LAST YEAR LIZ PACKED HER CAMERA BAG AND HEADED OFF TO THE TOP OF THE WORLD TO TICK ANOTHER DESTINATION OFF HER BUCKET LIST.
After spending a few days in Nepal’s capital Kathmandu, the settlement of Bandipur situated midway between Pokhara and Kathmandu offers some welcome respite. That is once you have arrived, as the journey is made in part along unmade roads in crazy traffic. The vehicles travel as close together as links on a chain, an unending stream of buses, mad motorcyclists, overladen cars and custom painted, Tata trucks transformed into mobile works of art, randomly paying homage to Che Guevara and Bob Marley.
Bandipur is a town lost in time; a single street runs through the centre from which paths lead in many directions up and down the valley. Houses cling to the hillside abundant with flora tumbling over garden walls: orange marigolds, lilac dahlias, yellow chrysanthemums, pink oleander and the distinct blood red of the poinsettia growing several feet high.
The ancient town is vehicle free, so you have to walk a little way down a hill of stone steps, lined with cafes, lodgings and one roomed shops. Our home for the next few days was the Old Inn, a beautiful Newari building with flowers cascading over the entrance. The low dark wooden beams and collections of antiques add to the faded grandeur. Bandipur was once an exotic trading post between lowland and highland, British India and independent Tibet.
Standing on the terrace above the Trisuli Valley we had uninterrupted views of the snow-capped Himalayas. Well-trodden pathways could be picked out amongst dense undergrowth, trails which lead to dwellings and rice terraces.
Mornings are cool in the mountains, though layers are soon peeled off as the sun comes up and we began our journey to the village of Ramkot several hours away. Some of the houses have slate roofs, others are of straw and some are corrugated tin atop terracotta bricks.
Rows of corn are strung over the wooden balconies providing winter fodder for livestock; it all makes for a tranquil scene.
We were constantly met by shouts of “Namaste” which is used both in greeting or parting, as villagers carried out their daily chores.
Ladies washed their long dark hair while socialising at the well, others sat together cross-legged on the bare ground sifting through trays of black lentils, grains, corn and red chillies. Hens with broods of fluffy chicks scratched the ground competing with podgy grunting piglets running around in circles rummaging for scraps.
One grandmother watched over a baby cocooned in a sheet and strung between the wooden railings on a veranda, sleeping like an angel.
We visited a nursery school where a young teacher taught a lone chubby faced girl amidst a group of mischievous boys all bundled up in winter woollies and knitted hats. I took some photographs and they scrambled over one another to see their faces on the screen. The children took turns to launch themselves, headfirst down a plastic slide – amid much laughter. I was sorry to leave such a happy group of children.
As we walked back to our hotel a young girl accompanied us part of the way, a basket containing a milk churn, slung across her shoulders, supported by a woven band across her brow. The daily routine of life has remained much the same for centuries in this rural Magar village, untouched by modern development.