Making Butter

Day 86 – Location: Karmidanda Village, Langtang Region; Nepal

26/11/12

It was a very cold night and I didn’t sleep well. Poor Jhabraj had to get up at 6am to plant potatoes before school. Strange noises were coming from downstairs. It turned out to be Januka churning butter. They make it at home – as you can see in the photo, there are two handles and you pull alternately to spin the mixer in the churn. I helped out too – it was hard work!

Churn harder, Januka!

Churn harder, Januka!

After about twenty minutes of churning, lumpy bits of butter were formed on the surface. Januka scooped them off and put them in a pan for cooking. For breakfast we had some with roti bread. It was quite rich and not too bad, but not like any butter I’ve ever had before!

Lumpy butter from the top of the churn, ready for cooking

Lumpy butter from the top of the churn, ready for cooking

That morning I went to harvest millet again, this time in a higher field. After a few hours Januka joined me. It was back-breaking work as a lot of the millet stalks were competley flattened, forcing us to stoop over. Eventually we started sitting and kneeling to save our backs! Januka exchanged shouted conversations with women in nearby houses and fields. Jeneet, the funny kid from next door was being a monkey today and was shouting at us from half way up a tree in another field. I wish I knew what he was saying! After 4 hours and about to topple over, we stopped with two baskets full of millet heads. I helped Januka to chop some leafy branches from the trees for her animals and she chopped some millet stalks, then bundled both piles together with rope and hauled the huge load up the fields to the house the traditional way, using her forehead as a brace. It was so heavy I had to help her stand up at the start!

The cats' little present for me. Thanks for that. Bedroom door staying closed from now on!

The cats’ little present for me. Thanks for that. Bedroom door staying closed from now on!

I met Sophie at the house and we relaxed in the afternoon sun in our favourite spot on the path. Plenty of villagers use this path and they stopped to watch in curiosity as Sophie dug around with a needle in her foot to extract a splinter, surely wondering what madness the westerners were up to this time! I became acquainted with the Neupanes house cat, Soorie, who looks like a leopard. Soorie is a friendly chap when he’s in the mood, and jumped into my lap, purring away. There’s also a very young cat, a female, who just turned up one day a few months ago and stayed. The Neupane’s aren’t sure if she is Soorie’s daughter but they look after her anyway. She loves to play-fight with Soorie and you can watch them for hours running up trees and laying ambushes for each other.  She is very scared of people though and won’t even go for food until everyone is far away. Me and Sophie chatted in the evening and we turned in early. I started to read “Into Thin Air” by Jon Klauser, the true story of the 1996 Everest disaster as told firsthand by Klauser who was there. It’s a really good book, recommended!

Day 87 – Location: Karmidanda Village, Langtang Region; Nepal

27/11/12

Another day in the millet field. Januka joined me after a few hours and we managed to finish the field we were working on. Jeneet joined us and practiced his monkey skills again, shimmying up the satsuma trees in the field, bringing us down little yellow satsumas, which inside were quite sweet. Ama, Jhabraj’s mother was also harvesting in a field above us. Impressive considering she’s in her 70s!

Awijit looks out at the view from the top of the rocky outcrop. You can see the beam of sunlight at the top as the sun slowly rises over the valley. The white section on the top right is a huge landslide, you can make out a village to one side of it - why would you want to live there?!

Awijit looks out at the view from the top of the rocky outcrop. You can see the beam of sunlight at the top as the sun slowly rises over the valley. The white section on the top right is a huge landslide, you can make out a village to the left of it – why would you want to live there?!

In the afternoon after some tea, curd and beaten rice me and Sophie walked up to the big viewpoint rock I’d climbed with Awijit previously, to admire the view. Unfortunately it was already quite cold by the time we arrived and we only got twenty minutes before the sun went down. We had taken up beer from the village shop and had to use rocks to get the bottletops off! We came back as a lovely blood red sun dissappeared behind the mountaintops. In the evening I smoked some ganja in the chillum, just a little bit to avoid the horrors of the last time, and got a mild but not unpleasant effect. Jhabraj told us an old man in his 80’s had died in the village today. After going to bed I couldn’t put “Into Thin Air” down and ended up finishing the whole book!

Sophie unleashes her demonic powers to push down the sun! Nooooooooooooooo!

Sophie unleashes her demonic powers to push down the sun! Nooooooooooooooo!

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Would you like to stay in Karmidanda village with the Neupane family? Read on…

Jhabraj at home

Jhabraj at home

If you are thinking of visiting Nepal and would like to do a homestay with Jhabraj’s family and see his village, or you need an experienced trekking or private tour guide, Jhabraj is very happy to accommodate you. He can do tours anywhere around Nepal and for trekking, he is very experienced and a safe, responsible guide, having guided on all the major Nepali treks multiple times as a guide (including the popular Everest, Annapurna and Langtang treks). It is also possible to do some spectacular trekking in the Langtang area from his village area so you could always combine a homestay with a trek. Jhabraj charges very reasonable prices, he speaks good English, and you couldn’t meet a friendlier, more interesting and hospitable guy! Your enjoyment, satisfaction and safety are his primary concerns. Money that Jhabraj earns from visitors and clients goes towards the higher education of his children, which is extremely expensive for a village family. If you want to hear more, please contact me via this website and I will put you in touch with him. Highly recommended!

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Would you like to help Jhabraj’s village community of Karmidanda? Read on…

AlanStockPhotography-1090446

Like many outlying villages in Nepal, the village Karmidanda is extremely poor and the community has many serious problems as a result. Almost all the families here are in a lot of debt, living on the breadline on the meagre earnings they can eke out – most are farmers. Other avenues of work are simply not available up here and most families cannot afford to put their children into higher education to improve the cycle. Public welfare does not really exist in Nepal and the area only has one health clinic staffed by volunteers and supplied by charity. If a villager requires hospitisation the villagers have to pool together to get enough money to pay for an ambulance to take the patient 5 hours to Kathmandu and also pay the expensive hospital treatment fees, if they can afford it. The village school was built thanks to charitable efforts but staff wages are low, equipment and resources are always scarce and there are not enough teachers for the number of students. These are just some of the problems that the community has – yet despite the difficulties the community spirit is amazing here, people help each other, they have a smile on their face and they are welcoming and friendly. If you think that you can help with donations, volunteering (including English teaching at the school) or charitable projects, please get in touch. Jhabraj has many contacts and can direct you to the right people so you know your money or resources are going directly to the local community and no share is going into anyone elses’ pocket. Some charitable efforts have also been started by foreign visitors who have visited Jhabraj and decided to help the community of Karmidanda – please check out the following websites: (links coming soon!)

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