After passing the border, I chose Paradise Hotel immediately to the right , there I changed Indian rupees to Nepali. The hotel is certainly not paradise, but I was pleased with simple room. From the balcony I watched movement of people and vehicles across the border. Quite interesting timepass. India is very close, just 50 meters. But already unreachable for me, Idea 3G stopped working, and I don’t have Indian visa.
India in 50 m is close yet unreachable
I had sense of déjà vu but my attitude changed over the years. The first time I was here in 2008 I liked nothing in Nepal. Bad roads, old cars, high prices for the same Indian products – I felt robbed in broad daylight. I desperately wanted to return to India and everything in Nepal annoyed me. Indeed, if Nepal is India’s young brother why there should be differences? If Nepalis can’t cope with problems, they can join India and problems (with electricity, cooking gas, etc) will disappear.
Today I take more sanguine view. Woes of Nepal, inflated prices, poor infrastructure well known, but I tend to find explanation, almost apology for each of them. And Nepalis’ desire to preserve their independence when they are sandwiched between giants India and China deserves respect.
I decided in advance where to go first. Tansen. Four years ago on the way from Pokhara to Indian border I drove on the highway Siddhartha past the historical town full of steep narrow streets and ancient houses built in Newari style according to Lonely Planet. But Tansen sits on top of wooded ridge, the highway sneaks down in the valley and foreign tourists rarely arrive, only those who specifically wish to visit it.
The next day I was moving from Sunauli to Tansen. An employee from hotel brought me to old minibus, took extra money for luggage, however he asked conductor to help me. The first leg was short one – we drove few hundred meters to bus station of Bhairawa, where I was moved to another bus, half filled with passengers. In Butwal’s bus station, at footsteps of the Himalaya, I was moved once again to crowded bus to Palpa. Palpa is local name of Tansen.
Promised three hours of ride had dragged to five hours, and seems soon would be all six. Or maybe seven? As soon as we sneaked into mountains and drove through narrow gorges the rear tire exploded with a deafening sound. We had to wait half an hour when driver would change the wheel.
All is well and I am in Tansen. The first task – to find decent lodge for a couple of weeks. I had heavy suitcase, and as streets in the town rise up steeply guesthouses uptown were out of question. I chose hotel Bajra just above bus park. My room was no thrill but OK, private toilet with shower, balcony, from where I could see mini-stupa with big eyes, just like in Bodnakht (Kathmandu), only on the roof of neighboring house. Unpretentious restaurant on the ground floor was also good, in menu – tandoori cuisine.
I took shower then water disappeared even in septic tank. No electricity. Man from the lobby was nowhere to be seen. I asked waiter in the restaurant whereabouts of hotel staff and water and power. The boy slyly smiled and promised everything would be back after 6 PM. Electricity returned, but not water, and next morning it was the same.
Apparently, Tansen experiences severe water shortages. Early morning I was making rounds the adjacent streets, and luckily I found a place with water, Mohan guesthouse, located just below the parking lot. Rooms are very simple, only beds and shelves set into the wall. The lower shelve is broad and can be used as table. Bathroom and toilet in Nepali style are common, but clean, tiled, hot water available all day.
The cozy hotel belongs to family of elderly Magars. Magars is Mongoloid ethnic group indigenous to the area. My host’s name is Sher Chan, which I translated as Tiger Khan. Mr. Sher Chan, it seems, had served in Indian army, where Nepalis are called Gurkha. With military stature, tall up to 1.80 m, his speak is abrupt and rough, as though he asks questions or gives commands.
He carries around small radio, from which he learns news and listen to Nepali songs. I found these folk songs not suitable for European ears, too many repetitions, like disc has stuck in player. Fortunately, Sher Chan didn’t bother me much, just each time seeing me he was asking when I’m going to Pokhara.
And for some time I was not going. Why I should hurry when I have such magnificent view? From common balcony the whole cemicircular Madi valley can be seen.
In morning clouds carpet deep gorges, and observer might think he’s celestial being. The smoke was hanging in the air. Different tropical trees didn’t appear clearly, but even in such mist these trees with spreading crowns were looking picturesque and demanding to be painted on canvas.
In evening light from the sun falling behind wooded ridge of Mahabharat outlined mountain peaks like in Roerich paintings. At night lights of settlements scatter throughout the valley like reflection of the night sky.
Just below the balcony in 300 m I saw massive compund, sort of castle with barracks. It is a local prison. How many prisoners there I didn’t know, could not see any people in the courtyard or around. Can anyone escape from it?
When I arrived in Tansen I was watching the third season of TV series “Prison Break”, and all attempts of Scofield to escape were unsuccessful. Not that I am much attracted to the series, but the hero’s irrepressible desire of freedom is commendable.
How often we don’t appreciate what we have, here I am – traveler, I go wherever and whenever I want. But am I free? I don’t know. Sometimes I think of myself as eternal fugitive, trying to escape from himself. Carrying prison of loneliness to the most exotic places of Asia.
To be continued.