Day 85 – Location: Karmi Danda Village, Langtang Region; Nepal
There was no school today, it was a national festival, so we hung out in the morning. The goat kids had discovered the joys of jumping into the big wicker baskets full of stuff and kept spilling corn heads all over the floor. Eventually we gave up constantly cleaning up after them and just left it! After chopping potatoes, in the afternoon me, Sophie, Januka and Jhabraj walked along the path out of the village back up to the nearby town of Kalikastan, through the pine forest. The path offered great views down into the valley.
Jhabraj met a local guy on the way who told him that yesterday there had been a suicide in the area. A 28 year-old woman had hanged herself in the forest only 15 minutes from where we were now. She was married and had a few children. At the moment noone was sure why, except they knew there had been some dispute in her household. For such an area that seems so peaceful, they sure have a lot of life and death drama here!
At Kalikastan it was quiet because of the festival. The town (well, village really) sits along a hairpin of the tarmac road winding up the mountainside, a typical mix of open-fronted shops, restuarants and residences supporting the local villages. The buildings are more modern compared to Karmidanda. A few new buildings were under construction, bamboo scaffolding criss-crossing their bare structures. We went to a tailor shop where Sophie bought some day-glo furry trousers for the cold evenings, and picked some colourful material for a long dress she could wear to work at school. The tailor took her measurements and said it would be ready in a few days. Whilst I waited, some kids and adults said hello, although this is a trekking stop-off point they still don’t get many westerners here. We walked up the road to a barber shop where Jhabraj got his hair cut. I got the same, wondering what kind of Nepali hairstyle I’d end up with this time. Not too bad, as it turned out, and for a few dollars you can’t complain! It was finished with a relaxing head massage. We bought some supplies, had a coffee and sauntered home as the sun got low, passing lots of school kids in uniform coming back from private school – due to the fees their families pay a festival isn’t enough to stop proceedings there!
Me and Sophie took a longer way back via the dirt road as the sun sunk below the ridge, taking in the great views of the valley wreathed in orange and shadows. Back at home we had dinner and I chatted to Jhabraj over some glasses of rakshi. He was quite stressed out at the time because he has a lot of problems, mostly financially. His daughters in Kathmandu (just out of uni) are living in their new apartment there and he’d had to pay a lot of money to outfit it with furniture and necessities. On top of that, both girls were very bored and getting a bit depressed. When they were at uni they stayed in a uni hostel and so had lots of friends around. Now that uni is over they have to find work or continue their studies. Their friends have all gone and they’re lonely. They don’t have money to go out or have a social life and had been asking for a TV, another expense Jhabraj can’t really afford. Another worry for him is that if they get scholarships (which he encourages) – he’ll also have to find money from somewhere to pay for that, perhaps being forced to sell some of his precious land. It’s a tough life working in such a poor place when you want to give your children a good life and education. After Jhabraj went to bed I read for a while and got an early night, arriving in my bedroom to find the baby cat of the household had left me a present. A little poo sat right on my silk sleeping bag holder. Thanks kitty!
Would you like to stay in Karmidanda village with the Neupane family? Read on…
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!
Would you like to help Jhabraj’s village community of Karmidanda? Read on…
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!)