My knee was not doing well. On a regular day that wouldn’t be a problem. But when you’re on the first day of a hike around Annapurna, with more than two weeks and a 5.5 km high pass ahead of you, the perspectives look bad. Our guide was assigned with finding us a porter, just for a couple of days, until my knee got better. He found Raju. You never know when and how you will strike gold. To cut the long story short, at some point the guide turned out to be a “guide”, upon which we sent him home and his tasks were fully overtaken by Raju.
We teamed up with another couple of hikers, led by Raju’s soulmate Bill (a typical Nepali name, isn’t it?). Every morning one of them would start out early to the next village, to get us a place to sleep. Every evening in the hotel I’d check the ubiquitous Lonely Planet that would say “if you can, try to get a place in Hotel X, if possible in room Y, that’s the best possible spot”. And every time, without failure, that would be the hotel we were in, and that was the room we’ve got. Which was especially impressive, considering we were hiking in the busiest period in the history of Around Annapurna trek.
Once the hike was over we were no longer employers-employees but friends. The guys invited us to their village of Bhulebhule, to celebrate Tihar. We were of course more than happy to accept the invitation. After all, Bhulebhule was just 5 hours bus drive and 3 hours hiking away – just around the corner! And to think that nowadays I rarely go the The Hague because its so far away – more than half hour by train.
In Bhulebhule we got the best room in house – the one with the bed. The room was also equipped with a goat, a cat and sometimes with a chicken. We were obviously the guests of honour. The guys took us on a tour of the village, which included the giant swing, the giant spider, the rice fields and the raksi brewery. And in the evening we went dancing. Bill danced best.
Back home after the dances we were treated to a performance of the local quire, that came up the hill especially for us. Unfortunately, they were rather tipsy after performing the whole day at a neighbouring village, and kept falling asleep while singing. I would enjoy the show very much if I wasn’t that tired myself. It was impossible to tell them that we’re way too tired to enjoy the singing without sounding insulting and they kept singing as it would be rude to leave us without entertainment at such an important festival. So we kept each other in a stranglehold of politeness until forever. To this day I don’t know how we broke that vicious circle, but at some point I did get some sleep.
The next morning started understandably late. It was the day of the Bhai Tika, the day when, according to Wikipedia, “a fantastic Tihar feast takes place”. Fantastic is an understatement. Let’s just say that the first course at breakfast was a full glass of raksi and for dessert we, the guests of honour, were treated a special treat, a local delicacy – a beehive. With (dead) bees in it. I am prepared to go a long way to broaden my horizons, and I’ve eaten the dessert, but when offered a second serving I’ve done my best to show how full my belly is and how there’s absolutely no room for more delicacies.
It was time to leave, towards more hiking and new adventures. Raju and Bill walked with us for a while, and we waved goodbye, as they called “don’t forget us”. We won’t. Here they are: