Powercuts, Fried Noodles, and Emotional Goodbyes
Lamjung is one of the many well-known travel destinations for local and international tourists who like trekking high in the mountains. What makes this trail so attractive is its landscape. The hills are so huge here because of the close proximity to the Himalayas. You can enjoy the momentary glimpses of the Manaslu Himalayas as you trek around Lamjung.
I couldn’t hide the excitement of traveling long after the travel ban. Travel restrictions were made throughout the country because of the pandemic. A sudden plan to visit the communities of my friends in Lamjung was an offer that I couldn’t refuse. Hence, we left for Besisahar on the 27th of January in 2021. Many people who have already attempted the Annapurna Circuit will be familiar with this place for sure; Manangey Chautari being the starting point for most travelers. After a 6 hour journey from Kathmandu to Besisahar, we finally reached our destination.
If you intend to travel to different places in Lamjung and beyond, Manangey Chautari is the hub for you to find four-wheelers that can take you all the way to Khangsar as well. If you’ve been to Tilicho Lake or you’ve done the circuit, you probably know where Khangsar is. Anyway, we got a ride from Manangey Chautari to Khudi. Khudi is one of the central areas of the district from where resources are distributed around the villages in the Marshyangdi Municipality. We were headed to Ghanpokhara, which was in the opposite direction of where the vehicle was headed to. Hence, we stopped at Khudi and commenced our hike to Ghanpokhara from thereon.
Ghanpokhara is a small village located on the outskirts of Lamjung district. It was already late by the time we reached Ghanpokhara. Pranay, one of my travel companions on this trip, got nostalgic after seeing his workstation for two years. Our hosts, who are working at Ghanpokhara at the moment, welcomed us with warm cups of local homegrown coffee. We then spent the night at a local landmark. The locals called the landmark ‘Durbar’ for its exotic architecture. The landmark, which is a big house, belongs to one of the wealthy families of the village. Many visitors that come to the village are told to spend the night in that house and it was pretty evident why. The food was so good that you wanted the host to refill your plate infinitely. The lodging was great too.
The next day, we left Ghanpokhara for Ghermu. We had to make a few adjustments in our plans (which wasn’t any besides traveling to Ghermu) as Pranay was bid farewell from his placement and honored for his two years of service. The journey began late afternoon and Nikhil, who resided in Ghermu like Pranay, was already prepared to walk all the way. Me, on the other hand; who wasn’t pretty familiar with the distance between these two villages, was pretty calm. We walked and reached Khudi and from there we proceeded towards Bhulbhule in the hopes of finding a local bus on the way. The majestic ranges of the Manaslu could be seen at a point en route Bhulbhule. This was the only time that we got to see the mountain ranges throughout the entirety of the trip. We finally got a bus from Bhulbhule. The bus was pretty jam-packed like any other local bus in this country. The pandemic is a hoax, I tell you- at least for the Nepalese people it is.
The village that we were headed to that day was called Khanigaun. Khanigaun was a few minutes away from Ghermu. We got off the bus on the way to Bahundada. Khanigaun is comparatively easier to reach through Bahundada and since the bus wasn’t heading where we were going to, we started walking from the base of the cliff. Bahundada was a long way from where we commenced our walk. The yellow and orange sparks of the wildfire in a cliff nearby showed us the way to Bahundada. The sun was already gone and it was pretty dark by the time we reached Bahundada. Apparently, we still had a long way to go and I wasn’t aware of it at all. I thought,
“Bahundada bata ta dhukkai le Khanigaun pugcha.”
I was wrong. After a steep climb to reach Bahundada, we had to cross another hill which meant falling back down and then proceeding towards another hill yet again. It was dark and there weren’t any settlements in between those two villages. After a long walk, we finally got to Khanigaun around 8 in the evening. Our hosts were eagerly waiting for our arrival (actually they were excited to see Nikhil). Nikhil had stayed at their place for more than a year during his time in Lamjung. One thing I liked about the communities at Lamjung is that they never shied away from having a good time and this made the visit even more welcoming for us.
