This is Baboo, your Nepalese farmer correspondent! (aka Anthony) It is now our third night on the farm, and the women we all call Ama (or Mom) are now calling me Baboo, which means boy. But when they say it, I feel like family. Back to the family in a moment.
Getting here was crazy. We enjoyed a nice, mostly downhill bike ride out of Pokharato Begnas lake about 10km away. The next 12km was HELL. Granted, it was so awesomely beautiful, but damn, just the first uphill alone had me and Jamey stopping 3 times to get up it (and he doesn’t stop), it was hot, Cara was feeling dizzy… we went up up up up up like this for a while, all around the mountain, and then it became a dirt and gravel and rock road — so hard to bike up, let alone at the steepest incline we’ve seen yet. My odometer only counts time when you’re actually moving, and by the end of our 7 hour ride we’d only been moving for 2 hours and 20 minutes. We had stop stop about every 30 seconds of ‘riding’/(falling). I’m not sure if it was the best or worst part, but every person we asked about the farm told us it was 30 minutes, or 20 minutes, or 2 hours, or 1 hour… it just kept changing, so we never knew how far away it was. I’ve come to understand after 2 weeks here that people’s sense of time and distance is terrible, so it’s best to just plan on things taking 3x longer than best case.
But was truly beautiful country. I need to remind myself to savor the landscape, because from what I gather Nepal is so much prettier than India, so you take the good (views) with the bad (hills) and appreciate the accomplishment that hardcore biking to hard-to-reach places brings. We saw flocks of cows, goats and sheep, met some really nice dogs, I saw my third cat (they’re so few), and *best* of all kids accompanied us for the last 5km or so, which was the slowest-going, hardest and steepest part. We were hurting, and sometimes they helped push us, but more so they kinda bothered [me at least], ceaselessly asking for a pen or a shirt or sweets or some money. It wasn’t without it’s laughs and cute stuff, but yeah, kids. They like squeezing our brakes, and one girl kept unzipping our bags. And of course it was impossible to shake them, until, when they were ‘helping’ Jamey up the hill they steered him into a wall.
Alas, after the whole day literally pushing our bikes up a mountain, we arrived at the Surya Presad Adikari House, a family-run coffee farm. And boy was it worth it. (Yes, Jamey, despite all my bitching, it was totally worth it.) The home is made of earth, meaning it’s basically packed dirt, some of it’s painted over (like the walls), but they keep it clean. Surya and Serivasti (Ama), the heads of the farm and household, are warm and caring hosts. They already had a full house of 6 volunteers: Gary Field, an early 40’s Aussie who has been living in India for the last 3 years; Chris and Maha, another mature Aussie and his Pakistani wife; Xavier, the 22yr old French Geography student with Krishna ponytail (I still need to ask about that); Colin and Chach, 25 and 27 west coasters (SF, Portland). With the addition of the 4 of us, it became an especially full house, 12 in residence and another 2-3 women who work here daily. The dynamic is superb, and we all get along well and have plenty of time to share and learn from each other.
Since the moment we arrived, everyone has treated us like family. It’s a pleasure to work in exchange for a great place to learn, first-hand, a bit more about what Nepali life is like, to be graciously included in all aspects of this home, as well as the in-depth coffee education. From the first night, I felt comfortable taking my shoes off and climbing into the small kitchen which was already full of 7 or so people, to sit and keep warm by the wood burning earth stove, and chat while Ama cooks dinner. We don’t have to get up too early, and instead of being told what to do we just kind of jump in and help, be it taking the husks off the coffee beans, spreading them out to dry, running around the steep hillside jungle picking beans (and oranges), weeding, carrying buckets of beans down to the well to be washed… it never feels like we’re being worked too hard, there are plenty of breaks for tea or coffee, or to play with the baby goats. They are so funny! At 3 weeks old they are so playful and the hop around and love to jump on our backs. Today, we did a human and goat pyramid, with Surya and Ama on the 2nd-to-top tier, and the 2 baby goats on top! It’s so relaxed and fun and awesome. It’s one thing to bike ride past all these farms, but it’s so great to live here at one and see how it works, how the people do things the way they’ve done it for decades (and probably centuries), unaffected by the industrial revolution. Also it’s pesticide-free, everything we are eating is grown here on the farm — even the buffalo’s milk in my coffee!
I’ve always wondered what it would be like to farm, get my hands really dirty, live a different life. It’s blissful. And so is the star-gazing! Except for a few dots of light in the hillside, it’s completely dark at night, and way up and out here it’s not polluted at all. I think we all really love it, and so we’ve asked if we can stay a couple more nights. Plotting out the rest of the month, we’re opting to skip the farm east of Kathmandu (even though it sounds amazing), and instead we’ll be biking to Chitwan National Reserve (where we’ll see tigers and elephants and work on another farm,) before we bike 500km all the way along the south of Nepal before the end of the year. We’re meeting up with our Indian friends near the Indian/Nepali border, who will drive us in a Jeep to a bunch of sites and all the way to Goa, where we’ll begin our 4-6 week bike journey down to Karala. We’re doing the 500km in Nepal opposed to India as it’ll be relatively flat, Nepal is prettier, and from the group’s first month experience, it’s so much more relaxed here in Nepal. India is a love/hate experience for practically everyone I’ve ever spoke to about it, but Nepal is just love/love. It’s 8PM, and it’s time for B-E-D!
Signing off, your Baboo.