This was the village I was heading to next before going onto Landrung where I expected to spend the next night.