Saturday, Dec. 20, 8:22PM
Song: P.S. I Love You by the Beatles
Today began like Groundhog Day, only I was the groundhog. I didn’t want to leave my tent, as there was a ‘school’ of children waiting outside already by the time I took off my sleeping mask, watching to see if I’d have a shadow or not. After taking my time packing up everything inside, I emerged, with a glorious long shadow coming from our east-facing river view, the sunniest morning I can remember here. (All of our recent lowland mornings have been foggy, with the heavy cool winter mist finally burning off by around 11AM.)
Somehow our 8AM wake-up became an 11AM departure. Before we hit the roadside, Cara had a flat tire, our collective first of the journey. I, being the only coffee fiend of the group, pedaled 5km ahead the the village of last night’s food run, (more accurately named Bhalu Bang), for a coffee and a boiled egg — a great find. Just as soon as I had my mug of coffee in hand, the group had caught up, but Cara’s tire was flat again. As per my paragraph on crowds gathering wherever we go, no less than 30 people gathered around to watch Jamey at work, and I turned the camera on Cara and Bonnie and they had at least 50 crowded arond just observing them be Cara and Bonnie. I told them what I was documenting, and they said if this was India the crowd would be at least as big, only they’d be touching them. For some reason we all lingered and procrastinated, as if we didn’t feel like biking, but we were finally on the road again, at the beginning of our day’s expedition, at noon.
It was an average day, I was a bit slower than yesterday (with a bad case of weary wobbly legs), and at 4:30 we were looking for a spot to camp. This part of Nepal is much more a forest, and the vilage we stopped-in had a really cute looking inn, all clay with super cute thatched roof, and a misspelled cloth sign advertising their Guest House and Restaurant. As we stopped and debated staying (and maybe showering) vs. camping somewhere down the road, a friendly drunk man was trying to lure us to the restaurant for food, and a group of older teen boys were asking us if we needed help finding a place to stay or if we wanted to camp. They led us to the school across the street and told us we could camp there!
I think half of this friendly village escorted us to the school yard, and as soon as we asked if we could sleep inside they were hoisting a small child up into a gap above and between the wall and the roof of the first building, who opened the door from inside a minute later. This classroom is NICE! So spacious, with a clean floor, and men, women an children were all standing around smiling and helping us inside, moving the desks to the side of the room to clear room for us. This hospitality is Amazing! One guy asked if we had candles, and showed me where he lives in case we need anything. Unlike the other school we stayed in, the kids weren’t annoying at all, and as soon as one of the older boys told them to give us privacy, we were left alone in our room. We washed at the nearby water pump with 40 people watching, and I’m so used to it by now that I barely noticed. I actually felt important. as I think we are of more value to the community as entertainment then for the inn-keeper to make 200 rupees, but I also believe the Nepalis have an earnest desire to do good will, and the potential commerce wasn’t even an issue. I was wondering if the inn-keeper would be sore that we opted to stay for free in the school instead of his family’s Inn, but after we were settled we were brought over there to eat by our unofficial 18 year old host for the evening, and the inn-keeper was the most gracious host! We were sat at the wood-burning fire/clay stove and we watched him cook our meal from scratch for an hour while we warmed-up, actually fulfilling my wish from last night to be snuggled-up by my Dad’s fireplace. The food was *amazing*, the chutney out of this world, Jamey declared it his favorite Dal in his two months here, and all for 50 rupees. Even better, at 7am tomorrow he’s hooking us up with our energy food, alu paratha, for breakfast. We have 90km to do, to make-up for today’s lackluster mileage accrual.
I’ve been on a sweets kick, and after dinner our friend brought us over to a sweet shop next to his family’s house, and a second Christmas wish from last night was fulfilled: a sweet so incredibly similar to Dineen’s sugar dipped cookies manifested. Mmmmmmm! Merry Christmas to me!
Other noteworthy features of Rihar, Village of the Year include: it’s clean, quiet, our privacy in the school persists, the sky seems especially huge here — tonight’s heavens are the brightest and clearest since the Adikari farm in the mountains, and Internet is only 140km away! Lol, I guess no place is perfect.