The next day we were bid farewell from our homestay with khadas and tikas. We then headed to Nikhil’s placement school. There he met all his students and the staff. Everyone was quite happy to see him. The school is at Ghermu, which is a few minutes away from Khanigaun. Ghermu is a plain terrain situated at the base of a very huge hill. Now this hill I’m talking about is so huge that when I saw the top of it from Ghalegaun, I was shocked. The hill-top is so huge that it’s directly connected to the snow-capped mountains of Manaslu and this view can only be seen from certain areas in the district.
We had planned to get out of Ghermu early afternoon and so we did. The goal was to get to Taal, which is the first settlement that you will encounter as you enter the premises of the Manang district. Like I said before, means of transportation weren’t easily available before, so we walked down the main road in the hopes of finding a ride on the way. The first village that we reached en route Taal was Jagat. Jagat is a beautiful town in the Lamjung district. The place is occupied with good hotels and lodges, but sadly all of it was closed due to the low (or no) influx of tourists this year. We were pretty famished by the time we reached Jagat and we were lucky enough to find a shop open during that hour. It was more of an eatery than a shop, to be honest. Anyway, since the menu was very limited, we ordered three plates of fried noodles.
I will always remember Lamjung for its fried noodles. Back when I was here, about a year ago, I had gone to a village called Siurung. There I ordered some noodles and requested the chef to fry them instead of boiling them with hot water. I never thought that the chef would take my instructions literally. I got served a bowl of raw noodles fried with the added ingredients and trust me, it was very, very crispy. Nikhil actually shared the story with the chef at Jagat too, while he was preparing lunch for us. What we got served later on was what made and will make me remember fried noodles of Lamjung for the rest of my life. We had a good laugh about it, while Pranay was still clueless about what was going on. He just wanted to finish what was in front of him.
After heading out from Jagat, we still walked and walked… and walked.
The journey was getting exhausting and there was no sign of any moving vehicles heading towards Manang. The day was getting shorter and our plans of reaching Taal were on the brink of being compromised. We pretty much accepted the fact that we might have to spend the night at Chyamche and shorten our trip. Luckily as we reached Chyamche, we finally got a ride. On the way, we got to see the majestic waterfalls of the Chyamche area. Since it was winter the waterfalls were huge but not as huge as they used to be. Apparently, resting your ass on top of the cardboard boxes and sacks of supplies being transported to another region gives you a different kind of thrill. It was cold as fuck, but we preferred to stay on the trunk of the four-wheeler and that’s how we ended up at Taal that evening.
Taal is located at the bank of the Marshyangdi river and is considered to be the entry point to the Manang district. Like Jagat, Taal was a small town with good hotels and lodges. We stayed at a hotel close to the beautiful waterfalls for which this place is well known. There was no electricity in the area when we got there. Later, we found that the generator or something had been damaged and taken to the capital city for repair. This meant that the locals would be living without electricity for two more weeks. But, that didn’t actually matter much to the locals (or us) because their lifestyle didn’t really require that much electricity. And that’s what I actually like about living in rural places. Your needs are just basic. There aren’t a lot of surplus things that one needs to worry about. On the bright side, the stars looked beautiful that night.
The next day was like any other normal day at Lamjung for me. I woke up, packed my things up, paid the fees to the hotel, and then I started walking again. I wasn’t alone of course. The guys were planning to reach Bandipur by the end of the day. Had we got a ride early on, we might have actually reached Bandipur. But like any other day, finding a ride required a hell lotta patience. This time around we had to walk back all the way from Taal to Chaymche. Fortunately, we got a ride from Chyamche and then we got off at Bhulbhule to meet our friend.
From there onwards, it was yet another long stretch from Bhulbhule to Besisahar. It was pretty dark (yet again) by the time we reached there. So that pretty much concluded our unplanned trip to Lamjung. This was a journey where I learned to embrace the uncertainties of life. Planning and setting goals are essential, but accepting the fact that not everything will be under your locus of control is equally important as well.